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Fieldnotes by ryaner

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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.

Seefin Hill (Chambered Cairn)

So another 7 years has passed since I last visited Seefin. I truly hadn’t believed it was that long – it’s so close to where I live and I see it so often from various angles as I explore the north Wicklow hills that I take it for granted. There was a break in the weather that coincided with a break in my schedule so I decided to head up. Recent reports of vandalism at upland sites had me wondering.

I parked in the forestry entrance just at the end of the army rifle range. It’s wide enough for a few cars to park and still have ample room for emergency services etc. There seemed to be some sort of hill-walking jamboree on in the area – or at least it was finishing by the time I arrived around 3pm. There’s a quite vigorous loop walk that you can attempt – Seahan (with its cairn and passage graves) to Corrig to Seefingan (with its unopened cairn) and on to Seefin and down and then back up the road. I’ve been to all save megalithicly barren Corrig and have never attempted the loop, which one could say takes in the whole of the ‘Kilbride passage grave cemetery’.

The ascent is a trudge for us mere mortals. There were rain clouds threatening all the while so I wasn’t waiting around. The hill starts to steepen once you pass the bracken fields and gain the heather line. There’s a well-worn track here but you’re clambering more than hill-walking. About 150 metres below the cairn I came across a dressed stone that has a very bullaun-like hollow. I can’t say I’m 100% sure of it. It’s splayed right across the track and stepped over or around by all those ascending and descending by this route. I’m tempted to add it here but maybe not.

The approach to the cairn here is from the north-west. It starts to appear on the summit horizon line when you’re about 30 metres below and 200 metres away from it. It looks just like any other mountain-top cairn from here, a pile of granite rubble – but looks can be deceiving. Were you blissfully ignorant you would be in for a major surprise. You might begin to suspect something greater is happening if, like I did, you skirt around the cairn anti-clockwise and begin to see the collapsing kerbstones on the west and southern arcs. Unlike at the north and east of the cairn, the hill here falls away steeply and the resultant pressure on the kerbstones has taken its toll.

Moving around to the east the kerbing continues, but further out from the cairn, showing that even at this height cairn material robbing has occurred. And then you reach the entrance to the passage, aligned almost due north onto the cairn and passage grave on Seahan. I used to be able to glide through the labial portal stones but daren’t risk it these days. The small forecourt in front of the entrance is intriguing – was it filled and sealed after a certain period of use? Is the drystone walling of its sides original? There is an entrance type sillstone/kerbstone about three metres in front of the entrance, but in front of it is a higher but narrower slab and then, in turn, cairn rubble in front of that.

I didn’t venture into the passage from either end today, but did guiltily climb down into the chamber through the hole in the roof. The corbelling of the remains of the roof is still impressive, leading one to wonder how magnificent it was when originally built. Macalister’s 1932 ‘excavation’ report (really just a survey) only runs to 5 pages and some of it is worth quoting. He says: “The chamber lay partly roofless, and had apparently been rifled and left derelict centuries ago. It was almost full of stones, thrown into it, as we were informed, by the soldiers in the camp [Kilbride] for a pastime.” Nowhere in the report does he mention the trig-point-like stone with it’s concrete skirt I identified on this visit. He goes on to muse that it was early Christians that broke into the roof, speculating that the carving of a cross into the uppermost remaining stone of the roof as evidence that they may have “cut the cross as a barrier between themselves and the possible vengeance of the plundered ghosts.” Hmmmm.

Macalister only emptied out the smaller stones from the chamber and a lot of stones have fallen back in since 1931 to join the large boulders from the roof. People come here regularly as it’s on that popular loop mentioned above. I’ve usually met people here on previous visits and today was no different. Nosing my way around among the rubble on the floor of the main chamber and into the recesses I heard voices above my head and resented the intrusion. My best interactions with the stones are usually an intimate and solitary pursuit so the arrival of outsiders broke the spell. The stones around the lip of the hole in the roof are not overly stable so I felt just a tad vulnerable and emerged from the chamber before I’d wanted to.

