Claggan : Court Tomb

CountyDonegal
Grid RefC 003 400
GPSC 00262 40026 (6m)
Longitude7° 59' 45.18" W
Latitude55° 12' 26.31" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownDunfanaghy (2.9 Km)
OS Sheet2
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192
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Visit Notes

Sunday, 13th March 2005

It was here that I met a very knowledgeable farmer who told me a lot about the surrounding valley and its antiquities. I'll mention the ones I didn't manage to find here before talking about this monument. In the valley below there is a good fullacht fia. Above that is a very prominent hill with an artificial flat top known as Cashel Mor, which has a hill fort on its top. To the west of the valley is a very round-topped hill that really does stand out amongst its neighbours called Crockshee - The Hill of the Fairies. The slopes around the tomb are covered in mini-cairns, prehistoric walls and enclosures. There is also an odd structure at the top of the hill that consists of an oval enclosure with a dividing wall two thirds of the way along it. At the base of Crockshee there is a structure known locally as The Druids' Altar. This was described to me as being a flat stone set upon several others, so it maybe a cist or a collapsed tomb.

This monument (my 100th court tomb !) has been incorporated into the wall of a large oval enclosure (one of a pair that doesn't include the one mentioned above). There are several stones remaining of the north arm of the court and two large jambs lead into a 7m long gallery . The gallery is aligned northwest-southeast with the entrance at the northwest. The gallery aligns with the flat-topped hill mentioned above.

The gallery is divided into probably three sections, but some of the jambs are lost. Despite being built into a drystone wall quite a lot of the cairn survives, especially in the inside of the enclosure, which is most odd. This makes me think that the enclosure is very old and the cairn may not have been disturbed at all for building material.

Court tombs have several distinctive characteristics that allow easy identification when in fair condition. One key feature that is a great help, no matter what the condition, is that court tombs are nearly always aligned north to south. They were all originally covered by a cairn, but in most instances this is now missing, or at best only remain to a height of one or two metres. The easiest feature to identify (when intact) is obviously the court. The rest of the tomb is occupied by a long, divided, passage-like gallery.

Galleries:
Galleries of court tombs can usually be identified by their characteristic boat-shaped plan, i.e. the gallery, when viewed from above, is flat at the entrance and tapers to a point or narrow width at the rear. The gallery may be segmented into up to five chambers by jambs, the walls normally being made of large slabs. The roofs were created by laying large slabs across the gallery, either directly on to the tops of the wall slabs or resting on corbel stones. Two large stones, with smooth forward-facing faces, usually create the entrance and it is possible to identify a court tomb when only these stones remain. The gallery would have been covered by a cairn of stones, sometimes with a kerb.

Single Gallery Variations:
Most often called a 'Single Court Tombs, usually this style has a half-court, a horseshoe-shaped arrangement of stones in front of the gallery (see Ballymacdermot (County Armagh)). This is usually, but not always, symmetrical about the centre line of the gallery, although occasionally the centre line of the court forms a slight angle with the centre line of the gallery. The other option is a full-court formed a complete circle of stones (see Creevykeel (County Sligo)). These full-courts mainly have one entrance allowing access, which is usually opposite the entrance to the gallery.

Double Gallery Variations:
Double-gallery court tombs come in three styles, the last of which is very unusual. The first is where the chambers are built facing away from each other. These are usually referred to as ŽDouble Court TombsŪ (see Cohaw (County Cavan)). The galleries sometimes share the same rear stone, but more often there is some distance between them Ů ranging from one to ten metres. This style has a half-court at each end of the monument, one facing north and the other facing south. In this style both galleries would have been covered by the same cairn.

Tuning round the two tombs and placing the two galleries so that the entrances face each other, across a full court, creates another style, known as a Centre-Court Tomb. Access to this court is gained through entrances placed (usually) in the east and west sides of the court. Here there would have been two cairns, one at each end, but they would have been joined down the sides of the court by a low cairn.

The third and very uncommon form is where the two galleries are located side-by-side facing into a full court with an entrance opposite (e.g. Malin More).


Subsidiary Chambers:
Quite often you will find other chambers built into the cairn. In single-gallery tombs and double court tombs these are invariably located to the rear of the gallery. Centre court tombs often have them placed near to the entrances.

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.

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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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