|Needing to travel from Donegal to Mullingar - as you do - the opportunity to visit this Fermanagh beauty cannot be overlooked. Indeed not. Might be the only time I pass this way, after all. The journey is no hardship, the N3, spontaneously morphing into the A46 at Belleek, following the southern flank of the beautiful Lower Lough Erne all the way to Enniskillen. Only the familiarity of the latter name - and, ok, a heavilly defended police station - reminds the traveller of the all too recent brutal history of the area. A detour along the A4 takes us to Belcoo, a small town right on the border between the upper and lower Lough Macneans, from where a road signposted 'Boho Scenic Route' climbs northwards towards the Ballintempo Forest. Forking right to approach Dooletter, a dead end road a little way before - apparently once signposted - heads left to a forestry track crossroads barred by a locked barrier. Time to revert to the Mark 1 boot, then.
We head straight ahead initially before veering right to locate a quite wonderful court tomb - quite bizarrely signposted from the track here, but nowhere else (methinks the locals have been playing 'silly buggers') - set upon a somewhat restricted hillside terrace beside forestry. It is immediately apparent that Aghanaglack is a special site. It is a type of 'double' court tomb known as a dual court, whereby two monuments are, in effect, placed back to back to form a composite whole. Here, however, there is nothing remotely 'composite' about the resulting structure, the eastern 'half' being of (charmingly, I think) inferior build quality... far less substantial than its western counterpart. Whatever for?
Both phases of the monument - I understand that an 1938 excavation determined that, surprise, surprise, the eastern segment was a later addition - consist of a shallow forecourt allowing access to a gallery of two linear chambers, now open to the elements. Interestingly, the western entrance was closed - apparently symbolically since the blocking stone was only of modest height. Perhaps when the 'other half' took over? The author Carleton Jones, in his excellent book 'Temples of Stone' [ISBN 13: 9781905172054] has hypothesised that Aghanaglack may have witnessed two social groups merging together... no doubt to a chorus of 'these youngsters don't make 'em like they used to in my day, so they don't...' Also worthy of note is the landscape setting chosen for the (presumably) original western monument, the restricted nature of the terrace not leaving sufficient space to complete the northern flank of the court 'arm' without quarrying away bedrock. This, curiously, was not undertaken.
Confusing, intriguing, down right barmy, even. What were the builders of Aghanalack 'on' when they erected this idiosyncratic monument? So full of human imperfections, and incidentally boasting superb, sweeping views south to Dooletter Lough and north-east to Boho, a visit here is infinitely rewarding precisely because of the all prevailing sense of 'humanity'. It is a ball-up, true, but a gloriously uplifting one. Marvellous.
Posted by GLADMAN
31st January 2011ce
Edited 31st January 2011ce