The rain clouds were gathering to the south as I sat in the sunshine and pondered all this. The chamber and recesses at Seefin have more secrets to reveal and the next time I come I must give myself more time to explore, especially at the neck of the passage where it joins the chamber. The complexity of the construction here is fascinating, as it opens out into the chamber and soars up to the roof. The five recesses and one mini-recess would all bear further investigation too and a better camera than my camera-phone. I love Seefin and was happy to see that the spate of vandalism that has occurred at other upland cairns hasn’t occurred here; which is not to say that it’s not vulnerable. It remains so and I’m hoping that the amount of water in the passage is only a sign of the very wet, late summer we’ve had and not something more sinister.

Annaghmare (Court Tomb)

This was my fourth visit to Annaghmare court tomb. It really is a stunner and has so much going for it – ample parking space, a nice short walk through a pine plantation, it’s regularly tended to, I’ve never met anyone else here on my four trips and it’s a superb example of this type of tomb with most of its structure still in situ except for its roofstones and some of the covering cairn. Some might balk at its location in so-called bandit country, but as any local will tell you, the bandits left a while ago and to paraphrase the great Elvis, “and I would rather [not] be anywhere else but here today.”

So you pull into the driveway about a quarter of a kilometre south-west of the site and head off up the track. It really is nowheresville but not as isolated as it feels and the modernish pine plantation is entirely inoffensive. And then the tomb emerges at the bottom of the track, perched on its little knoll behind a gate, its surrounding lawn recently mowed and the more violent vegetation trimmed back, more of which anon.

The tomb is built on the contours and the slope of the hillock. The ground rises by close to 2 metres from the bottom of the of the last stone of the arm of the western horn of the court to the bottom of the western jambstone/portal marking the entrance into the three-chambered gallery. This gallery, seven metres long, lines the top ridge of the hillock. Its construction and segmentation are superb, always imperfect in that neolithic groove, but joyfully solid and skilfully finished. The ground of the two subsidiary chambers at the back of the cairn is maybe a metre and a half below the ground of the main gallery and offers a proto-symmetry. The cairn spills satisfactorily away from the sides of the gallery to both the east and west, but more so the east.

The remains of the cairn, for it must have been higher to cover the missing roofstones, is now being colonised by various plants. This adds to the ambience of the whole place, but may be not sustainable when the roots of pines and ash start to disturb the structure. And yet you’d miss the Rose Bay Willow Herb and various wildflowers – with a bit of sun, this burial place is a sleepy backwater, buzzing with life and vibrant with energy. This last visit was the longest yet, my companion this time happy to lie in the court and drink it all in while I did my usual clambering and photographing.

I focussed a bit on the subsidiary chambers at the back of the tomb this time. On their own, either of these two constructions would merit a visit. Attached to the back, northern end of the cairn, in what the excavation report says were later additions, they are a bonus. The flair of the orthostat/dry-walling combination witnessed in the court and the main chamber continues in the northern side of the western chamber. The southern wall of the eastern chamber is thought to borrow and incorporate the stones of the kerb of the rear of the main tomb/cairn before it was extended. Given that court tombs are said to be the earliest in the Irish series, this monument shows remarkable skill and ingenuity. The back-to-back backstones of the subsidiaries again speak of a symmetry.

The excavation was conducted in 1963 and 1964 before the trees were planted and the report speaks of extensive views almost all around, with the passage grave on Gullion visible from here. Alas not now - views are completely blocked by the pines, but with a respectable amount of breathing space for the tomb. This obscuring and hiding just adds to the intimacy of Annaghmare – not having seen it any other way I find it hard to imagine what it would be like opened up.

Aughnagurgan (Portal Tomb)

This is the tomb marked on the OS map. It’s in the second field in from the road and would have been quite a corker, were it still standing. I found it hard to interpret. Of the five remaining stones only two remain upright. These look like a portal at the north-east and a low sidetone. The collapsing stone at the south-west looks like the second portal but is too far away from the upright one to make a tomb entrance, and the intervening stone looks way out of place to have been a doorstone.

Having said all that, it would be hard to say that this is not a portal tomb. The large capstone and the positioning of the tomb beside a vigorous stream would lead one to that conclusion. The capstone has a natural mini-bullaun at its eastern end. The position of the tomb on a steepish slope is a bit strange, but the views to the west and south are impressive. Mullyash mountain is two kilometres to the south. The views to the east are blocked by the slope of the hill.

Aughnagurgan (Wedge Tomb)

Visible from the road, not marked on the OS map, this obvious megalithic tomb defies classification. It was a bonus to find it – we actually thought it was the tomb that is marked on the OS map, but no, it’s a separate, unclassified megalithic tomb in the same townland.

