BBC Radio 4 broadcast - Open Country - Winter Solstice at Newgrange 2016

Available on BBC iplayer – this is a wonderful programme with some thought provoking ideas.

Towards the end you will hear Bernadette C interviewed on the Hill of Tara.

As she says, all you need is a flask and warm clothes and to go out to enjoy the event...

It is about meeting up with people who you can get on with, and who you can share with, and you feel comfortable with, and they don't have to bring anything or be a certain person.

Programme synopsis

Many people will be aware of the celebrations which take place at Stonehenge for the summer solstice but at Newgrange in Ireland the winter solstice is celebrated by an equally incredible Neolithic monument.

To celebrate this year's winter solstice Helen Mark visits Newgrange to experience for herself the light of the rising sun on the shortest day of the year as it floods the inner passage revealing the carvings inside. Along the way Helen will discover the precision skills required in order to achieve this solar alignment and the many myths and legends which surround the monument as well as what it means to people celebrating the winter solstice today.

The Interview

15 miles south west of Newgrange to the Hill of Tara. This is also a location that has an intricate complex of passage tombs. It was the place where the High Kings of Ireland were crowned. So it has had for centuries a huge significance. I am here with Bernadette Connor.

Now that we are walking up the Hill of Tara we are walking above the fog into the true light of the day. It's quite a sensation isn't it?

It is really beautiful. It has a really lovely, peaceful, confident feeling up here. It has a really crispy winter feel to it, the fog, the cold, the frosts early morning.

This is the place you come, Bernadette, with your friends and you celebrate the winter solstice up here and at Newgrange so... why?

I suppose because I have always had a draw to nature, and being outside.

For the winter solstice I would meet up with friends here and we would come up before the dawn and get all muffled up, might bring a flask, all that kind of thing. I might bring my drum . I have a shamanic drum and particularly if you are here on a really clear solstice morning it is just fantastic. It really is.

And there are so many people around. You've got people singing and some people dancing and some people drumming and it's a really, really, special place to be on that morning.

What do you feel is drawing you to it?

The energy of the land is what draws me really. Because I think that this place is so special and it has been for so many thousands of years. The fact that our ancestors knew about this place. They held gatherings here. They have structures all over the land..

As we climb up the hill we can see in the rise and fall of the land where some of those monuments, those special places, have been. They are all covered in grass now.

And the sun is shining through the bare trees beyond us and it's being fractured into hundreds of beams down across the Hill of Tara here.

It's interesting what your saying about people. More and more people are seeking this. Really what they feel is quite an elemental thing and they chose to do it in these places which have a link to our ancient past.

We all need something to hold on to. We all need some kind of belief and for me that's what I get here.

And I think the fact that people make an effort to come together in a place like this and that when they're here there is no christmas trees, there is no lights hanging and there is no presents and all that kind of thing. Because it isnt about that, is it? You know.

It's about meeting up with people who you get on with and share with and you feel comfortable with and they don't have to bring anything or be a certain person, the same for everybody. I think that's a huge thing. What draws people.

I'll leave you now, Bernadette and all I can say at this point is, Happy Solstice.

Happy Solstice to you.