A quick tour of Ancient Irish Tombs
Welcome to this short tour of some of the more notable megalithic sites around Ireland. This is really just a taster of what Irelands stone and bronze age heritage has to offer, there are many more to be discovered in the categorised sections above. To visit a site, view more photos and find out a bit more, click on the link beside each photo. To continue on to the next page, use the links at the bottom of each page or the small numbered quick links just below this message. Enjoy!Read More
Poulnabrone Dolmen, Co. ClareIrelands most famous and photographed dolmen sits in the heart of the world-famous Burren landscape in County Clare. Thousands of years of farming and land clearing has caused the underlying limestone to become exposed and weathered into strange and moon-like crevice filled terraces. Poulnabrone Dolmen is made of limestone slabs typical of the many other Bronze Age wedge tombs in the locality. There are only two Dolmens in the Burren but this one is so spectacular that few more are required to make a trip here worthwhile. This 5,000 year old tomb was excavated in 1985 and the bones of up to 33 people were found as well as the remains of a newborn baby place outside the entrance in the later Bronze Age. Click here to go to Poulnabrone
Kilclooney More Dolmen, Co. DonegalClick on the photo for a larger view. Many portal tombs change form as you walk around them and see them from varying angles, Kilclooney More is simply spectacular from every angle. It is also a very large example of this type of tomb. Click on the link below to see this shape-shifting effect in photos taken during sunrise and sunset. Click here to go to Kilclooney More.
Brownshill Dolmen aka Kernanstown Dolmen.Click on the photo for a larger view. Weighing well over 100 tonnes, Brownshill Dolmen's capstone is the largest in Ireland, and possibly Europe. From the car-park in front of the tomb its hard to appreciate the sheer mass of it, after the short walk along the pathway you discover that this tomb easily dwarfs all others. click here to see more photos of this tomb
The Mound of the Hostages, Hill of Tara, Co. MeathThe Mound of the Hostages is the oldest structure on the Hill of Tara that survives above ground. It is a neolithic passage tomb with an undifferentiated chamber dating to the stone age, around 3,000 BC. The name is medieaval and bears no relation to its creation and intended function. The passage is orientated so that the rising sun on the cross quater days (half way between the equinoxes) lights up the rear of the chamber and some carvings on a sidestone of the passage. Click here to go to Tara, with photos also of the Stone of Destiny (Liá Fáil), Rath of the Synods and the Kings Seat.
Proleek Dolmen, Co LouthClick on the photo for a larger view. Towering above the two tall portal stones, the huge 40 tonne capstone balances perilously on its three supports, itself covered in small stones thrown up by the superstitious in the belief that they will be married within a year if the stone does not fall back down. Click on the link below to see more photos of this fine Dolmen and also the angular and mostly complete wedge tomb a few meters away. Click here to see more photos of this tomb and the nearby wedge tomb.
Newgrange Passage Tomb.Click on the photo for a larger view. Irelands most famous Megalithic monument, the passage grave at Newgrange is a major tourist attraction with shuttle buses shuttling tourists from far and wide every 20 minutes. The visitors center provides guided tours of the passage and chambers but free time to explore the site and the carved kerbstones is limited. Click on the link below to see the magnificent artwork inside the passage and more views of the mound itself. Click here to see more photos of this tomb.
Gaulstown Dolmen, Co. Waterford.Click on the photo for a larger view. One of the best of Waterfords many portal tombs, Gaulstown Dolmen is hidden away in a tree lined enclosure and its weathered and moss covered stones seem to suggest this tomb enjoys a quiet retirement with some structural renovations keeping things together. Click here to see more photos of this tomb.
Haroldstown Dolmen, Co. Carlow.Click on the photo for a larger view. One of Irelands most appealing portal tombs, Haroldstown Dolmen apparently housed a family during the famine in the 1840's. Its solid and robust feel is enhanced by the collapsed rear capstone covering the rear of the chamber, and the remains of its cairn prop up the rear. Photos taken on a spectacular 15 minute sunset show on New Years Eve 2004. Click here to see more photos of this tomb.
Ballykeel Dolmen, Co. ArmaghClick on the photo for a larger view. An excellent example of a tripod portal tomb in the environs of Slieve Gullion, Co. Armagh. Ballykeel Dolmen has everything, magnificent views, an almost flat capstone resting on pinpoint portal stones and the large trail of cairn material stretching back for around 25 metres. Click here to see more photos of this tomb.
Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, Co. SligoClick on the photo for a larger view. Possibly the first megalithic structures in Ireland, a controversial age of around 7,000 years ago has been determined by scientists. The cemetery is huge and has many remains scattered around of what was once one of the largest collection of megaliths in Europe. Click here to see more photos of this site.
