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

Fieldnotes by ryaner

Latest Posts
Showing 1-20 of 483 fieldnotes. Most recent first | Next 20

Ballyglass (Court Tomb)

Visited 255/7/23

The tomb is now completely inundated with vegetation to the point where it is hidden from the world. Truly shocking neglect of an important heritage site.

Kilhoyle (Wedge Tomb)

Trapped in a small enclosure, surrounded on three sides by a massive quarry, but still worth visiting. The tomb lies in a northern ’spur’ of the field immediately east of the quarry entrance. The structure of the chamber is very evident and was constructed with massive, shaped blocks of stone. This would have been a fine wedge tomb once upon a time – now it seems to be just a forgotten relic, left there only because it’s a ‘protected’ monument. I’m glad we decided to check it out.

Ardara (Standing Stone / Menhir)

A three metre tall, roadside standing stone on the road from Ardara to Kilclooney, just to the south of the Owenea river. A ruined farmhouse stops you spotting it as you travel north to Kilclooney, but glance over your shoulder just before the bridge and it’s unmissable. A large, hefty block of a stone, wonderful and strong and towering, slightly tilting to the west. I wondered how it could have survived standing all these years, and how much of it was below ground.

Largynagreana (Wedge Tomb)

An almost urban monument, about a kilometre above busy Killybegs harbour. Tucked in under a thorn tree at the bottom of a long driveway. It’s really quite impressive, though low and squat, and it has its own fógra. The modern driveway almost truncates the front of the tomb. The Survey says that this driveway “… is a raised trackway, now disused.” Well, seems like things have changed since publication 20 years ago. No matter – the landowners arrived while we were there and paid us no heed.

Typically aligned WSW-ENE, with the entrance at the west, a displaced septal slab now blocks any view into the chamber from here. The northern side is all grass-covered cairn material, as is most of the southern side, except a gap at the western end which gives a view into the 3 metre long chamber. A single roofstone covers most of this and affords a handy shelter to any small furry creatures in need. I once disturbed a tiny resting fawn along the banks of the Glendassan river while on a bullaun hunt, startling both him and me to the extent that I’m overly cautious now when exploring secluded sites. I needn’t have worried here, though I never got in far enough to be 100% sure.

Kilclooney More (Portal Tomb)

I think this is a wedge tomb. This despite the lack of any sort of double-walling. Or any ante-chamber or portico. But no worries. I can go with Portal tomb (?), as in the Survey of the Megalithic Tombs of Ireland, Volume VI, County Donegal. It just doesn’t feel like a portal tomb. Especially in the shadow (or in the light) of what lies a kilometre to the north-east. But then again it might be neither

That said, this is a fine little monument. It’s environment has changed since the publication of the Survey (2002, but the photo may be from well before that) and indeed from Bogman’s visit 11 years ago. It’s in semi-bogland, occasionally used for cattle, about 250 metres north of a small boreen off the Ardara to Kilclooney road.

A single, quite delicate, granite capstone/roofstone covers a small chamber almost 1.5 metres square. It’s set into a mound that rises maybe half a metre above the surrounding terrain. It’s possible that the chamber floor is deeper than these dimensions suggest but I didn’t check, the brambles and other growth discouraging inspection. The gabled backstone is a noticeable attraction and the whole monument offers a serene piece of megalithic charm.

Killaghtee (Stone Row / Alignment)

A kilometre south-west of Dunkineely is this mighty fine stone pair. Situated in someone's garden (if it's yours, I knocked on your door and got no reply), it's aligned ESE-WNW, the southern stone 2.3 metres tall, the northern 1.9. It's situated on the neck of land at the top of the long and thin peninsula that leads down to Saint John's Point, 8 kms to the south-west. There are fine views west towards Slieve League.

