What can be said about this amazing piece of sculpte that hasn't already been said elsewhere. The awesome sight of the tomb on the skyline as you approach from the church is simply wondeful. When you actually draw near to the monument it is truly amazing, beautiful, breath-taking and a lot more besides.
There are actually two portal tombs here that once shared the same cairn and bits of the kerb can still be seen poking out of the ground. It is the larger of the two that everyone photographs - and why not .. it's fantastic - but the smaller one deserves some attention too. Like the smaller tomb at Ballyrenan (County Tyrone) this has an usual lintel across the top of the portal stones . Also, it is interesting to note that it is not built on the same axis as the larger tomb. However, the larger tomb, the smaller tomb and a large standing stone 40m away do form a straight line. A low wall bisectsthe space between the two tombs.
The main structure has an architectural beauty from nearly every angle, but it is from the north that it really comes to life, taking on the form of a bird on the wing or a futuristic starship.
I spent a lot of time here, as the sun had come out and was threatening to set with real style. I was about to phone home to change my plans, because I wanted to stay a while longer, when I found out that I'd lost my mobile phone! A great finish to the day.
Two stones place either side of a gallery, opposite each other, but not touching so as to leave a gap, that are used to segment it into smaller chambers.
A cairn is a large pile of stones, quite often (but not always) containing a burial. Sometimes they have a kerb around the base.
Most cairns are hemi-spherical (like half a football), but the piles of stones used to cover wedge tombs, court tombs and portal tombs are also called cairns. When associated with these types of monument they are not always round, but sometimes rectangular or trapezoidal.
A kerb is a ring of stones placed around the perimeter of a burial mound or cairn. It basically serves the purpose of a retaining wall to keep the cairn or earth in place. Kerbs are usually associated with passage tombs, but do occur on court tombs and wedge tombs too.
Sometimes on passage tombs the stones can bear decoration, such as at Newgrange (County Meath).
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.
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I really had hoped for a spectacular sunset on this visit and waited around, but I was not to be treated today. I stayed until nearly dark to see if the sky would clear and provide me with a starry backdrop, but that didn't happen either.
This disappointment couldn't dampen being able to spend an hour or so here again, though. If I lived closer to this one I'd be here as often as I could be.
One odd thing happened while I was waiting around. I was looking west past the tomb when I had a strange feeling. I turned around and there was a huge black hound looking down at me from the top of a nearby hillock. At first I thought it was a large rottweiler, but it had no brown upon its chest, so thought maybe it was a mastif or something. After staring at me for a few minutes it turned around and bounded off, disappearing down the other side of the hillock. I waited for a few minutes expecting it and its owner to appear walking down the track back towards the church, but no one appeared. Eventually I plucked up the courage to walk to the top of the rise where the dog had stood and looked around. Nothing. Not a sole to be seen. All that was missing was the dog having glowing, red eyes to completely freak me out!
It's great to come back here and it's great to bring someone to see this monument for the first time. It always impresses!
We were joined at the site by a group of American ladies, who looked like several generations of one family. They looked around, sheltered from the rain with us beneath the capstone and eventually moved on, leaving the site to us alone.
I took some 3D film and photos of the site as well as exploring the different angles this monument offers. I also took the time to walk back to the large boulder in the next field that almost forms a straight line with the two portal tombs. Is this boulder coincidental?
After staying here for an hour or so (a pleasure I rarely allow myself at monuments) we went and had coffee and a bun at the visitor centre while we sat and planned the next few days.
The large rock used to form the roof of a portal tomb or kist.
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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.