Fourknocks Passage Tomb, Co. MeathClick on the photo for a larger view. A restored passage tomb with a large chamber, now covered by an artificial roof. It features three recesses off the main chamber, many zig-zag carvings and (allegedly) the only known stone age carving of a face. It is still debatable whether the tomb originally featured a roof or not, but if one was in place it would have to have been made of wood or hide due to the large size of the chamber itself. Click the link below for an outside view and many photos of the carvings inside. Click here to see more photos of this tomb and the megalithic art inside.
Carrowkeel Megalithic Cemetery, County Sligo.Click on the photo for a larger view. A large collection of cairns in the Bricklieve mountains in Sligo, Carrowkeel features the only other known 'lightbox' in Ireland apart from the famous aperature in Newgrange. Cairn G at Carrowkeel is almost untouched and still functions as a signal for the arrival of the summer solstice when the sun shines through the narrow slit above the doorway into the chamber. The remaining cairns are in various states of disrepair and collapse, incompetent excavations at the turn of the last century involved the use of dynamite. Click on the link below to see inside Cairn G and see the sun shine into the rear of the chamber near the summer solstice. Click here to see more photos of this site..
Legananny Dolmen, Co. Down.Click on the photo for a larger view. Legananny is well renowned as a superb tripod dolmen, its location in the wild hills around Castlewellan Forest Park is slightly marred by nearby buildings and houses obscuring the magnificent view. Nonetheless this portal tomb is a wonder of engineering and a must-visit site. click here to see more photos of this tomb
Knowth Passage Tomb, and three of its satellite tombs, Co. MeathClick on the photo for a larger view. Knowth is a large complex of 18 passage tombs, with a magnificent central tomb which is larger than Newgrange or Dowth and which is also adorned with far more megalithic art. Existing under the shadow of Newgrange which has been controversially reconstructed according to one view of how it once looked, Knowth appears at first untouched after restoration though both chambers are now inaccesibile. Click here to see more photos of this site.
Uragh Stone Circle, County Kerry.Click on the photo for a larger view. Small, but beautifully formed five stone circle with a massive outlier towering above the circle itself. It is set in a truly stunning landscape, overlooking a lake with a large waterfall opposite (weather dependent). Surely Irelands most beautiful stone circle. Click here to see more photos of this circle.
Loughcrew Cairn and satellite tombs, Co. Meath.Click on the photo for a larger view. Ireland's worst kept secret, Loughcrew is just off the mainstream tourist route but still draws large amounts of visitors to see its well preserved cairns and fine megalithic artwork. The Loughcrew hills are strewn with cairns, standing stones, kists and other burials but the center pieces are Cairns T and L on opposite peaks and their ruined satellite tombs. Cairn T is open to the public and hosts a large amount of carvings in its central and recessed chambers. Anyone who visits Newgrange and would like a more intimate and less commercial experience should make this their next stop. Click here to see more photos of this tomb and carvings inside it..
Clontygora Court Tomb, Co. ArmaghClick on the photo for a larger view. Clontygora court tomb, just across the border from the republic in Armagh, is a very impressive court tomb, the court stones are high and placed in a way that could only be described as sculptural. Click here to see more photos of this tomb.
'The Giants Ring' also known as Ballynahatty, near Lisburn/Belfast, Northern Ireland.Click on the photo for a larger view. Set in the middle of a suitably titled 'Giant' ring (a massive circular bank now used to exercise dogs!) is this skeleton of a passage tomb. Looking like an extended dolmen, no trace of the passage remains except for the chamber and a few outlaying stones. Well worth a visit nonetheless and also has easy access and parking. Click here to see more photos of this tomb.
Craigs Dolmen, Co. AntrimClick on the photo for a larger view. 'Craigs Dolmen' is actually the remains of a passage tomb although it could easily be mistaken for a portal tomb as no sign of a passage remain. The capstone is cemented back together and is not angled (as most portal tombs would be). It is now home to a small bunch of very curious sheep who are very protective of it. The unusual finger like orthostats make this a very curious monument, well worth a visit. Click here to see more photos of this tomb and the nearby wedge tomb.
Glendruid (Brennanstown) Dolmen, Co. Dublin.Click on the photo for a larger view. A very impressive portal tomb located in a quiet river valley just outside Dublin. The capstone weighs over 40 tonnes and despite being supported by a concrete frame inside, the structure is very complete. Click here to see more photos of this tomb..
Ballymacdermot, Co. Armagh.Click on the photo for a larger view. If you like to take risks you can chance driving up the narrow and twisty road that brings you to this gem of a court tomb, if you would like to visit this tomb in the snow, book a helicopter! The views are stunning, and the tomb, although lacking a roof, is in very good condition. The little information board at the entrance claims this tomb was damaged by maneuvering tanks during the second world war! Click here to see more photos of this tomb.