Carn (Wedge Tomb)

The site from whence the townland gets its name (presumably, as there's another cairn nearby), about 5 kilometres east of Dungiven and by the side of the road. It's in a large, narrow, sloping pasture and is quite a presence, though secondary in most of the popular literature in comparison to the denuded Boviel 800 metres north of here. The views south into the Glenshane Valley are fantastic, with the Sperrins brooding beyond in the distance.

This is an example of an almost complete wedge tomb, yet to be plundered, its chamber probably still covered. The facade, facing south-west, and some of the kerbstones are visible, and there seems to be some clearance dumped on top. The road above, the fast-moving and unforgiving A6 main Derry to Belfast road, is hidden from view and you could while away some time here, the sheep timid enough.

Ballyrenan (Portal Tomb)

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!

Caldragh Churchyard (Carving)

There’s just no getting away from how colossally weird these stones are – you feel that anything that you say about them would not in any way do them justice. It’s a bit like being confronted by Munch’s Scream, a raw shout from the core of us, pointing to our own ultimate annihilation and rendering us silent. They are both ghostly and otherworldly, and weirdly human at the same time, leaving you with your consolatory pondering. I don’t have much else to say, just that you have to see them.

The Lusty More man is obviously the lesser of the two here but, on its own, would have you travelling miles to see it. Faded now, it’s power waning, and placed so close to the ‘Janus’ figure, you get quickly distracted. However, all is not well at Caldragh – to my untrained eye, the Janus figure is beginning to erode badly, almost crumbling in places. I would understand entirely if it was moved indoors. That said, it would be a shame if it happened – the experience of having this place all to yourself, to contemplate the utter strangeness of the carvings, is one of the highlights of megalithic Ireland.

Cavantillycormick (Court Tomb)

Like the shattered, semi-devoured carcass of a beached whale, the remains of Cavantillcormick dual court tomb sit on a slight, boggy ridge, scattered stones jutting above the turf and what’s left of the cairn in a barely discernible pattern. I’d approached the monument from the neighbouring field entrance about 250 metres to the south-east, gone down into a ditch and clambered up over a wall and then traversed the marshy ground to be confronted by what is a wreck of a tomb that manages to retain just a small bit of dignity.

Thankfully what does remain doesn’t seem in any danger of being removed, for the moment. Much of the poorer land in Fermanagh, and Tyrone for that matter, seems to be in the constant process of improvement. You would hope that any ideas of that here would take the neolithic court tomb into account, but there’s no guarantee of that. Cavantillycormick (probably Cabhán Tulaigh Cormaic ‘hollow of Cormac’s hill’) and its surrounds has a mix of pasturage and a small amount of tillage and land hunger may return.

You could despair at the destruction here but of the remains of the two tombs, the western is better, with a displaced roofstone over its chamber. The sense of tragedy is increased at the eastern remains, two, maybe three stones left standing. Still, there’s a sense here of something that is yet worthwhile. The ruggedness, the barely contained wildness, the raw beauty of the surroundings, and the wreckage of the ancient memorial, all combine into a small celebration of the determination of those who eked out their existence here all the way back six thousand years ago.

Cornabracken/Deerpark (McCormick) (Chambered Tomb)

The scant remains here lie one and a half kilometres west of the centre of Omagh town. The deep spring green of the fertilised fields is almost off-putting. Ballyrenan is only 12 kilometres northwards so why bother? Nothing much is visible from the road and at first the layout of the SMR map has me confused, almost enough to give up. Then, oriented correctly, I leg it south, uphill and close to the field boundary.

The very box-like/cist-like remains, incorporated into the field bank, get inundated in the summer – now, in mid-April, it’s still difficult to see the southern part of the tomb, vicious, dry brambles from last year still tangling two of the orthostats. They say it’s the possible remains of a court tomb – various scattered stones could be this or that. I didn’t hang about much, Ballyrenan too much of a distraction.

