Visit to what we thought Shalwy Court Tomb 23rd May 2016. Having read Gladman's field notes and studied the existing photos I think we may have found Croaghbeg so am transferring my original field notes from Shalwy to Croaghbeg. Both close to each other and both very difficult to access.
Tuesday dawned warm and sunny and in the morning we set off to find Shalwy /Croaghbeg Court Tomb (east of Kilcar: our ref - OSI 648753).
Using OSI map (my friend is pretty good at this) we parked car in layby on the main road out of Kilcar and walked down a steep single track road, turning right at the bottom. We then walked about a mile along a straight(ish) narrow road to the next right turn back uphill – the walk overlooked the sea which was sparkling that morning, early foxgloves had started to appear, a peat stream fell down the hillside and appeared from under the road on the other side to tumble down the rocks to the sea. Quite a few houses along this road, all well spaced out and beautifully maintained, some unoccupied, probably holiday homes. In fact we asked a woman who was painting her garden bench for directions and it was she who directed us back uphill to the spot where we could a large, newly built grey house on the side of the hill.
Walking back uphill again, we passed a well at the side of the overgrown track – this beautiful wild hillside now has individual houses appearing (something we noticed around Kilcar too) and we finally spotted the rather splendid court tomb - with a four stone chamber standing separately in the court area - at the bottom of the hill behind the houses we had walked past earlier and immediately below the new grey house, which didn’t appear to have anyone living in it (another holiday home perhaps). The court tomb was surrounded by nettles and brambles, the climb down very steep. My intrepid friend was up for it but I wasn’t – mindful of the fact there is often no mobile phone signal in Donegal (and there wasn’t here) I felt it wasn’t worth the risk of turning an ankle or otherwise injuring self so settled for taking a photo with my zoom. Yes, I admit to being a wimp but this wimp went on to have lunch in Killybegs before spending the afternoon exploring a narrow unspoilt peninsular known as St. John’s Head – which has a lighthouse at the end and a coral beach.
It's hard to credit that such ancient structures as Croaghbeg - and its near neighbour Shalwy - can remain in such a state of glorious abandonment in this, the 21st Century! If ever there were a pair of hidden megalithic gems, 'tis these two beauties.
Even armed with one of the recently introduced Irish 1:50K maps, finding the courts tombs is much easier said than done, until two locals on the coastal road confirm the steep northern turn-off does indeed lead towards Gortnagalliagh. Sure enough, after parking near a junction with a rough farm track, I notice two apparent heaps of stone in the deep valley below to my right. Further afield, W.B. Yeats' Benbulben rises beyond the tiny island of Inishduff within Donegal Bay. It is a sensational vista, it really is, and I believe I can make out Knocknarea.
Actually visiting the tombs is also no easy matter, progress down the steep valley side hindered not only by barbed-wire fences (the locals weren't at all perturbed by our visit, it has to be said) and the rough ground underfoot, but by 6ft plus fern rendered soaking wet by a sudden heavy shower. Good job the 'Gladmum' and I elected to wear full waterproofs, then. Seeing the tomb up close and personal for the first time after emerging from the fern cover is something special, almost as if it's actually located within a clearing in the primeval forest or something. Seemingly only missing its capstones, the structure is very well preserved, being solidly constructed of large stones. Having said that, the court itself appears a little poorly defined, although an apparent capstone-less dolmen structure within the court area is a nice additional touch.
A visit to Croaghbeg is a somewhat surreal experience, as if the traveller is granted several hours upon some Lost World plateau where time has stood still. There are no turnstiles, signposts, kissing gates or information boards here, and certainly no tourists to break the spell. Hell, there's nothing at all to interrupt a perfect experience. Except the draw of Croaghbeg's companion tomb, Shalwy, a little up the valley. http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/3033/shalwy.html
So why not indeed?