The Northern Ireland Sites & Monuments Record has this to say: “6 large-ish stones remain in situ & there are several smaller stones which may be in their original positions. 3 other large stones lie within the area of the site but seem to be displaced. The stones in situ seem to form an enclosure or kerb defining an area 2.75m NW-SE x 4m NE-SW, raised 0.4m above the surrounding ground. 2 large stones 1m apart & 1.04m high mark the SW end. The other stones decrease in height to NE end which is marked by a single stone 0.15m high.”

Reading further, there is mention of carved stones at the site, none of which are visible now. Initially I said wedge tomb, but those carvings say passage tomb, and it could also fit as a court tomb. I was surprised at how close to the road the tomb was. The map shows it quite a distance away from the road so I was puzzled and unconvinced. Then we spied the obvious tomb in the next field to the south.

Tullyvallan (Tipping) West (Standing Stone / Menhir)

North of Cullyhanna in an area called Cooey’s Hill, is this small standing stone. It’s in a roadside field and is leaning (tipping?) to the south. It’s nearly a metre and a half tall and there’s not much more to say about it except that when I asked permission to visit it from the neighbouring house, the man said that it wasn’t his field but was very curious as to how I knew the stone was there. I just said it’s on the map and left it at that before leaping the fence and firing off a few quick shots with my camera-phone.

Tullynavall (Standing Stone / Menhir)

With three names – Cloghfinn, Calliagh Berra’s stone and the White stone of the Watching – and prominently located on the crest of a hill that also contains the most obvious section of the Dorsey embankments, I had to return here and investigate. It’s mentioned in Noreen Cunningham and Pat McGinn’s book, The Gap of the North – the archaeology and folklore of Armagh, Down, Louth and Monaghan.

I’d been here a couple of years ago to visit the Dorsey entrenchment but didn’t know about the stone. It’s now sadly fallen and the woman of the house where we asked permission to visit it apologised for its condition and that it hadn’t been re-erected. Ah bless.

On examination it appears that the stone stood in a very shallow socket with some packing stones and was easily pushed over by cattle. It does have ongoing importance in the area down through the ages, but a lot of the folklore is from more modern times. The beautiful views across South Armagh towards Slieve Gullion explain the Calliagh Berra reference and Cloghfinn comes from the fact that old Finn MacCool threw the stone from there. He was a good shot was Finn.

Latbirget (Chambered Tomb)

The neighbouring Ballykeel dolmen is the glamour site in this area. There’s a quite fast-flowing stream north of it at Ballykeel bridge that has an old disused corn mill and hydroelectric plant. Above the mill the river has been split in two with various sluices and channels still very much in evidence. It’s all quite fascinating but isn’t the reason why we came here today.

In the next field along to the north and behind the mill is this strange arrangement of stones. The note at the Northern Ireland Sites & Monuments Record says this: “A group of 3 stones remains in situ incorporated into a recent field wall. One slab 2.2m long has been set on edge & stands 0.9m high & on W side of this are 2 pillar like stones, one at each end. The S stone is 1.6m high & the N is a little lower. Paterson recorded a "2nd chamber in the next field" which could mean this was a court tomb, with the N stone as the back stone of a gallery & the S as one of a pair of dividing jambs. It may also however have been a portal tomb & classification remains uncertain. Topsoil stripping on a area c.100m SW of this site was carried out under archaeological supervision, prior to development. No archaeological deposits or artefacts were identified on the development site [F.MacM., 22/05/06].”

Whether it was a court or portal tomb is hard to figure, but it could be said that it was massive, if it was either. The slab to the north doesn’t really look like the portal stone of a portal tomb and the massive recumbent is quite low to be a doorstone of the same. So my best guess would be a court tomb, which again begs the question, why leave the three stones behind? Why not destroy the whole thing altogether? Maybe the landowner thought it a convenient arrangement to incorporate into his field fence, but the north and south stones are set transversely and jut out into the field considerably to the point where it would be just as easy to remove them. So maybe, excepting Paterson’s second chamber, it’s not the remains of a tomb at all.

It reminded me of the remains at Aghmakane not even a mile north-east up the road to Camlough – like it, probably one best left to the completists and total nerds.

