Errarooey Beg : Portal Tomb

CountyDonegal
Grid RefB 963 342
GPSB 96265 34172 (8m)
Longitude8° 3' 30.95" W
Latitude55° 9' 16.94" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownFalcarragh (3.4 Km)
OS Sheet2
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192
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Visit Notes

Sunday, 13th March 2005

This would have been a beautiful little portal tomb when complete, but even in its somewhat run down condition it's still lovely.

Both portal stones still stand, but are slightly pushed forward by the capstone that now leans against them. They are just 1.4m tall. The half-height doorstone leans out even further and makes the tomb look as though it's poking its tongue out at you as you approach. It made me smile anyway! Perhaps this small defiant jesture made the whoever started to destroy it take pity and leave it standing in the top corner of the field.

None of the wallstones of the chamber survive so it's hard to say which side was the front. The tomb is aligned east-west and could have faced either way. The briiliant capstone leans against the east side giving the impression that that was the back, but it is more likely that the entrance faced east. Why do I say the capstone is 'brilliant"? Because it has about a zillion (I counted them twice!) small cupmarks covering practically the whole of its upper surface.

The views to the west and northwest take in the Atlantic Ocean and to the southeast Muckish Mountain lets no other landscape feature have any say at all. Muckish and its neighbour, Aghla Beg, make a fine pair that lead the eye to Aghla More and Errigal Mountain to the south.

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.

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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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