Arderawinny : Portal Tomb

Grid RefV 875 307
Longitude9° 37' 15.36" W
Latitude51° 31' 4.33" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownSkull (5.4 Km)
OS Sheet88
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192
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Visit Notes

Sunday, 14th September 2003

This wilting portal tomb stands in a most unusual location. It took me quite some time to actually see where it was, because I just didn't excpect it to be there. The typical amount of vegetation now growing up around it didn't help either. The condition some of these monuments are left in really does distress me sometimes.

The tomb is located at the base of a cliff, facing into the wall, but at a slight angle. It is a small example of a portal tomb, but packed with interesting features. The chamber is sunk into the bedrock and appears to have a paved floor. The capstone rests on the portal stones and a secondary capstone which lies flat over the chamber. The doorstone has a large chunk missing from it, but whether this is origianl or subsequent damage I can't say.

There are wonderful views to the sea and the area around the tomb is studded with wild and weird rock formations. One of these rock outcrops - the only tall, pointed one - stands on the axis of the tomb, some 100m to its rear.

A stream rises from within the bedrock just below the site and then wanders down its own marshy valley. It could well have been this spring that attracted the builders here in the first place.

This is a wonderful tomb and could be made very easy to access. It should certainly be treated with a lot more care.

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)).

A compartment in a tomb in which burials were placed. In court tombs and wedge tombs a chamber is a sub-division of the burial gallery. Portal tombs have single chambers and passage tombs can have anything from one to five chambers, although usually passage tombs are considered to have a main chamber with extra subsidary 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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