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 367 fieldnotes. Most recent first | Next 20

Mullaghey (Standing Stone / Menhir)

A leaning 1.4 metre tall standing stone at the west end of a ridge above the hamlet of Mullaghey. The weathering on this stone reminded me of the stones at Callanish, though I've never been. A little gem and not far from the road.

Patrickstown (Standing Stone / Menhir)

11 and a half years since I last stopped by here. It's another of the slab-like stones peppered around the foothills of Loughcrew. About 1.5 metres tall and aligned NW-SE.

Ballinvally (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Another of the many Ballinvally standing stones, a slab aligned WNW-ESE. It's visible from the Kells to Oldcastle road and sits atop a small rise. There's another stone about 200 metres to the north-west in the neighbouring townland of Boolies.

Ballinvally (Stone Circle)

A last, fleeting visit before the third grim lockdown. I’d been here many times before but never made it to the circle, not confident enough to venture across the fields and over the fences. I’d read Ken Williams’s notes before but had forgotten the directions. We approached from the south, across marshy ground and traversing a small stream and a fence.

To be honest the place left me feeling a bit cold. It’s not the stones fault, just the air of general disregard and neglect and the mud and the grey December lightless atmosphere, all combining to a rushed and cursory visit. The place is puzzling anyway - was it a ‘true’ circle? The stones seem too large to be the remains of a kerb, and if you were to destroy a cairn here, why leave these remains? The north-eastern stone is unsatisfyingly mis-aligned, if these are the remains of a ‘true’ stone circle.

And yet the stones retain a power. All are large, most bulky, except the one at the north-west, the most slab-like. Beside this is where the passage-like stones jut out at a tangent. Over to the east a low double wall runs roughly north-south inside the ‘circle’. It looks ancient. The south-eastern stone is eroding nicely with runnels and gullies that are beginning to fill with soil.

The stones are at the east end of a field that slopes down from the west. At the top of the field there is a large habitation site and over the field wall is the impressive bivallate rath in the neighbouring townland of Drumsawry or Summerbank. A small standing stone is about 200 metres south-west of the ‘circle’.

Ballinvally (Standing Stone / Menhir)

There are 10 standing stones listed in the SMR in Ballinvally townland. Seven of them are north of here, further distant from the Loughcrew hills. This one is just north of a small stream that runs south-west/northeast through the valley floor at the bottom of Carnbane East. It, and the other stones north of here, could be said to be part of the wider Loughcrew Complex. It's about a metre-and-a-half tall and about 200 metres south-west of Ballinvally stone circle.

Boolies (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Marked as a ‘standing stone' on the SMR, I reckon these are the very scant remains of a small megalithic tomb. In the Loughcrew hinterland about a mile north of the car-park between Carnbane East and West, there's really not much to see. A low, chamber-sidestone-like orthostat is aligned roughly north-east/south-west. Parallel to it and half a metre away to the north is an even lower stone, slowly drowning in the eroded out pond that encircles the monument. Definitely one for the completists only.

Culmullin (Artificial Mound)

I asked my friend Thomas, a local, if he knew of Culmullin. 'Of course I do,' says he, 'it's right beside me.' Talk about hiding in plain sight – when we rounded the corner and I pointed to the barrow he exclaimed 'That thing! Sure that's that's just a heap of dirt.' Well, as we all know here, one man's heap of dirt is another man's prehistoric burial site.

It's not huge on atmosphere even though it's quite substantial – 18 metres north-south and nearly 3 metres tall at its highest point. It is, however, a small miracle, surviving as it does in a heavily farmed area, dodging, so far, the mechanical excavator's bucket. And for that, we are grateful.

Lugg (Henge)

The trees have been felled around and on the monument and the views mostly opened up. On what was a rainy and overcast day I had about 5 minutes at the site before being drenched in a downpour.

It was a huge surprise and great to see that the monument has been opened up. It seems due care and attention was taken by the tree fellers to protect the integrity of the structure; there's even a new, explanatory sign up on the path.

Weather and lighting conditions were not the best so another visit is planned soon.

