'Carnanmore' : Passage Tomb

TownlandEast Torr
Grid RefD 218 388
GPSD 21783 38782 (3m)
Longitude6° 5' 16.92" W
Latitude55° 10' 52.12" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownCushendun (6.8 Km)
OS Sheet5
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192
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Visit Notes

Sunday, 30th December 2007

Ever since I first caught a distant glimpse of this passage tomb from Cloughananca (County Antrim) in the valley below I have wanted to come up to see this site close up. The fact that there is supposed to be some passage tomb art on one of the lintels has made it more important for me. Alas, this decoration is escaped me today - I think I found a faint lozenge motif, but I can't be sure.

The cairn is situated in the centre of the broad top of the hill. This means that it is visible from the valley below, but not while you climb up to it. When you do finally reach a point where you can see it the sight is enough to take even more of the breath out of an already breathless body.

The cairn is over 4m high and at first sight it appears that the entrance to the tomb is set quite high in the cairn. This is not the case, though. What you can actually see is the hole that was left when the front-top portion of the chamber was removed. Such a shame! Sections of the passage are visible poking through the cairn material in front of this hole. The one thing that this opening does do is expose the fantastic corbelling that forms the roof. Because this modern entrance is in the top of the cairn you have to scramble down into the chamber, which is over 2m tall. The passage looks as if it would have been about 1m tall and 4m long.

Sighting along the line of the west-facing passage you are aligned with the north slopes of Knocklayd - a huge dome-shaped mountain that seems to be the focus of many monuments in this area. To the north Rathlin Island sits in the bay, while to the northeast you can clearly see Scotland! It's so close it just makes you want to wade across to it!

I didn't find the internal carvings on one of the lintels, but I did spot a ring of worn cupmarks on the top of one of the roof stones. These could be natural, but the fact that they're in a circle could mean they are manmade. If they are natural it could mean that they are the reason why this stone was selected in the first place and so still be of importance.

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.

Monday, 17th March 2008

With the location of the carvings firmly in my head I set off to climb back up to this cairn. This time I approached from the north: a much easier walk than the way I went last time.

I didn't find the carvings, but I did take the time to look at the cup-marks on the underside of the cup-marked stone next to the capstone and also spotted another stone that is potentially carved.

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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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