I really thought it was going to be a disappointment though when I first approached. A plantation has sprung up all alongside the road where I had expected access. A word with the farmer made it sound worse still!
"It's all overgrown. There was a path left through the trees, but it hasn't been looked after."
Oh dear! Well, me being me, off I set anyway with GPS in hand to guide me through the trees. However, a GPS is a waste of time if the official co-ords are wrong by 150m though.
Eventually I saw it and was very, very relieved to see that a very large space has been left around it - about 200m by 500m. I was immediately whisked back to some of the great sites I visited in Wales last month when I saw the wall-embedded monument. What a cracker it is. With the large space left around it and the screen created by the plantation this becomes a very private place, but still has good views, because it occupies quite a high location.
Both portal stones and the back stone hold up the capstone at a lovely angle. One side stone has been removed and a low doorstone, with a stepped top edge, is in situ.
I think this is one of the lovliest portal tombs I have been to yet. Of course the experience may have been added to by the relief of finding it to be better than I'd anticipated and by the fact that the sun finally came out and warmed me up a little.
Portal stones are a pair of upright stones that form the 'entrance' to a portal tomb. They are usually well matched, being of even dimensions. As well as forming this doorway they also act as the front support for the capstone and are usually taller than the stones that form the chamber.
Often there is a door stone in between them blocking off access to the chamber within.
The large rock used to form the roof of a portal tomb or kist.
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I had to be in Sligo on some personal business, so what better place (on a sunny day) to go to for a picnic with my wife!?
All my original impressions of the wonderfulness of this place were confirmed. I also took the time to wander around a little and found the stream nearby. The location of this portal tomb had been bothering me somewhat, because it's on a high point. However, the proximity of the stream just 50m away puts everything into place.
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)).
Myself and Ken Williams came here to hunt for a piece of rock art that is supposed to be built into the wall right next to the tomb. After much searching up and down the wall I saw the edge of a large flat stone with a faint half-ring exposed. We cleared some stones off the top of it only to reveal that it is simply half a mill stone. The circular mark is where someone had marked out the place where they wanted to cut the centre hole.
I'm sure that this is the stone that was recorded as rock art, so here's one that we can remove from the list. A very sad thing to have to do.
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.