Dowth is the least well known of the three great tombs of Brú na Bóinne. Although as large as Newgrange and Knowth it has not been excavated in recent times. Like the other monuments it was built over 5,000 years ago. Visitors wishing to visit Dowth can drive directly to the site whereas all access to Newgrange and Knowth is through Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre.
The mound of Dowth appears quite overgrown and neglected in comparison to the well-tended appearance of the other monuments. At present the mound is approx 85m in diameter and there are an estimated 115 kerbstones, only about half of which are visible. At its highest part, it is over 15m but it is likely that it was lower originally and this high point represents dug up material that was piled up on the mound. We know that in 1847, extensive digging took place on the mound in an attempt to find a central chamber. Subsequently the mound was subject to quarrying.
There are two burial chambers in the mound within 25 metres of one another. The passages are considerably shorter than those found at Newgrange and at Knowth but the chambers are as large and contain some of the biggest stones found at any of the sites.
The passage of this tomb is at present 8.2 metres long and is divided by three sill stones. The passage leads into a cruciform chamber with three side recesses. There is a low (3m) corbelled roof. A large stone basin (1.4m x 1m) lies on the floor of the central chamber. The four huge stones that define the chamber space are almost 3m high. Off the right hand recess is a most unusual feature. It is called the annexe and there are a further two chambers there.
This is a small tomb in comparison with Dowth North. There is a sill stone at the end of the short (3.3m) passage, which leads into an almost circular chamber with one recess. The roof of the main chamber is a modern concrete one: it is possible its original roof was corbelled. The recess to the right is separated from the main chamber by a sill stone.
The souterrain was built several thousand years after the passage tombs by people living on or near the mound. It was constructed on the inner side of the kerb, was below ground and invisible from the surface. It connects with the passage of Dowth North. Souterrains(9th to 11th century AD) were used for the storage of important commodities and the provision of a safe refuge in time of danger.
Of the kerbstones that are visible, at least 15 are carved. The most dramatic of these is kerbstone 51, sometimes referred to as Stone of the Seven Suns. Inside Dowth North, on the last stone on the right hand side of the passage, the Neolithic artist cleverly used the edge of the stone to accentuate the rays of a wonderfully carved 'sun burst'. In the right recess of Dowth South, a raised incised circle design is surrounded by pick dressing.
Winter Solstice Sunset
In recent years, people have been going to Dowth to see the light from the setting sun enter Dowth South. Unfortunately the view is partially blocked by trees but some sun enters the chamber briefly just before the sun sets.