We visited these on our second visit to Glencolmcille, after going back to Cloghanmore (and last full day of the wonderful week in Donegal) . Our first attempt had been unsuccessful as we weren’t able to find them. This time we asked in the visitors centre/gift shop and were given a little hand drawn map. Leaving Glencolmcille on the road to Malinbeg just over a bridge we turned right up a narrow road to some farms (a house on this turning had a rather impressive garden ornament in the shape of a small portal tomb). The six great portal tombs were not in such good condition – they span two narrow fields both of which had farm animals in them. The three in the first field had three nursing cows with their off-spring standing close by. The cows became agitated by our presence at the gate so we decided to not go in the field. All three of these enormous tombs were unrestored and partially fallen. The other three tombs were in a similar state although the largest one was partially restored with some supporting stonework – also partly in the garden of a nearby house. The second field had a ram and ewe standing guard – again we erred on the side of caution and didn’t enter the field.
This short passage is taken from “Gleancholmcille – A guide to 5000 years of history in stone” by Michael Herity:
“ … towards 2000BC, Gleancholmcille was lived in by a later group of stone age farms with a rather different style of tomb building. Their monuments are portal tombs. This type is well represented near Gleancholmcille – on the north side of the valley behind the school and again across the valley to the of Cloghanmore. At the west end of Malin More valley, six portal tombs arranged in a line are part of one huge, unusual monument, probably 90m long originally”
Edit: Have belatedly posted a photo of a beautiful white quartz stone which incorporated into the field wall by the Malin More tombs. Given the tombs are in a ruinous state I do wonder if this stone was taken from one of them?
West of Killybegs - apparently Ireland's 'premier fishing port', no less - lies a wild, sparsely populated area known as the Slieve League Peninsular... named after a mountain range possessing (arguably) the highest sea cliffs in all Europe. Although there are few settlements of any size to visit today, the proliferation of megalithic tombs to be found in the locality would strongly suggest that, relatively speaking, this was certainly no prehistoric 'backwater'. Oh no.
Like a child before the sweetie counter, palms sweating through tightly grasped coins, it's difficult to know where to start. The fantastic 'two for the price of one' tombs of Croaghbeg and Shalwy get the initial verdict on a split points decision. A difficult act to follow, it has to be said. Nevertheless we continue along the R263 towards the road's near terminus at Malin More, a small cluster of houses set below the western extremity of the aforementioned Slieve League. Although the coastal scenery is exquisite, Malin More is unpretentious almost to the point of submission. No doubt the inhabitants have no wish to engender the wrath of the winter storms through ostentatious display? So it come as a major surprise to find that this little settlement could well be the case study to prove the maxim 'appearances can be deceptive'. Aye, 'tis true.... standing in an east-west alignment beside a minor farm road stand (at least) six - count 'em - portal tombs!
Granted, none of the half dozen monuments is a classic specimen of the type in itself, each sadly having suffered structurally - to a greater or lesser extent - across the millenia. But there are SIX of them! Something I've never encountered before.... and probably will never again. Are there any other comparable groups? Dunno. The best preserved - and thus showpiece - tomb of Malin More's collection is a gigantic edifice of the 'two-tiered, double capstone' type, a design perhaps best exemplified at Knockeen, Co. Waterford. Although the main chamber's massive capstone now rests upon the turf - having slipped from its supporting orthostats some time in antiquity - the secondary example remains in situ, a beautiful slab of shining quartzite. Nice. A little Irish frog, clearly with no qualms concerning the tombs current stability, nevertheless makes a leap for freedom as we enter. Wisely, I think. You know what these clumsy English tourists are like?
So what of the other portal tombs, then? Well, that nearest the farm house is also in pretty good nick... although taking a full on picture of someone's home didn't seem right... at the time. Wish I had now, but there you are. The others have fared less well, but can nonetheless still be traced and appreciated within the farmer's fields. And... well, two out of six 'aint bad... to paraphrase Mr Meat Loaf himself. Can't argue with that as we prepare to leave Malin More to revel once again in its obscurity. Especially since the fine court tomb of Cloghanmore lies close at hand....