Tornant Upper and Tornant Lower is a strange and frustrating place. Both times I've been there I've left with more questions than answers, confounded by what's here, what's said to be here, what may have been here once, and by my own limited ability to interpret all this (dis)information.
When you arrive at the farm gate that has the supposed tomb that's marked on the OS map, you're confronted by a small, ridged hillock that rises to about 20 metres from the road. It's been well interfered with down through the ages and has that digged out, messed up feel to it. Not nice but not intimidating enough to be off-putting.
Burl has a stone circle here somewhere; so has Price. There's a carved stone with passage tomb art in the National Museum that's alleged to come from here, 'reputed' as the Inventory puts it. Price, on 12 September, 1928, saw a stone here "…with what appear to be incised markings, not spirals, but more like a labyrinth." He says that it was on a 'rath', "…high up on top of the hill – which looks like it has been cut away for gravel." He then goes on to describe the mound being surrounded by stones and says that they were dynamited. He returned there in 1949 – "Since I visited it in September 1928 … the stone with the concentric markings has been moved to the museum." I've seen this stone in the museum. There's a shot of it here. I'm not arguing that it doesn't come from this area, but I am saying that where it's reputed to come from, "high up on top of the hill", does not appear to me to be a passage grave. That's the one down lower, east of the ridge and the one that's marked stone circle on Price's map.
The mound on top of the hill, the normal domain of passage graves, looks just like that, a mound. It's beautifully situated, with a strange gully to its east and not much else of distinction, save its position. There are extensive views to the east into the west Wicklow mountains – Lobawn and Suganloaf, and down the Glen of Imaal towards Lugnaquilla and further south-east to Keadeen. The mound rises to about a metre and a half above the ridge and has an almost flat top, with a diameter of about 5 metres. Pretty nondescript.
Down from this small ridge, directly to the east, is an overgrown mound. Now this looks more like it to me – there are some large boulders in situ that could be kerbstones. North-east of this flattened mound are, I think, the dynamited stones that Price mentions (dynamiting stones from prehistoric monuments? Who'd have believed it?) This circular structure is larger and may have contained a passage and chamber once (there could still be remnants but the whole thing is overgrown). It's about 20 to 25 metres in diameter and has a field boundary cut into its eastern arc.
Over this boundary is another mound, almost like a satellite tomb as at Knowth. There is said to be a standing stone hereabouts but there was too much livestock around to go hunting. The real gem hereabouts, imho, is the rath about 400 metres away just slightly north of west. I've been here twice and have viewed it from the ridge and the road but have never braved the sheep-filled fields between me and it. It's said to be an altered natural hillock, and from the distance is very impressive. Maybe the next time, if that ever happens.
Arch. Inventory of Co. Wicklow has it that this is a possible passage tomb. Also says that a decorated stone now in the National Museum of Ireland is reputed to have come from here.
The mound itself is completely overgrown with gorse. There are a few outlying stones to the north of the site that may be part of the kerb. On the south side there is one large boulder that could be some possible kerbing too.
I clomped through the gorse to a clear area on top of the mound but there are no signs of any opening into the tomb here.
The views across to Keadeen and Lugnaquilla are amazing.