Aghalane (Court Tomb)

The A505 runs between Omagh and Cookstown and is a fast and unforgiving road. It's also littered with megaliths to its north and south. Heading west from An Creagán, we pulled up on the northern verge at the bottom of the field. I didn’t wonder who might have been interred in the tomb we were visiting. It was just another ruin, taken in on our way to better places, but revered nonetheless.

It’s tucked in under, and almost incorporated into, an ancient but later field boundary. It’s aligned east/west, with the front at the west. The map says megalith, the SMR court tomb. Any remains of the shallow court are difficult to discern – some of the stones here seem to be dumped field clearance, though the field is little more than a bog now, poorly drained. Mulderg rises to the north-west, scarred terribly with the gouges of quarrying. South-east is a long expanse of heather covered bog.

Most of the gallery sidestones remain, presuming there was only one chamber. A laterally placed stone on the southern side may be a segmenting jamb. There is no stone opposite it at the north so there’s no telling. Two matched stones further east and no closing stone at the rear leads to the conclusion that the rear of a second chamber may have been robbed. Two stones, one splayed out over the entrance stones and another thrown down in the ‘court’ may be roof stones or lintels.

I doubt this place ever fully dries out. It’s not a showy sort of place and is almost stranded there 200 metres from the road as the traffic flies past. I had no huge expectations and I can’t say I was either under- nor overwhelmed. It’s a small relic in an area with many more ‘important’ sites but might be worth your efforts, just bring some wellies.

Ballybriest (now in An Creagán) (Wedge Tomb)

Anthony Weir, in his Early Ireland: A Field Guide, published in 1980, mentions that this is across the road from the court tomb. He must have seen it in its original environment back then. It's now in An Creagán Visitors Centre in Tyrone, about 12 kilometres to the south-west.

Behind the centre is a small duck pond and a kids' playground. To the right of the pond a set of steps rises on the right and brings you on a number of looped walks through the bogland. To the left of the steps, almost tucked into the bank, is the reconstructed tomb.

An extensive excavation was undertaken before dismantling the tomb and if you compare it to the old photograph (link below) you can see that they remained faithful to the original. It's actually a quite impressive little monument, with all its sidestones, a backstone and two roofstones, with a ruined antechamber, but is, I would imagine, now used as a climbing frame for the energetic sprogs that populate the locale.

Beragh (Standing Stone / Menhir)

West of the village of the same name, down a country lane and up on a drumlin ridge, is this small relic. It's like the opening of a day, an invitation to explore further and deeper, little over a metre tall, its fallen neighbour invisible to the south. North from the prominence, above the Creggan boglands, the Sperrins float invitingly. The climb has taken the breath out of me on this, my first venture out of the car since Batterstown. I didn't touch it, satisfied enough to view, and to anticipate what lay ahead.

Drumnarullagh (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Right up in the north-east corner of Lower Lough Erne is the town of Kesh. It’s a pretty nondescript place, somewhere I wouldn’t be keen on passing too much time in… except that it has this mighty and mighty fine standing stone to its east in Drumnarullagh townland. It’s visible from the road about 120 metres into the field, well over 2 metres tall and 1.8 metres wide and is quite majestic, all alone there, with not much else around except the remains of a riverside rath about another 100 metres to the north.

Dromore Big (Court Tomb)

This is a sorry sight these days. We drove along the farm track – I knew there were farm buildings close by – and we were ready to ask for permission. We met a farm worker, not the owner, and he said go ahead. The photo on the NISMR shows the lintel and jambstones in a clearing and I had hopes that we were in for a bit of a treat. Alas no – were we here any later in the year it seems that we wouldn’t get to see anything.

The beautiful altar-like entrance, with one metre tall entrance jambstones both flanked by other supporting orthostats, all covered by a lintel, is all that’s visible and identifiable. The whole area is trashy, unkempt and unloved. On the plan at the NISMR, three stones form the southern gallery walls, with a laterally placed stone forming a sill and separating it into two chambers and then a backstone sealing the rear. All this was hard to check out with all the growth and detritus about the place.

