West Torr : Passage Tomb

CountyAntrim
Grid RefD 213 406
GPSD 21279 40638 (5m)
Longitude6° 5' 42.52" W
Latitude55° 11' 52.55" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownCushendun (8.7 Km)
OS Sheet5
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192
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Visit Notes

Sunday, 25th February 2007

By the time I had reached this site fog had settled and I very nearly set off for home without taking a lokk at it. I sat and waited in the car, eating my lunch and drinking coffee, just in case it cleared. It didn't. I decided to go up anyway.

This is possibly the largest passage tomb in the area. The 15m diameter kerb is massive with some of the stones being over 2m in length and 1m high. At the centre of the monument a handful of large stones define parts of the central chamber. Some of these are over 1.5m tall.

The site seems to stand inside the compound to what may have once been an army listening post. A weird barrack-type building stands just down the slope and the hilltop bristles with aerials. Obviously, the fog prevented me from seeing any of the views.

One thing I did notice on the way back down from the site was a small quarry. This had scatters of flint nodules spread all about and I could clearly see a seam of flint in the rock face. Antrim is Ireland's only source of this once precious material.

Passage tombs are perhaps the most celebrated style of tombs, mainly due to the fantastic examples at Newgrange (County Meath), Knowth (County Meath) and Dowth (County Meath) in the Boyne Valley as well as those at Loughcrew (County Meath), which is by far the best place to experience these wonders.

The classical form of passage tomb is the cruciform style, where a long passage leads to a main chamber with 3 small chambers off, forming a cross when viewed from above. However, there are many other styles, some don't even have a passage! These other forms are with a round chamber (see Fourknocks (County Meath)), a polygonal chamber or in the form of a cross of Lorraine, which can be found at Seefin Hill (County Wicklow).

There is one form known as an undifferentiated passage tomb wherein the chamber is simply a broadening of the passage, such as at Matthewstown (County Waterford).

The passage and chamber was, once constructed, covered in a mound of earth or a stone cairn, which was in turn held in place with a kerb around its perimeter.

Perhaps what Irish passage tombs are most known for is the form of rock art more commonly called passage grave art, which can be seen in abundance along the Boyne Valley in the many cemeteries.

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).

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Monday, 17th March 2008

The first time I was here the weather was terrible. This time I could experience the views, which stretch as far as the Scottish mainland and islands.

With weather being a bit more pleasant I was able to take the time to look at the remains a bit closer. Two stones caught my eye - the backstone of the chamber is the only one that it heavily encrusted with quartz pebbles, and there is a solitary red stone just outside the kerb to the southeast. It's always interesting when you find odd stones at a monument. Why were they chosen and what significance did the difference have to the builders?

Like this monument

Marked Sites

Random Gazetteer

A Selection of Other Passage 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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