Today I had the privilege to have a guided tour of Leean Mountain by Tatjana Kymannow who has studied the area extensively over recent years and discovered an amazing amount of new monuments. The court tomb has been known for many years, but the quantity of hut sites and the like was unknown. I can't remember the total figure of hut sites, but we saw at least 20!
The court tomb is great even if it has been almost structurally destroyed. There is also a small wedge tomb or possibly a large kist nearby and a chambered cairn on the other side of the mountain. The really amazing monument, though, is a massive boulder circle that is quite unique so far. This has large boulders standing on plinths, where both the boulders and plinths have been altered in prehistory.
I got the arranged meeting time wrong by an hour and so we had to rush around bits of the mountainside, but we saw loads and I'll be back one day. The weirdest thing we saw was a huge leech! I didn't even know we had them in Ireland. The best thing I saw was the flint blade I found! WOW! My first lithic! I wouldn't have found this if I wasn't with Tatjana, so: Thank you, Tatjana, for a great day!.
We woke up to a glorious morning after camping by a beautiful beach. After eating and making sure we had left no rubbish lying around we decided to head back towards Sligo and see some monuments on the way. We went to see Carrowkilleen (County Mayo) first - how could I resist taking Tatjana to see three court tombs in one spot? Sadly this monument has become very, very overgrown.
After that we drove around near Aughris Head in Sligo and Tatjana pointed out some amazing mounds and barrows that I will visit in the New Year. We then went to the portal tomb at Ardabrone (County Sligo) and spoke to the farmer who told us a very interesting bit of folklore about the site.
Myself and Tatjana headed for Mayo to see some megaliths - I think someone's trying to tell me that I should get on with my next book - Monu-Mental About Prehistoric Mayo. She suggested that we camp rough at a very nice spot she knew - a place I had to promise not to divulge. It is a wonderful location and we were able to watch seals and seabirds fishing just metres from our tents.
We started off by visiting some of my favourites that Tatjana had not been to and a friary that I had always wanted to visit, because of the carving of a round tower on one of its pillars. We went to Carrowleagh (County Mayo) first and then onto the friary, followed by the ogham stone and wedge tomb at Breastagh (see Breastagh (County Mayo) and Breastagh (County Mayo) respectively). Then Tatjana showed me the most incredibly obvious barrow, which surprisingly no one had noticed until she discovered it a couple of years ago (I spotted another potentially new one close by, too.)
Then we started to head towards the camping spot via Rathlackan (County Mayo) and some barrows on Downpatrick Head, near to Ceide Fields (County Mayo). We got caught in the rain here and nearly went home, but decided that the camping spot was far enough away that the weather might improve. It did improve and we had a pleasant evening drinking wine and chatting.
After packing up the tent and taking it easy we set off home with just one site on our to see list - the triple wedge tomb to the north of Dunkinelly. The site is signposted Wedge Tombs from the village, but the final bit is not marked, so you have to look out for the parking spot and then just follow the track up the hill. Take care, because the track is slippery in places and had large gorse bushes nearly blocking part of it.
The short climb is truly worth the effort, though. Three wedge tombs side-by-side is something you don't see everyday!
We wanted to take it easy today so only a few of sites were on our visit list. I wanted to take Uta to Doon Well and I wanted to find the cross slab at Drunhallagh. I can't actually remember the others on the list, but Drumhallagh was such a pain to find that we called it a day after I finally found it.
A few years ago finding Drumhallagh would have been quite straight forward, because a local priest put a fenced path in to take you straight to it. Sadly, the entrance to this path and the path itself has become very overgrown. Finding the stone was made harder by the fact that the official coordinates for the stone are a long way out and the slab is on the opposite side of a hedge to this incorrect location. The hunt was eventually rewarded when I found the slab. What a beauty it is! There's also a small bullaun stone nearby, too.
Today we had to change our plans and go into Letterkenny to buy a new airbed, because ours sprung a leak at 11pm the previous night. After driving around the town to find the Argos and then stopping off to buy some food for the rest of the week we only had time to see a few places.
The first stop was Conwal graveyard just outside Letterkenny. Here there are lots of early grave slabs mounted onto a large rectangular platform. Some are large and mediaeval-looking, while others are earlier.
Then we went to try to find two high street bullaun stones, but only found one, and on the way home we stopped at Keel church to see the huge, undecorated high cross.
We obtained the local tide times from the visitor centre at Kilclooney More and headed for the beach at Portnoo to park up and cross the sands to Inishkeel, an island with two churches and several cross slabs. The low and high tides were quite far apart, so we knew we had plenty of time to make the crossing (about 800m), see the sites and get back. I didn't expect so many other people to make the crossing, too, but the island got very busy shortly after we got there.
The island has recently passed into the possession of the OPW (the house is still owned by someone else) , and one of the churches has had its end wall rebuilt. You can still see the numbers on the bricks where they were marked before the wall was taken down. They don't seem to make any sense and it looks like they were not put back in the same order that they were taken off in, but I may be wrong.
The other church is quite ruinous, but it has been rebuilt in the distant past with random parts of decorated stone that looks like old door columns and bits of arches. This give the front face a very unusual look.
We found three of the cross slabs that are supposed to be here, but the others have either been stolen or moved for safe keeping while the restoration work is being carried out.
After leaving the island when it started to rain we headed back to the Kilclooney More centre for coffee and a bun. From there we set out (by car and foot) to see the portal tomb at Lackaghatermon. As is quite typical for me I chose the hard way to approach - from the west - which took us over bog, deep ditches and barbed wire fences.
If there's one area of Donegal a megalith enthusiast should visit it is Malin More. With so many tombs to see it is an amazing area. We had arranged to meet up with Tatjana Kytmannow, who knows this area very well.
We met up at the mighty Malin More court tomb and then visited the one double portal tomb that I had never managed to find, before heading off to see some of the other tombs in the townland. After exploring Malin More we headed for Glencolmcille to see the court tomb at Faranmacbride and to take a tour of some of the cross pillars that are dotted all around the area.
We had a great day seeing everything. Tatjana was going to stay overnight, but the weather turned ugly and she headed home. Tomorrow myself and Uta decided to go to see two old churches on an island. This has become a year of islands for me.
After settling in to our campsite near Crolly on day 1 we set off to have a look around on day 2. This holiday, with my wife Uta, was not really about the stones, but a relaxing break for us both. This day did not involve much site-seeing, but turned out to be a useful day.
Firstly, we went to the double portal tomb at Toome, because I had heard that it had been cleared. Then we went to Kilclooney Moore - a place you just have to go to if you're close by. While having a cup of coffee, a scone and a smoothie at the Kiclooney Visitor Centre we planned the next few days and got some good information about visiting a couple of the islands off the Donegal coast.
The people from the megalithomania forums (plus a few others) met up to get to know each other and explore the amazing monuments that make up the Rath Croghan complex in County Roscommon. Not everyone could attend, but 10 of us braved the early rain and were rewarded with a fine day amongst good people and great monuments. I don't think any of us truly expected all the sites to be so good.
We met for an initial coffee and chat at the Cruachan Ai visitor centre in Tulsk and set off to Rath Croghan itself, the massive mound along side the road. While we were here it was raining, but we still enjoyed a walk and a chat. From there we moved on to Rath Mor, the inaugural mound and then to Rath Beg, a large roadside stepped barrow.
A short distance down the road we saw what must be Ireland's largest barrow - 85m in diameter - You could fit Newgrange into that! That's big! From there we went to Oweynagat, a site that is difficult to find, but worth the effort. This is a souterrain that leads into a cave, which is said to link to Kesh mountain in Sligo. A mythical boar is said to have erupted from here and created the earthworks in the surrounding fields with his tusks. Not all of us made it into the cave, but those that did really enjoyed themselves and got very, very muddy!
The next stop was to be Daithi's Stone, a standing stone set on top of a mound. We got close, but the presence of a very large bull in the field stopped us at the gate. Between Oweynagat and Daithi's Stone we came across a large enclosure with a souterrain inside it.
Although there is much more to see at Rath Croghan it was now getting late and we decided it was time to return to Crauchan Ai for more coffee and a chat before going our separate ways.
Many thanks to all those that attended for making the day so special. I think it's Sligo for the next one.