Ballykeel (Portal Tomb)

Nestled within the Slieve Gullion caldera, along a road running north-north-west/south-south-east, are three tombs within a kilometre of each other, Latbirget, Ballykeel and Aughadanove. There was a possible fourth 600 metres further south, but nothing remains of that. All three remaining could be said to be the ruins of portal tombs but Ballykeel stands out.

Denuded of its cairn and the sidetones of the chamber, the large capstone rests on the two tall portals and the now shattering backstone. If you look at the point where the capstone rests on the eastern portal, it’s not much more than a fingernail in size. Gravitational forces persist and that backstone may need extra support in the future.

It’s a pity that the authorities didn’t buy the whole field in which the tomb sits. The dolmen is fenced in and it feels that way, no room around the remains of the cairn, but that’s quite a small gripe. At least it’s looked after regularly and access is straightforward and there’s a bit of parking around. I always swing by if I’m in the area, but today was mainly about other places so we didn’t stay too long. A happy place and well worth checking out.

Lickbla (Wedge Tomb)

I’ve been in this area before so many times and not got to the tomb that I was almost ready to give up yet again. We’d met a couple of local farmers in one of the adjacent fields but they had misunderstood us and directed us to the owner of the field that contains a large rath. Actually, I knew where the tomb is and knew how to get to it, but was too intimidated by the large farmyard and its occupants to ask. Not my buddy Thomas, good country lad that he is.

“Sure why would I stop ye?” asked the lady at the house, “Off ye go.” So off we set, through the farmyard and up the track and over a farm gate and into the field.

I knew it was ruined but I didn’t expect there to be as much left as there actually is. The mound is placed at the top of a hillock and to the east side of a pasture field. The Rock of Curry dominates the north-western skyline. Views to the east are blocked by a fence and hedging, otherwise the views all around are clear. It’s aligned NNE-SSW with the entrance at the SSW. The slope of the mound is very pronounced towards the western section.

Two stones remain of the outer walling on the eastern side and there may be some chamber orthostats but they are covered by what seem to be displaced roofstones and a summer’s worth of nettles. There were various other stones around the chamber but I couldn’t really inspect them as I was too tired for a nettle war.

The main sense I got here was, not unusually, puzzlement – if you’re going to wreck a tomb and use the stones elsewhere, why leave what’s left? Why not destroy it altogether? I guess the answer to that will remain unknown and I should be glad that the tomb wreckers left what they did. And, in the end, I am.

Summit of Slieve Donard (Cairn(s))

This one nearly did me in. We started at the car-park in Newcastle like Thelonious below. I knew it would be strenuous before we set out and I’d been talking to a mate who’s local and he’d warned me about a spike in Covid in the area due to all the staycations, but here we were. It’s a popular spot and there were many on the trail.

The Glen river eases the first part of the ascent, with rock pools and mini-waterfalls along the way. The day was overcast and clammy and I was hoping that at some point the cloud would clear and the mountain would open up. We weren’t even halfway there when the moaning teens started. The sooner the schools re-open the better, my coaxing and cajoling skills having hit their limit.

We reached the Mourne wall after about 2 hours. Our perspectives had shortened the higher we’d climbed. Cloud had fallen along with spirits. Distances narrowed. Enthusiasm, never strong, flagged and lagged as the 200 metres or more of the hardest ascent remained. How long is there left? Why are we doing this? Questions I barely had the answers to myself as gravity almost pulled me backwards.

And then Commedagh appeared out of the clouds and over our shoulders like a giant spaceship, hovering enormously, and the perspective change was almost horrendous in its vertiginous magnificence. The kids were as stunned as we, but soon familiarity took over and they lapsed into are-we-nearly-there-ness again. I felt no little sense of glee in telling them that Donard was higher than Commedagh towering above and that there were many false summit-horizons ahead.

We reached the summit in brilliant summer sunshine – so this is what’s been happening all the while we’ve been under the cloud these last few weeks. The relief at having gained the top was palpable. We didn’t have it to ourselves and the views were blocked by the clouds but we’d done Donard. The ‘greater’ cairn swarmed with verminous flies and midges. Lots of people bring memorials up here for a friends or relatives who’ve passed, something I haven’t seen before. The cairn is a bit of a mess, well trundled over and probably not its original shape or size.

