Kilclooney More Portal Tomb
Visited Monday 22nd May 2016
Notes from the information board at the nearby Dolmen Eco Centre.
“The tomb is 4000 years old. Unburnt and burnt human remains with remains of plain and decorated pottery vessels and flint tools and weapons including arrowheads.
Consists of two chambers about nine metres apart: within a destroyed rectangular cairn lying north-east the base of which measures about 25 metres long. The smaller chamber in the south-west, faces roughly the same direction and into the remains of the cairn. The larger tomb has portals about 1.7 metres high with a sill 50 centimetres between them. The backstone supports a small padstone on which the back of the great roof stone, 4.2 metres long rests. This is set to slope upwards over the portalled entrance and to oversail it, making a very impressive monument even in its present state. The side stones of the monument are set on their long ends and are lower in height. They may originally have supported corbels which would have sealed the chamber to the level of the roof stone. The second smaller tomb is similar in design but has an unused lintel above the portals which increases the slope at which the roofstone is pitched. There are the remains of roofing corbels (now slipped down from their original position) outside the side stones.”
The visit: We followed a grass path at the side of Kilclooney Church through two or three fields (one containing four donkeys). Kilclooney Portal Tomb was clearly visible in silhouette on higher ground in front of us. It is a spectacular site – as described in the Dolmen Eco Centre notes the two tombs sit within a large, though incomplete, rectangular cairn enclosure. As always seems to be the case there were hills in view. All we could do was stand and ponder a while with no small amount of wonderment. An couple with their dog came, took photos and went while we stood there.
Of all prehistoric structures it is perhaps the portal tomb which is consistently the most aesthetically pleasing to the modern eye. Whether originally covered by a mound or not(?), the haunting, bare profile of a dolmen/cromlech is guaranteed to set the thought processes a' flowing.... there are squat, powerful ones (e.g. Lligwy), the overwhelmingly massive (e.g. Browne's Hill), the elegant and impossibly fragile (e.g. Pentre Ifan), the downright bonkers (Trethevy Quoit), the cute little ones (Chun Quoit, Maen-y-Bardd) and the classic 'Flintstones' form (Devil's Den). Quite where the Kilclooney More portal fits in to these categories, I don't know. To be honest I think it's in a category of its own. Really, it is that good.
Sure, I'd seen the pictures and this dolmen was the primary reason for the trip to Donegal - although the many court tombs had a little to do with it, I suppose. But little can prepare the visitor for the elegant form, the streamlined contours... and the sheer, well, sensuous femininity of this wonderful structure.
The visit starts in a less than inspiring manner as I park at the 'Dolmen Centre' (oh dear) beside an impossibly yellow church (double-plus oh dear). Hmm. Trying a bit too hard, me-thinks? Anyway, crossing a bridge beside the latter monstrosity, accompanied by a very annoying hound which wants me to play ball, a path leads onto open moorland, the dolmen eventually appearing upon the horizon. Tourists, with their trademark inane assertions, abound, doing little to dispel my distinctly 'underwhelmed' state of mind. 'This had better be good'... Needless to say it is. Very.
The capstone soars upon well proportioned orthostats as if seemingly made of balsa and liable to float away into space any second, the whole sculpture so incredibly well balanced it takes the breath away. Surely this capstone was always meant to be seen? Further inspection reveals a near 360 degree sweep of mountains upon the horizon and a smaller chamber - seemingly the real thing and not a folly - behind the main event. Hmm, were both after all covered by a single cairn? More questions than answers, a particularly knowledgeable American tourist then going on to torpedo another of my cherished stereotypes. Are you listening to me, boy?
I leave this wonderful site for the nearby ruined court tomb.....
Spectacular just doesn't do this site justice. The astonishing capstone matched with the curvaceous portal stones make this possibly the most impressive sculpture in Ireland, ancient or modern.
You enter through a gate behind the church in Kilclooney More village (not through the field directly behind the church which gets shoe-suckingly boggy very quickly). Ardara where I stayed is a bumpy ten minute drive away and makes a good base for visiting this area. Take some time to explore the amazing landscapes around Dungloe and Glenties while you here.
The small tomb is cute, the fact that its almost ruined adding injury to insult of playing second fiddle to the beast next to it.
In a pile of rocks along the pathway lurks a large suspiciously capstone-like slab resting on two boulders, perhaps it was a discarded capstone, quickly forgotten when the extraordinary present capstone was hauled onto the site.
Kilclooney Dolmen seems to be gaurded by a large black dog, at first I thought the dog came with some tourists who arrived but it turned out not to be theirs. The dog stayed with me until I left as it got dark. Next morning I arrived at 7am for sunrise and the dog was waiting at the tombs again. He seems quite friendly, certainly a bit more than the edgy bulls that were moving around the dense undergrowth like hippos in a pond.