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A Bit of Northern Ireland

Unexpectedly we found ourselves in Northern Ireland for three days in March. I wasn't allowed to spend all of my time looking at prehistoric sites, but I did manage to get to four sites while we were there, two in the Belfast area and two much further west.

Thanks to Fourwinds for his help with my itinerary (via SMS).

The Giant's Ring — Fieldnotes

Visited 22nd March 2004: I found it tricky to navigate in Northern Ireland, so our route out of Belfast to the Giant's Ring was a bit circuitous. The site is signposted from some directions, but not from others, so the GPS turned out to be very useful.

Parking is easy, and access to the henge is reasonably good. This is prime dog walking territory for the locals. Definitely an amenity as much as a piece of heritage. The weather was rubbish, but we dutifully plodded around the top of the henge bank looking in at the tomb, and out at the surrounding fields (spotting Ballynahatty Stone). Half way round the henge we lost our resolve (the rain was getting very bad) and descended into the relative shelter of the interior. The tomb itself was my first glimpse of an Irish megalithic tomb. It's a dollop of a tomb, like an over-weight caterpillar, or a Siamese twin dolmen. Compact and chunky.

I contemplated squeezing inside, but thought better of it. We walked the remaining half of the henge bank, then scuttled back to the car. Nice henge! Nice tomb! Horrible weather!

The Giant's Ring — Images

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Ballin Tagart (Reconstruction) — Fieldnotes

Visited 22nd March 2004: Ballin Tagart is a reconstructed court tomb, now situated behind Ulster Museum. Apparently it was rescued from destruction by quarrying in County Tyrone (thankfully this sort of thing isn't a problem any more - ahem).

I understand that you can arrange to be shown the tomb my museum staff, or view it from the museum cafe. Time didn't allow either of these options, so I went for the alternative and walked round the back of the museum where you can see the tomb from the Botanical Gardens. The magic is slightly spoiled by a six foot wire mesh fence, and people walking by give you very strange looks as you peer through the gaps. Still, well worth a visit if you're in Belfast.

Ballin Tagart (Reconstruction) — Images

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Beaghmore — Fieldnotes

Visited 23rd March 2004: Having failed to find Creggandevesky Court Tomb, I decided to go and see Beaghmore before it was too late. It was a relief to find the place without too much trouble, and thankfully the rain was holding back. The sun even came out!

There's so much here, it's impossible to describe concisely (so I won't try). In summary, it's a tightly packed collection of Bronze Age stone circles, stone rows and cairns. None of the stones are especially large, but coming from Ceredigion I'm not put off my small stones. It was a beautiful scene, with the rain hardly gone and bright oblique sunshine. I inflicted some badly played harmonica on the stones before heading off for one last try at finding Creggandevesky.

Incidentally, access to the stones at Beaghmore is good. A wheelchair user could get at 95% of the site, perhaps with a little assistance in some places. There's a good path running down the length of the site, and parking is easy.

Beaghmore — Images

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Creggandevesky — Fieldnotes

Visited 23rd March 2004: This was one of those mad visits when you ask yourself, "why am I doing this?". I'd already tried to find Creggandevesky earlier in the day, and decided that I'd better quit and see Beaghmore before I ran out of time. Having seen Beaghmore a second attempt was foolish, given that our flight out of Belfast wasn't far off. But it bugged me that I'd not found it earlier in the day, so I had one last crack at it.

With some help from the GPS (forgotten earlier in the day) I found the footpath leading to the tomb. Then the heavens opened up, and I had second thoughts. It bucketed it down, and I knew I hadn't got the time to sit it out, so I got out the car and started walking. Within metres I was drenched, and I couldn't see through my glasses. The GPs was just about readable, and I could see the lake, so I staggered on through significant amounts of mud.

The rain stopped as I reached the tomb, and it took a while to figure out what it looked like (had to clean my glasses). It was weird landing up at a site having had no sensible visual clues as to what you were about to see. The tomb is impressive (not that I have many court tombs to compare it to) but fenced too closely. It's solid, but graceful; the photos show it better than I could describe. Lough Mallon makes for a beautiful setting, and when the sun started shining and a rainbow came out I felt a lot happier. It was a short visit though.

I ran back to the hire car. On the way I passed a broken wooden sign hidden behind a wall directing visitors to the tomb. After a morning of driving in circles, more evidence that some people don't want visitors to Creggandevesky. I had to change into dry clothes in the car, then after a hair-raising drive back to Belfast to collect Lou, we did make our flight.

Creggandevesky — Images

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Kammer Posted by Kammer
17th July 2004ce
Edited 18th July 2004ce

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