The morning ends in frustration - an occasional 'occupational' hazard for those who attempt to locate rural prehistoric monuments, particularly here in Ireland. The veritable maze of country lanes around Bunnyconnellan may keep the Carrowcrom wedge tomb from my reverential gaze, but the fine countryside at the south western end of the Ox Mountains affords some compensation. Perhaps I may be able to find the apparently excellent Rathlackan court tomb, then? As Harry Hill says, 'there's only one way to find out!'
Heading for Killala - the town incidentally possessing a most excellent example of those pencil-thin Irish round towers - we stop off for lunch at Lackan Strand. It was here, at this fine beach, that the (apparently) not overly competent General Humbert landed to provide French, er, 'support' for The United Irishmen's doomed rebellion of 1798. But, hey, that was only yesterday. What of the court tomb which has presided over this landscape for millennia? To be honest it is easilly found... luckily, he says... head for the Lackan United playing fields (are they any good?), park up a little way beyond and take a rough track towards the coast; the monument does its best to remain incognito to the left a little way down. Yeah, barely rising above the surrounding bog, perhaps this explains why it is in such a superb state of preservation....one of the finest I've seen to date, in fact. Out of sight is out of mind?
Rathlackan will never win any prizes for self promotion in today's world of 'package experiences' and holidays under geodesic domes - no doubt quite the opposite to what its architects envisaged. But it could very well do so for quality of archeaology. Set within (what I believe to be) a modern, walled enclosure, a virtually intact court gives access to a gallery subdivided into three, linear chambers, each defined by large, protruding jamb stones. Courses of original drystone can still be discerned resting on top of the chamber orthostats, the capstones, moved to one side, allowing wild flowers to flourish where once there was darkness. The interior is waterlogged, as you might expect; nevertheless the surviving cairn material provides an excellent perch to enjoy the sweeping coastal views - albeit somewhat curtailed by forestry in places.
In short, Rathlackan is a seriously good, no, great court tomb. Don't hold this portion of Mayo. This sleeping beauty deserves your attention. Just don't talk too loudly...... although an occasional 'Lackan United!' may well float on the breeze.