It was one of those places that I didn’t feel like hanging around in, frustrated that the landowners so transparently don’t seem to care about the monument on their land, but not wishing to have a confrontation about the neglect.

Scraghy (Stone Circle)

In a field beside a road with fast moving traffic, I don’t have a lot to say about this as I only viewed it from the roadside. It’s the lesser one of two in the townland, the better one being about a kilometre west of north of here. There do seem to be few socketed stones but any circular form is difficult to ascertain from the bank at the edge of the field. Another of the many stone circles in the Tyrone/Fermanagh/Derry region.

Scraghy (Portal Tomb)

This was a cinch after the mystery tour over at Tawnydorragh 3 kms to the west – you can drive right up to it. The tarmac runs out after about 700 metres from the main road but the track is relatively well maintained and we’re in a 4-by-4 anyway. East of here is the large expanse of Lough Bradan forest, about 20 square kilometres of relatively high ground. The track becomes undriveable at the tomb and continues up into the forest. Judging from the map you could continue along this way and bend around to the south and find Ally court tomb, about 4 kilometres to the south-east as the crow flies.

Scraghy is badly ruined. The collapse of the huge capstone, 2.4 metres by 3.5 metres, has caused most of the chamber stones to shatter and I didn’t even attempt to try and work out which is what, but judging from some of the remains I estimate that the tomb once stood over 2 metres tall. So a serious piece of neolithic construction.

Then there’s the over two metre tall standing stone 7 metres to the ‘rear’ of the chamber. What with there being little evidence of a cairn footprint, this is a peculiarity. It is, on its own, a fairly serious megalith, something that you would go out of your way to visit. Plonked here where it is, it’s quite possible to imagine that it was part of a singular monument, possibly a revetting stone at the back of the cairn.

Thirty metres south-west of the large standing stone is another small megalith, this time a small cist with just two small sidestones still extant. It’s in a very boggy, clumpy area and I did a fairly serious tumble back there. Even with there being very little growth at this time of the year, conditions were not ideal but it was good to find the little guy, huddled away back there almost lost to the world.

Scraghy was well worth a visit. I’m guessing that, in its ruinous condition, it’s not high on many peoples’ priority list. But the area, though very accessible, retains a wild and inhospitable atmosphere, a barely tamed corner of West Tyrone with plenty to keep the megalithic explorer interested.

Drumskinney (Stone Circle)

Second time at Drumskinney, slightly less underwhelmed this time. The polar opposite to Montiaghroe stone circle back down the road, its post-excavation restoration leaves you cold – well you can’t have it both ways, so put up or shut up I guess. But you could have a middle way, which seems to be occurring naturally as mother nature begins to weather the enclosure and moss starts to encroach onto the gravel and the stones begin to look less scrubbed.

Montiaghroe - Stone Circle

It’s always worth remembering on a visit to the Beaghmore complex of circles, rows and cairns, the good fortune that allows us to see and appreciate so much. Once discovered and uncovered it made archaeological and commercial sense to open it up to the public. One can’t help but be reminded of that good fortune on a visit here. Drumskinney, 1.5 kms up the road, seems to have gotten all the attention in this area, leaving the circle here to be lost to the bog.

It’s said that there are “24 limestone boulders protruding above the bog surface to heights varying from 0.05-0.75m”. I made out maybe 8 of these at best today and maybe 3 of the 11 stones said to make up two tangential rows on the eastern arc of the ring. I had hoped for more – yet still the place retains something (is it only because of foreknowledge?), the flattened interior of the circle evident, the vibe of all that wild, boggy, early spring growth creating an energetic, almost electric, buzz. Worth a butchers if you’re visiting the row nearby, but in winter or early spring only.
Showing 1-20 of 483 fieldnotes. Most recent first | Next 20
Taxi-driving, graphic artist with a penchant for high hills and low boulders. Currently residing in Tallaght where I can escape to the wildernesses of Wicklow within 10 minutes.

My TMA Content: