Newgrange shines through as most loved heritage attraction
IT is 5,000 years old, famously sees the light once every year, and has now been voted Ireland's top heritage site and most important historical landmark.
The Neolithic passage tomb in Newgrange -- lit up by the winter solstice sunrise in December -- has been crowned the nation's favourite, knocking the iconic GPO in Dublin and the Burren in Co Clare off the top spots for the most historically important and favourite heritage site in the country.
Yet despite its 'top of the spots' popularity, almost one in ten people say the Meath attraction is the one that they are most embarrassed to admit having not yet visited.
Kerry is also given the thumbs up, topping the public's preference as the most scenic county with just one eastern county, Wicklow, featuring among the country's top six county beauty spots.
The findings are revealed in a nationwide survey which shows that three out of four people believe our heritage is vital to Irish tourism.
More than 600 adults were polled as part of a nationwide survey by the Ecclesiastical insurance company to assess the public's views on Irish heritage.
Up to last week, the most up- to-date figures show there were more than 157,000 visitors to Newgrange, its visitor centre and to the nearby megalithic site of Knowth.
The Office of Public Works which manages Newgrange and other heritage sites said that last year's ash cloud disruption had adversely affected visitor numbers across many attractions but this year's figures were well up and had been boosted by the "free first Wednesday" initiative at many of its sites.
According to the survey, Newgrange headed the top 10 list as Ireland's favourite heritage site ahead of the Burren, Glendalough and the Cliffs of Moher.
It was also voted number one favourite heritage structure over such landmarks as the Rock of Cashel, -- visited by Queen Elizabeth during her recent trip -- Dublin Castle, Trinity College and the GPO.
And it came out on top again in the favourite historical site category, beating the GPO and Hill of Tara.
Despite its apparent popularity however, Newgrange is ranked third of the top ten Irish heritage sites and landmarks people are most embarrassed at having not yet visited.
The Hill of Tara tops the list with one in eight of those surveyed saying they were most embarrassed about not having visited it yet, followed by the Rock of Cashel (9.93pc) and Newgrange (9.30pc).
While almost three in every four people believe heritage is critically important to Irish tourism, the survey also revealed that more than a third were not satisfied with the level of work being done to preserve heritage sites and a similar number were unaware of the work being done to preserve them.