Cregganconroe (Stone Circle)

This site is marked as a Megalithic Complex that includes a stone circle, an alignment and a cairn. It’s fairly typical of quite a few sites in this part of Tyrone – it was discovered after peat-cutting á la Beaghmore – but in its present, overgrown condition is hard to interpret and probably best bypassed on your way to the superb Creggandevesky court tomb.

What can be seen is a raised, roughly circular area about 20 metres in diameter, 1.5 metres or so above the surrounding terrain. On the southern flank of this is the alignment, the most visible of the monuments. It tangentially abuts the circle to its north. The 11 stones of the circle were barely visible on the day we were there, summer growth inundating them.

The terrain in the area is wild and rugged, a small outcrop of hilly rock immediately to the south. West of this is a small lake. 300 metres east-south-east is the aforementioned Creggandevesky court tomb.

Crosh (Portal Tomb)

After the disappointment over at Glenknock, this was more like it. Even though it’s very ruined, it still retains a lot of character, mainly due to the still-standing and enormous portals, both of which are over 2 metres tall.

The remains are located two fields in, behind an old but not fully abandoned farmstead. We pulled up at the next field along to the south, just past the t-junction, traversed the edge of this field and hopped the fence once we’d come parallel to the site.

The tomb has been almost completely destroyed, except for the portals and a half-height doorstone. The entry at the NISMR says that there are three capstones but obviously it’s meant that there are three fragments of the one capstone (I hope). One of these fragments is abutting the rear of the gigantic northern portal and looked to me like a chamber sidestone. I’m still not totally convinced that I’m wrong.

Whatever was the original arrangement of the stones here, it can be safely said that this would have been an enormous portal tomb, one of the most impressive in the land. Alas, all we’ve got left are traces, and our own imaginings of what once was.

Glenknock or Cloghogle (Portal Tomb)

There are a couple of relatively recent photos of this site on the NISMR that would lead you to believe it's worth visiting. Alas, not anymore. After what is described as "agricultural reclamation close to the site", anything that was in the past discernible as being the remains of a portal tomb is now an indistinguishable and overgrown mess of stones piled up against each other. I think I recognised a remaining socketed portal but who knows? A sad and sorry mess.

Beltany (Court Tomb)

The A5 Great Northern Road to Derry becomes Beltany Road north of Omagh town. It bends to the east just south of Mountjoy village, which it bypasses, and almost follows the contours of the Shrule river valley, before straightening out once again, this time practically hugging the Shrule having passed the Ulster-American Folk Park. Two kilometres north of the park there is a chambered grave marked on the OS map, west of the road.

It's not an easily accessible site. The A5 is a busy and fast road. Though it’s only 150 metres away from the road, over a gate and up a pasture field, I’d never seen nor heard of it anywhere else other than on the NISMR and it’s easy to see why. I’ve passed it maybe twenty times and never given it a second thought. And now, having visited it, I discover there’s a fairly intact wedge tomb not 100 metres to its north-west, incorporated into a field boundary. Ah well, the perils and joys of stone-hunting.

There is much to see here, even if the gallery is terribly ruined. Like a lot of Tyrone sites, much of the surrounding cairn remains, its frontal revetments in evidence. Or maybe I’m mistaken – I would have thought that the floor of the court and gallery would be level with the surrounding field, but no, like at Loughmacrory 16 kilometres or so to the east, both are raised about a metre above. Slightly puzzling, a trait I’ve found at many Tyrone sites.

There is very little of the court remaining, three stones on its east side. The gallery is smashed and the roofstones broken up and flung about. Some of the chamber sidestones are still there and some have been removed, conjuring up imaginings of the looters using measuring equipment to pick the choicest examples. There is one lintel/roofstone still in situ over the jambstones dividing the first and second chambers of the gallery. It gives the place some small bit of character.

I didn’t hang around – this was one of the first sites in a busy itinerary – but experienced enough to remain impressed. Set on a ridge of above the Shrule valley, the views east into the southern Sperrins were gorgeous in the September sunshine. It's aligned roughly north-south, with the entrance at the south. The valley side continues to rise to the west up to the peak of Bessy Bell with its summit cairn, said to be a possible court tomb, at 450 metres. Another site for another day, and maybe that elusive wedge tomb too.

