|Another possible passage grave, and so close to home too. Goldenhill is a funny little hill, to the left just off the N81 as you head for Blessington. 274 metres high, but rising slowly and gently from the aforesaid road at about 200 metres. East of the hill is Kilbride, Cill Bhríde (good old Brigid) down in the Brittas river valley, just north of where it joins the Liffey.
I'd never heard of it until I was browsing Herity's book and surfing the NMR map browser. And there it was in Price too. Three mounds/cairns/raths/possible passage graves. So off we set, 10 minutes up through Ballinascorney, down into Brittas, left at The Lamb just inside Wicklow and first turn right up the incline to the ridge/hill.
You can see the main monument here from the road. Looking west, the fosse/ditch on the east side is visible. There were a bunch of people, the landowner and his relatives, in the field messing about on a quad-bike. We sauntered over to them and asked permission to have a look. He said no problem. I asked if he knew much about the monuments. He said that the main one, the rath, was a fairy fort, and that the second one, the mound to its south, had original stones and field clearance mixed in. He also mentioned that the "heritage people" had told him to "leave them alone". I remarked that I was sure he would have complied with that without the instruction, bad luck and all that. He agreed.
So the minor one first: Pretty much a denuded cairn, some original kerbstones remain, mainly in the south-west quadrant. It's about 20 metres in diameter and under a metre high, really just a raised platform. You'd be forgiven for wondering why it was robbed of its stone only to have field clearance heaped on it later. Pretty unremarkable stuff anyway, except that it has such a prestigious neighbour, leaving one to wonder which came first.
Over to the rath/possible passage grave. It's very impressive, whatever its provenance. The view across to the passage grave cemetery at Seefin/Seefingan/Seahan is great, slightly spoiled by the telegraph line and poles. It really feels that the inhabitants here wanted to be looked over by the ancestors. The mound is about three and a half metres high, the ditch/fosse mainly in evidence on the south-eastern arc. North of east is the supposed entrance with the large stones that, along with the structural stones in the interior, made some think passage grave. These are a bit jumbled but seem to mark out the entrance to the rath/mound.
Six stones of varying size and some smaller ones make a rectangular, almost box-like structure just outside the rath entrance. I've seen a similar construction at Knockscur http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/10620#post-63878 I imagine that this may have been some sort of "contamination/quarantine zone" before you were allowed to enter the rath, sort of like a mini-court. One of these large stones has a gorgeous quartz vein running through it. Another seems to have been split. There is always the chance that these were very late additions – only excavation will tell. There are other large kerb-like stones around the circumference of the mound, in particular at the south quadrant.
The interior is a mess, with 6 to 8 pits dug into the raised floor. These are a distraction to interpretation – it has been said that they might be evidence of huts inside the rath, but I can't agree, the rath being large but not large enough to contain that many separate dwellings/buildings. There is one very cist-like structure in one of these pits – Price changed his mind about this and said possibly "a ruined hut (door?)" but again I can't agree. The covering stone here is very much like a capstone and from what I could see, it seems to cover a rectangular stone box.
So what is it? I reckon that this is an old cairn that was re-used as a rath, a 'fairy-fort' in common parlance. It may well have been a passage grave, situated as it is almost on the top of the hill, and in the shadow of Seefin and Seefingan. The hill is elongated north to south, and as the rath is situated west of the the summit, the most expansive views are in that direction, over the N81 towards the ridge of hills that begin at Saggart Hill and terminate just west of Blessington. A not very well-known and mysterious place, fascinating all the more for that reason.
Posted by ryaner
8th May 2014ce
Edited 8th May 2014ce