The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian


Portal Tomb


This is not the easiest site to access. I had Fourwind’s guidebook with me in the car but neglected to read his directions for no good reason other than being scatterbrained and convinced an approach from Ballycastle Forest car park would be best. We had been in the vicinity a week earlier and had scouted the area a bit and this seemed the best. There were a few fences to traverse but sure when has that ever stopped us?

A track heads east and then south from the car park and skirts the edge of the forest. As the track enters the trees we headed up east along the edge of the forest through a couple of rough pasture fields. The two-dimensionality of the maps and satellite photos never prepares you for what’s ahead so the clomp up the increasingly boggy terrain was challenging if not wholly surprising. Once we’d reached the ridge and traversed the last fence we turned south and headed towards the monument.

There was no immediate sign of the tomb from 150 metres away. The floor of the chambers of this double portal tomb is nestled 2 metres below the ground level of a peat bog. As we got nearer, the top of the western capstone appeared and then, closer in again, it becomes readily apparent that this is an extraordinary monument.

We first skirted around the western end where the better of the two chambers is. There’s not much room at the front of the chamber, sealed as it is with a half-height doorstone. The southern sidestone has been removed and the remaining 4 stones keep the massive capstone propped up, though it seems to have slipped a bit towards the rear.

The eastern tomb, 20 metres from the western, is completely flattened. The capstone, 3.5 metres square, rests on the collapsed chamber stones. Mooching around the place I wondered what direction was the eastern tomb aligned – in the same direction as the western? But that would mean the entrance faced into the cairn. Cairn material is visible between the two chambers. So did the eastern chamber entrance face east?

Of all the many monuments in the large townland of Ballyvennaght, this is the best. I can’t imagine you would ever meet anyone around here – even the sheep seem to give it a wide berth. There are two more portal tombs here, plus a wedge and a court and a nice standing stone. Visiting all of these in one day would be a serious challenge, but now that I’ve been to them all but one, I think I know the best way to attempt it.
ryaner Posted by ryaner
16th September 2021ce
Edited 17th September 2021ce

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