Aghnacliff Dolmen, Co. Longford.Click on the photo for a larger view. This is a bizzare structure, only one portal stone remains and this supports one of two large capstones. The smaller capstone rests on two orthostats and supports the underside of the larger capstone. From some angles it looks like a visual illusion but once seen from all angles you can see this delicate balance is quite sturdy. click here to see more photos of this tomb
Kiltiernan Dolmen, Co. DublinClick on the photo for a larger view. Quite similar to Glendruid above, Kiltiernan dolmen also has a wedge shaped capstone that looks completely different from opposite sides though sadly the north side is a barrage of brambles. Now supported by concrete pillars, this tomb is not too far from Dublin and is one of the best dolmens you can visit on a daytour of county Dublin. Click here to see more photos of this tomb.
Goward Dolmen, Co. DownClick on the photo for a larger view. This tomb is located in a nice quiet cul de sac, tucked away in the corner of a small field. The capstone is ridiculously large and looks overweight compared to the orthostats and portal stones. Getting this mighty boulder to such an extreme angle and keeping it there for 5,000 years is an amazing achievement. click here to see more photos of this tomb
Ballynageeragh Dolmen, Co. WaterfordClick on the photo for a larger view. Whether due to a lack of original material or understanding of ancient architecture, someone has rebuilt this portal tomb as if it came flat packed with no instructions. A modern concrete wall props up the rear since the 40's and the chamber is now triangular because the side stones have nothing to lean against but themselves. Even so, you can imagine this was once a fine tomb with a very well chosen capstone and it has the character of an old man determined to ignore the fact that his legs are falling from under him. click here to see more photos of this tomb
'Leac An Scail' aka Kilmogue Dolmen, Co. Kilkenny.Click on the photo for a larger view. Irelands tallest portal tomb at Kilmogue near Mullinavat really is a sight to behold, positioned next to a babbling brook, you can imagine how impressive this tomb was when seen in a landscape without hedgerows and walls. The chamber is almost complete and is tiny compared to the huge portal and door-stones and the highly angled capstone. You really have to stand beside this monster to appreciate it. Click here to see more photos of this tomb.
Dooeys Cairn (Ballymacaldrack), Co. AntrimClick on the photo to enlarge. A nice example of a court tomb that has been extensively excavated yielding many artefacts and cremated burials placed in pits inside the galley. Although now a little boxed in by the surrounding fence this tomb has very easy access and has lots of information posted on two information boards. Click here to see more photos of this tomb.
Dowth Passage Tomb, Co. Meath.Click on the photo for a larger view. The oldest of the three main passage tombs in the Boyne Valley (there are many smaller sites), Dowth has not been excavated as extensively as Knowth or Newgrange, though it bears large scars from previous botched attempts, one side of the cairn is missing and the centre has been almost hollowed out, presumably for road and wall building.The two chambers are closed to the public but the south chamber opens on Winter Solstice which is aligned to the setting sun. The interior photos of the chamber and artwork were taken December 21st 2004 though many carvings can be seen on the visible kerb stones that mark the full extent of what is still a very impressive monument. Click here to see more photos of this tomb including ancient artwork inside the south chamber.
The Kempe Stones aka Greengraves, Co. Down.Click on the photo for a larger view. Perfectly engineered portal tomb with matching portal stones and a door stone forming a very symetrical dolmen which would be far easier to appreciate if it were not part of a hedge. Click here to see more photos of this tomb.
Lia Fail aka The Stone of Destiny, Hill of Tara, Co. MeathClick on the photo for a larger view. The fabled 'Stone of Destiny' is a standing stone on the hill of Tara, reputedly the stone upon which the High King of Ireland was crowned, although its likely to pre-date the period of the High Kings of Ireland who ruled from Tara and was probably moved from an original location nearer the megalithic 'Mound of the Hostages'. It is still the focal point for visitors interested in every aspect of Tara's long and varied history from the Stone Age to the late Iron Age. This large enclosed settlement was once the centre of Irelands political and religious life, what remains of the earthen banks and enclosures are best seen from the air although the view from this point is worth a visit alone, Tara is a site that awes you with its history rather than its appearance today.
Baltray Standing Stones, Co. Louth.Click on the photo for a larger view. Two large standing stones remain from what may have been a three stone alignment not far from Baltray beach and golf course. It was discovered in 2000 that the south stone makes an unusual alignment with Rockabill Islands off the coast, when viewed along the south face of this stone, the sun rises almost directly behind Rockabill Island on Winter Solstice. More photos of this event can be seen by clicking the link below. Click here to see more photos of these stones.
Ballybrack Dolmen, Co. Dublin.Click on the photo for a larger view. Bizzarely located in the green area of a housing estate in the southern suburbs of Dublin, this compact and delightful tomb seems to be crouching away from the nastiness of city life and is almost perfectly aligned with a nearby bus stop. What it lacks in ambience it makes up for in ease of access as the aforementioned bus stop makes this probably the easiest portal tomb for anyone to visit in the Dublin area. The nearby Fógra sign unwittingly points out the comedy of an unprotected 5,000 year old monument located in a council estate, making a nice climb frame and dog toilet. Click here to see another view of this tomb