Altdrumman (Portal Tomb)

North of Loughmacrory town, and the lake itself, and along an accessible road that turns into a track, this is a mad arrangement of stones. 100 metres into the field from the gate it's right beside the rock outcrop from whence it probably came.

It's nearest comparison is the Labby Rock in Carrickglass in Sligo, another monster capstone over small supporting stones. It looks like it was a rush job but on closer inspection it's quite cleverly arranged. The tallest of the supporting stones is the backstone, but this is tilted inwards into the chamber, lowering its peak and tilting the capstone from front to rear off the portals, neatly distributing the weight.

The outcrop is being colonised by gorse and the views front-on at the portals are disappearing. There was a large amount of cattle off in the distance in the large field that contains the tomb. On their approach we decided to leave a little sooner than we would have liked to.

Loughmacrory II (Court Tomb)

This looks wonderful from over the fence, the mound/long cairn still remaining with an almost complete kerb/revetment, said to be several courses high in places. The court end, at the east and beside the road, is overgrown at this time of the year and we couldn't explore more because of livestock in the field. Awesome looking monument.

Loughmacrory I (Wedge Tomb)

There's a farm track that heads west from the road to within 100 metres of this one. You then have to navigate 2 gates to get into the field with the tomb. I disturbed a grazing hare as I approached. I got as much a fright as he, but after a brief frozen second or so he scarpered off up the field, only to seek shelter in the chamber of my destination.

I arrived at the back, eastern end of the tomb and out he popped, legging it back in the direction from whence we came. I often meet wildlife on my travels but have yet to be quick enough to video the encounter. I stumbled to within touching distance of a sleeping fawn a while back in Glendalough. I'd taken my eye off it for a split second and by the time I'd got my phone out of my pocket it had legged it off up the river bank and away. I know I don't pose any threat to the animals, but they don't know that.

There is much of this smallish tomb left. The chamber is complete and still has its roofstones. However, the western portico is wrecked, its collapsed roofstone resting on a southern entrance upright. The stones are all granite and bulkier that is normal in wedge tombs. The roofstone over the back of the chamber seems to be upside-down, its flat, worked side facing up.

The field is low-quality pastureage and the area around the tomb is well-trodden. Some of the stones in the vicinity look to be dumped field-clearance. It's still worth a look in this megalith-rich area.

Loughmacrory III (Wedge Tomb)

It's about 30 kilometres from Omagh to Cookstown. Packed between the two towns either side of the A505, throughout the south Sperrins, there is one of the densest collections of megalithics in Ireland. Many are marked on the OS maps, many are not. This one is and it's right beside the road.

It's rare to see such a complete wedge tomb. Aghamore in Leitrim is one but what a trek that was. This was easy. Judging by the previous photos here, the thorn tree that is now colonising the bank between the northern outer-walling and the chamber walling seems to be collapsing under its own weight after a few years of vigorous growth. It's also affecting the tomb structure but I can't see anyone doing anything about that.

Both sides of the tomb retain their double walling. Most of the roofstones remain. The tomb is embedded in much of its surrounding cairn. It's not very tall, the height from the floor of the western portico to its roof little over a metre. However, there does seem to be an amount of rubble that has fallen in here. The floor of the sealed chamber seems to be a little lower than that of the portico but still above the ground level of the surrounding field.

I could have stayed here a lot longer than I did. It's a fascinating and beautiful site on the north-western slopes of Loughmacrory Hill, the views north-west to the higher hills of the western Sperrins quite beautiful.

Glendruid (Portal Tomb)

Parking on the Brennanstown road is now impossible and I hadn't felt like asking at Dolmen House for permission to park the car AND go through their garden, so I was left to wonder and research an alternative route. There has been a fair bit of development in the area since I was last here 14 years ago. A friend who grew up in the locality gave me a few hints, but none came to fruition – he hasn't lived there for years. So with a bit of time and google maps I took a risk and leaped another field gate, south-east of the site at Lehaunstown Lane.

