Unesco world heritage sites in Ireland

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ireland

There are a few UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ireland. Did you know? Ireland is a country whose history is filled with various civilizations, various bloodlines of sovereigns and kings, and it is also a country where some of the earliest prehistoric civilizations and their constructions are found. UNESCO World Heritage Program considers a lot of various factors, historical, social and cultural. Not only are there three UNESCO World Heritage sites in Ireland, but the country also boasts 7 other sites and buildings in their Tentative list. The two sites which are already declared as World Heritage Sites are Bru na Boinne, and Skellig Michael. Let us look at these wonderful sites, their historical background and their significance to understand why these sites are UNESCO’s choice for their World Heritage Program.


Brú na Bóinne

Brú na Bóinne is an area which is located within the bend of River Boyne. This area is located in County Meath. This area is the site for a prehistoric landscape, comprising of about 90 different structures, but the largest and most majestic are the Knowth Passage Grave and the Dowth Passage Gravem and Newgrange. It is hard to fathom that these buildings are in fact, older than the Stonehenge. Both buildings date back to the Neolithic period. These sites also have an associated culture. The culture is known as Boyne Culture and it was adopted by the people who lived in these areas around the river Boyne. The site is only forty kilometers north of Dublin, and it is frequented by tourists. Humans first settled in this area more than 6,000 years ago, but the bigger structures were constructed about a thousand years after that. Covering 780 hectares, the site has more than forty passage graves, but two of them are megalithic. The Newgrange grave is the central mound of the valley. The circular building has a diameter larger than 100 meters. It houses the burial chamber. Flint tools belonging to Mesolithic hunters have also been found in the area. It is estimated that the construction of the tombs took around 400 years. It was used for rituals up till the Bronze Age but it is believed that during the iron age, the activity in this area was only sporadic. But perhaps the most interesting feature of these sights is that they are astronomically aligned. Newgrange and Dowth graves have Winter solstice alignments, whereas Knowth has a spring and autumn Equinox alignment. This offers significant clues about the culture and the religion of the era.


Skellig Michael

This addition to UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ireland was made in 1996. Skellig Michael is one of two Islands at the south western tip of Ireland. The other mountain is Little Skellig. The two mountains are located 11.6 miles west of Iveragh Peninsula. They are located in the County Kerry of Ireland. between the sixth and the eighth century, a Christian Monastery was founded on this Island, but by twelfth century it was uninhabited. It was this monastery where a small group of monks completely secluded themselves from civilization started living. They used to live in small stone huts, with rounded tops. These huts were perched at the top of vertical cliffs. Their location and their arrangement make them a site to behold. The monastery moved inland by the thirteenth century, but ever since then, the Island was revered by Christians and it became a sight of pilgrimage. The monks had chosen this island because it was very inaccessible. The two islands are the western edge of Europe. The Skellig Michael is important in Ireland’s maritime history, as is evident by the fact that two lighthouses were built on this island in the nineteenth century. The site has also been recognized for its scale, its beauty and its ambiance by various writers including George Bernard Shaw. This Island is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Ireland, primarily because of the fact that the remains of the monastery are incredibly well-preserved. The sight is unique because the scale and the location of the construction of the monastery is simply astounding. Until recent years, the remoteness of the Islands and the monastery made it difficult to reach, and many interest parties were hesitant to visit this place, but in recent years, that has changed. However, it still remains one of the least accessible Christian monasteries in the world. This island is also the site where seabirds breed. It is in fact this Island, where some of the largest numbers of seabirds come to nest and breed. Even before Skellig Michael was a World Heritage Site, the two mountains were Special Protection Areas because many birds of interest nest here. These include Fulmar, Storm petrel, Puffin and many other species as well.  

Tentative List

Irish history historical sites are not limited to the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ireland, but there are many other sites which are historically and culturally significant. There is a likelihood that some of these sites will be added to the Heritage list in the future. The sites include:

  • The Burren
  • Western Stone Forts of Ireland
  • Dublin City
  • North West Mayo Boglands and Ceide Fields
  • The Royal Sites: Cashel, Uisneach Hill, Rathcroghan Complex, Dun Ailinne and the Tara Complex
  • Clonmacnoise City and Landscape
  • Early Medieval Monastic Sites


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