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Ballyrenan

Portal Tomb

<b>Ballyrenan</b>Posted by CianMcLiamImage © Ken Williams/ShadowsandStone.com 2007
OS Ref (GB):   H375833 / Sheet: 12
Latitude:54° 41' 46.61" N
Longitude:   7° 25' 6" W

Added by TMA Ed


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Fieldnotes

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This place begs a couple of questions, the first of which is well rehearsed: Is it always important to remember that what we see at sites like Ballyrenan are the denuded, skeletal, interior remains of an earthen and stony mound? And does what remains at Ballyrenan cast doubt on that critical assumption in the first question? Because, like at Ballyvennaght in Antrim, there are two tombs here, separate but part of the same monument. At Ballyvennaght the entrance to the still standing western tomb is to the west, outwards from the cairn/mound – the collapsed eastern tomb is said to have a possible backstone at the west of the capstone so it must have opened to the east, again outwards from the cairn/mound.

At Ballyrenan, both chamber openings face east, meaning the western chamber would face into the mound/cairn. There is the possibility that there was come sort of central court in the intervening space between the front of the western tomb and the rear of the eastern. So was this a mongrel combination of a court and portal tomb? The fact that the western tomb has two chambers could lead you down that rabbit hole. But all of these musings are for later – today the sun is shining and this fantastic monument is right beside the country lane.

The large farm buildings to the west of the tomb do detract from the vibe a bit. The farmer’s there working away and gruffly gives us the go-ahead to park in the driveway. And then it’s just dive right in. It’s not massively spectacular in terms of size but this place has something else, something mysterious and deeply affecting. The thought taken to form the construction and the skill to complete it are impressive. And yet doubts remain – was the western tomb messed about with and re-constructed sometime after the supposed denudation of the cairn/mound? Because there’s a couple or three things amiss, or unique, or odd about the western tomb, aside from it facing into the mound, if there ever was one.

One: the skewed ‘lintel’ over the portal stones, propping up the capstone but also tilting it down to the north as it rests neatly on the southern, but precariously on the northern portal. Two: the stone that rests on the north-eastern sidestone of the eastern, front chamber that juts out by at least a metre and serves to counter the tilt caused by the portal ‘lintel’. The capstone of the rear chamber also rests on this stone. Three: The rear, sealed chamber itself. But sure what am I cribbing about? The easy, quiet backwoods atmosphere allowed us to engage with and immerse in the monument for as long as we wished. I couldn’t resist attacking the ivy that is beginning to colonise the northern portal of the western tomb, the physical action bringing the engagement to another level.

The ‘lesser’ eastern tomb has its own charms too. The stone that I thought to be a recessed, half-height doorstone, but actually a septal stone, is split longitudinally by a seam of quartz, discovered after another judicious bit of ivy clearing. The backstone is there, as are the two sidestones and both portals – all that’s missing is the capstone. The excavators discovered a small, cist-like second chamber at the back of the main chamber but we didn’t notice. If that was the case and it’s also double-chambered, then I would be leaning towards two separate monuments and two separate mounds. Either way it would have been an impressive, close to medium-sized dolmen when complete.

Ballyrenan is another must-see Tyrone site. I’d been in the vicinity a couple of times in the last few years and had neglected it for some reason, probably because of the multitude of other fantastic places in the county. Don’t make the same mistake!
ryaner Posted by ryaner
16th May 2022ce

05/01/07.

The bracken has died back once more or has been cleared, either way this was the best view of the site as I had ever seen. Not 'mown' or overgrown, just natural. I arrived well after dark and by the ample light of the near-full moon took around ten long exposures of the larger tomb before getting creeped out by the noises emanating from the barn behind and animals crawling though the undergrowth. This is a really great site.
CianMcLiam Posted by CianMcLiam
7th January 2007ce
Edited 8th January 2007ce

Ballyrenan Portal Tombs, 16th October 2005.

Very sad to see this place completly overgrown again, only the capstone poking out of the undergrowth is visible as you pass. The side opposite from the road is better, slightly. I did find however that a camera monopod makes a good swiping implement for claring vegetaion, after 15 minutes you could see the whole of one side again but I was too tired then to even make a start at the more overgrown side where you cant even walk.

I really liked it here, the morning was still bright and the tombs still retain a lot of presence despite their state and overgrown surroundings next to a barn.

The capstone-less tomb would have been very nice in its original state, I think I would have liked it better than its larger mate. The larger tomb gives the impression that it was a 'throw it up and see if it sticks' affair, still very nice and a little eccentric.

Maybe a discrete word in someones ear might bring some sunshine back into these tombs existence.
CianMcLiam Posted by CianMcLiam
17th October 2005ce
Edited 18th October 2005ce

The site at Ballyrenan has now been completely cleaned up. This was in no small part due to the approaches made by a ceratin prolific contirbutor to this site. The head gardener at the Baronscourt Estate had been instructed to clean it up about 2 weeks ago. The transformation is quite remarkable and it really does make you wonder why it was left to sit in almost complete obscutriy for the last 12 years (apparently the last time it was cleared). The site sits approx 10 metres from the road and is also bordered by a farm to the west. Access is extremely easy; a small stone wall, partly ruined and with a gap, allowing for access without having to climb anything. Apart from the complete transformation of this site, one thing that struck me was the almost unhindered views NNW - NNE, taking in the Sperrins. It almost feels like it was located with this in mind. To the East is Bessy Bell (Slieve Trim), which is primarily used for the timber industry, also owned and run by the local Estate. The gardener from the estate seems to be under the impression that there were originally 3 portal tombs here and that one was destroyed. There does appear to be many more stones under foot and lying in an almost random manner. There also appears to be a small long barrow (?) about 30 ft to the north of the stones, but located within the same enclosure. Probably nothing though somenone with more knowledge may be able to clarify this. For those who may have been disappointed with a vist in recent times, I would suggest returning. Will post some pics soon. Posted by cozski
12th October 2004ce

A local site about half a mile from my house. I made a foray up but most of the site is now considerably overgrown and difficult to get close to, due to a forest of nettles. Took some pics with my 35mm Olympus Trip but haven't got them developed yet. I'll check this out again. It's also part of the 'sales pitch' for the local estate I live on and a highly valued feature of the area. Posted by cozski
23rd August 2004ce