The dolmen is well known and marked on google maps so I was able to trek through the field in its general direction before picking up a track that leads north, down into the valley. You must pass through another old gate, into the broadleaf forest and onto a pathway that runs down to the stream and then west alongside the southern edge of the stream. Ignore the bridge you encounter on reaching the valley floor – there is no way through from there. Pass further along for about 200 metres until you reach a fairly obvious ford in the stream. Cross here.

The dolmen was still not in sight yet but the anticipation was rising. The track from the stream to the tomb is well-used and we surmounted the fallen tree and rounded the bend and there it is. Even LM was impressed. The capstone immediately draws your attention. The flat plane of the north-west corner is striking. The whole of the capstone has been obviously sculpted, its underside completely flat. Estimated at 60 tons, the mind boggles at the effort to first sculpt and then raise it.

Knowing that it remains standing by the grace of some serious reinforcing concrete doesn't detract from its magnificence. The portals support the heavier end and are taller than they look from first glance – the ground level of the chamber is well below the field level and both stones are well embedded. The southern sidestone is collapsing into the chamber, rescued from inundation and possible obliteration by the concrete. Both it and its northern counterpart are immense. The concrete reinforcing abuts the northern sidestone and takes the weight of the capstone here, the stepped sculpting of the sidestone visible.

We’re not supposed to climb these monuments, but Glendruid is irresistible. The turtle-backed capstone has a curved runnel that goes from corner to corner and may have been carved to let water run off the sides, away from the rear of the chamber. The slope from back to front is quite steep, mild vertigo kicking in for me and reminding me I’m not as young as I used to be. The dimensions of the stone are 5.1 metres long by 4.5 metres wide and the almost square plan of the thing is apparent from a few angles and especially so from on top of its front end.

We stayed a while here today in the heat of a mid-September Indian summer, undisturbed and carefree. The depths of the steep-sided valley floor shield you from the wiles of the suburbs for a while and you can imagine a time before complication, sheltered by the sturdiness of Glendruid’s accomplishment. But then you have to ascend, the pull of an ice-cream on an 11-year-old mind irresistible.

Cloghmore (Court Tomb)

Having been spoiled earlier in the day with some almost intact tombs, this was a bit of a let-down, especially when it has its own name marked on most maps instead of the usual 'chambered grave'.

It's about 15 metres above the road and visible from the field gate. Most of the stones are low lying, except the one in the adjoining field, but that may not be part of the tomb.

The remains of a court are to the east, with a fine backstone to the west delineating the extent of its footprint. Very little of the chamber/s still exists. However, there are stones further to the west in the adjoining field that may have been part of the original tomb or may have been extensions. One in particular seem to be the capstone of a cist, or could be a displaced roofstone.

Another one for the completists unless you are driving and have time to spare.

Broughderg (Court Tomb)

There's much to see in Broughderg townland, Dun Ruadh is close by, but this was the last site of a busy day. We'd been at Cloghmore down the road by the time we arrived at this roadside tomb and it was only as we passed by that we realised it was there. It's marked on some maps and there's another, seemingly finer tomb just 400 metres north-west up the road.

But here we were, once again leaping a fence, and not too sure what we were looking at. It turns out that this is probably the remains of a dual-court tomb. It's now being inundated by the surrounding bog. The stones nearest the road are the remains of an eastern court but you'd never tell with most of them drowning in the rushes. The same goes for the western court.

There are said to be some stones remaining from the chambers but I didn't feel up to rooting around in the mulch. The wildness of the locality here in the south Sperrins shows much promise for the more isolated places further north. I'll be back.

Shantavny Scotch (Wedge Tomb)

Not much to say about this small wedge tomb, placed about 100 metres west of the small road. Horseshoe-shaped remains rising to about a metre above ground level. The mouth of the remains faces west. There are 2 stones visible on the inner side of the northern arm and, supposedly, one on the southern side, but I didn't see that. Probably one you could miss if you're visiting the area for Knockmany or Sess Kilgreen.
Showing 1-20 of 367 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: