'Browne's Hill' : Portal Tomb

TownlandKernanstown
CountyCarlow
Grid RefS 745 768
GPSS 75445 76843 (12m)
Longitude6° 52' 49.2" W
Latitude52° 50' 14.29" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownCarlow (2 Km)
OS Sheet61
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192
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Visit Notes

Sunday, 26th August 2001

What a sight this amazing portal tomb is. As you approach it via a footpath from the car park, it stands in the center of the field looking like a tiny, grey creature skuttling across the field, but frozen in time. Then, when you realise that the little specks moving about are people and not sheep, the scale of this dolmen hits you.

Estimated at weighing over 130 tons the capstone is said to be the largest in Europe. It is certainly the largest I have ever seen.

There is a pleasant seating area laid out around it, but sadly has only concrete benches. None the less, it is a pleasant place for a picnic. Three Italian girls were doing just that when we visited. My kids really enjoyed running around, in and out of the mighty chamber that has an internal height of over 2 m.

Portal tombs are what most people wrongly refer to as dolmens. They are, to me at least, the most strikingly designed of the megalithic tombs. They are called portal tombs because they have two large upright stones, usually very well matched, in front of the chamber that seem to form a doorway.

Resting upon the portal stones and the chamber a large capstone rests (sometimes there are two capstones - see Knockeen (County Waterford)), usually at an angle of around 22 degrees from the horizontal. Although these were originally incorporated into one end of a long cairn there are none left in this state today, although traces of the cairn can sometimes be seen upon the ground. The portal stones can be up to 3.5m tall, which combined with a thick capstone can produce an imposing monument over 5m tall. Capstones can reach in excess of 70 tonnes, with that of Browne's Hill (County Carlow) being estimated at over 120 tonnes.


Often betwen the portal stones there is a door slab, blocking the width of the entrance, but not always the full height. Door slabs are either half height, three quarter height or full height, describing the amount of the portal that they obstruct. All portal tombs would have had door slab, but this has often been removed to facilitate entry into the chamber.

Quite rarely the portal stones are the same height as the chamber and the characteristic slope of the capstone is created by the profile of the capstone (see Glendruid (County Dublin)).

The large rock used to form the roof of a portal tomb or kist.

A compartment in a tomb in which burials were placed. In court tombs and wedge tombs a chamber is a sub-division of the burial gallery. Portal tombs have single chambers and passage tombs can have anything from one to five chambers, although usually passage tombs are considered to have a main chamber with extra subsidary chambers.

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Sunday, 4th November 2001

I revisited this site to have lunch and take some better photo's. It started raining as I arrived and so I had my sandwiches sitting inside the chamber .... magic!

Sunday, 14th April 2002

As we arrived here we saw several kids climbing over the enormous capstone. As we got close they left and we had the place to ourselves for a while. Then some older teenagers turned up and kind of ruined the moment. Time to leave this monster to act as a climbing frame and move on.

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Friday, 27th September 2002

I am so happy that I brought my torch with me, because it was pitch black when we arrived here with just the spooky glow of the Carlow street lights behind it . Looking at it just by shining the torch over it turns it into a different monument. It looms even more massively when viewed like this.

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Saturday, 6th May 2006

What better place to test out my new 10-20mm lens than at this monster! It's alway a pleasure to visit this amazing monument anyway, but on such a beautiful day the experience is doubled. The cows milling around were also appreciated as they added some scale.

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Marked Sites

Old Images

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<a href='/show/image/5928/brownes_hill.htm' class='redlink'>Permanent Link</a>_

Directions

Take the R726 from Carlow and follow the signs to "Browne's Hill Dolmen". There is a dedicated parking space by the side of the road. To access the dolmen there is a path around the edge of the field.

Random Gazetteer

A Selection of Other Portal Tombs

About Coordinates Displayed

This is an explanation of (and a bit of a disclaimer for) the coordinates I provide.

Where a GPS figure is given this is the master for all other coordinates. According to my Garmin these are quite accurate.

Where there is no GPS figure the 6 figure grid reference is master for the others. This may not be very accurate as it could have come from the OS maps and could have been read by eye. Consequently, all other cordinates are going to have inaccuracies.

The calculation of Longitude and Latitude uses an algorithm that is not 100% accurate. The long/lat figures are used as a basis for calculating the UTM & ITM coordinates. Consequently, UTM & ITM coordinates are slightly out.

UTM is a global coordinate system - Universal Transverse Mercator - that is at the core of the GPS system.

ITM is the new coordinate system - Irish Transverse Mercator - that is more accurate and more GPS friendly than the Irish Grid Reference system. This will be used on the next generation of Irish OS maps.

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