This is one of those sites that takes your breath away. Despite the rain and mist, which meant we didn't get to see the site in the context of the surrounding landscape, this felt like one of those places where things just fit together.
I was with my mum, so decided it would be worthwhile taking the guided tour, so that she could have a better understanding of what we were looking at. As it turned out, I too ended up feeling like I understood this place better after spending an hour with the fabulous OPW guide. She was interested AND interesting, answering questions but also asking for our opinions and she skillfully avoided responding to the only other 2 people on our tour who seemed to be into biblical/creationist archaeology and kept referring to Noah a lot! Odd. Mind you, it was raining quite heavily.
She led us on a (chronological) spiral journey through the various sites, explaining the relevance to the surrounding hills (which we couldn't really see) She also advised us which of the other sites (which weren't on the tour) we should visit and went into detail about which sites had been excavated and/or altered, so that we got a sense of how this landscape would've looked when littered with these amazing burial/ritual sites.
If you come here with non-stoney folk in tow, I would recommend taking the tour for their sake as my mum was as giddy as a kipper by the end of it all - she said she could now understand why I am so enthusaistic about all things old and stoney and spent most of the next day asking me hundreds of questions. Some achievement!
We visited Carrowmore on a drizzly day and missed much of the view of Sligo one gets from the complex, which was a shame.
There are an impressive number of tombs here in a tiny area, and in various states of preservation. Being with non-megarak family members meant I couldn't help feeling self-conscious gleefully bounding around the place photographing every rock that stuck out of the ground.
My family were interested at first, but after about an hour of being rained on, the advantages of walking around a field full of rocks were rapidly waning as far as they were concerned. We returned to the Visitor's Centre and I was granted a brief visit over the road to Tombs 1-7, with strict orders to return quickly or lose body-parts.
Tomb 7 I will not forget in a hurry.
As soon as I had settled myself in the chamber of the dolmen for a brief bit of megalithic contemplation, a bullock nosed right up to the entrance and stood sniffing the air in the tomb inches from my face. I don't mind admitting I can be a bit of a big girl's blouse when it comes to bullocks and on this occasion I froze and felt my heart begin to leap into my throat.
He obviously could not see me and my smell was making him nervous. Looking back now it's obvious that one movement from me would have caused him to bolt, but at the time this didn't even occur to me. Eventually he got bored and walked off.
I can't convey it in writing, but it was somehow an incredibly intense, and not entirely negative, experience. Being one of those druidy types I tend to like reading meaning into such encounters. The meaning I gleaned from this incident, distilled into a phrase, was "Fair enough. Have your little sit in here, but remember you actually belong elsewhere"
Such overactive imaginings can make sense when one is sitting in a tomb, I always find. Walking away from Tomb 7 I was smiling at my unexpected experience, as the visit to Carrowmore had been very practical and down to earth up to that point.
"Fair enough" I said to myself, with a last, very respectful, glance back at the tomb.