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


Court Tomb


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.
So why not indeed?
14th March 2010ce
Edited 15th March 2010ce

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