The northern, ‘lesser’ cairn is more interesting, but no less messed about with. The ground starts to descend towards the lesser cairn until, not too far beyond, drops precipitously to the north-east. There are many shelters built from the cairn material in the vicinity and there seems to be a lot of cairn slippage, especially to the east. The greater cairn is said to be a passage grave, destroyed by the sappers who built the trig station beside it. The lesser is called a multiple-cist cairn and was well messed up by the time Harris had visited it in 1744.

We lazed in the sun around the two cairns for a while and then headed back. The descent is a lot more dangerous, naturally, with lots of gravel kicked up onto the flagstones of the crude stairway/path, so extra caution was needed. We had left the car-park at 1pm and arrived back at the car about 7.30pm.

Slievefoore (Cairn(s))

Slievefoore (An Sliabh Fuar – the cold mountain) is a small hill, 414 metres above sea level on the eastern side of a small range that culminates in the pinnacle of Croghan Mountain (606 metres) straddling the Wicklow/Wexford border. The hills are southern outliers from the main Wicklow range. There are no antiquities marked on the OS map in the range. However, on archaeology.ie there is a cairn marked on Slievefoore. A friend recently moved into the area and on a visit I got curious and decided to investigate.

Most of the Croghan area is forested and is now peppered with the turbines of a large windfarm. The entrance to the forestry has a couple of information signs and the area around it is known locally as White Heaps "due to the cairns of quartz which may have marked prehistoric burial mounds”. Cairns? Intriguing. The cairn is actually a kilometre from here so a bit more investigation is needed.

The walk north to the cairn from the entrance was relatively easy, up through the forestry and over a couple of farm gates. Eventually you’re left about 50 metres below the summit of Slievefoore in a heathery, boggy field. The top is easily reached but was still quite wet after the poor summer we’ve been having.

The cairn sits at the north end of what is an elongated summit which is aligned roughly north south. The hill starts to gently but obviously descend from the northern tip of the cairn and the views north are extensive. The cairn is low and flat, almost like an artificial, ceremonial platform. It’s mainly grass covered, but where the cairn stones do protrude, they are mainly quartz. There are 2 quartz boulders loose on the cairn and another boulder has quartz encrustation.

The very visible kerb consists of 28 stones, some of which are orthostatic but most are just lying on the ground. Tara Hill (253 metres) to the south-east with its own cairn draws the eye. The views all around are magnificent, except to the south where they’re blocked by forestry. I spent quite a while here, drinking in the views with a soundtrack of the whoosh of the large turbines to the west. I found the ‘cairn’ quite puzzling. Is it actually a cairn? Why are most of the ‘kerbstones’ loose on the ground? It’s obviously ancient, but there does seem to have been modern interference. The sense I got was that this was a place of ceremony rather than of burial.

Carrickclevan (Portal Tomb)

This took a bit of finding, not wholly unsurprising at this time of the year. We parked up the way of the cul de sac and walked a couple of hundred metres. A farmer and his son were harvesting in the field we needed to traverse and he was very happy to allow us head over to the tomb. His directions of “off up to the right” were as helpful as trying to use the old OS map, but in the end he was right, just that the tomb was on the wrong side of the hedge and completely overgrown on the side from which we approached.

It’s a little gem really. Leaving aside it’s overgrown state and the fact that some of the trees may eventually collapse the whole structure, there’s quite a lot left. Both portals, both sidetones and most of the capstone are extant, if not in their exact original position. The southern portal and sidetone are both leaning inwards. The large capstone, estimated at 6 tons (see folklore below) has had a portion snap off at the rear of the chamber where the backstone seems to be missing.

Opened up and allowed to breathe a little, Carrickclevan would be by no means a spectacular, show site – it’s not even head height. Which is not to say that it couldn’t do with a bit of love – it squats there, almost as an afterthought, slightly shamefaced, cowering beneath all that vegetation. After spending a bit of time we left, happy to have found it, almost lost and unloved, but now re-discovered.

Dunsany (Bullaun Stone)

Opposite the entrance to Dunsany castle, at the foot of a christian cross is this quite peculiar stone. The two bullauns are fairly shallow, in comparison to most, and there are said to be more cup-like depressions that I didn't notice. The stone itself is almost square-shaped and has been fractured in a couple of places down through the years (or the millenia). The white lichen almost covers the entire surface and makes it hard to examine. An oddity.
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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.

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