The most westerly of
a group of monuments around the sacred mountain of Slieve Gullion,
this (The Black Castle) is a very fine, excavated example
of a single-court tomb, whose out-of-line, south-facing, horseshoe-shaped
court is very well preserved. It is over 8 metres in diameter,
with walls of large orthostats alternating with sections of
good dry-walling: a typical "post-and-panel" construction. Such
a forecourt might well have had special acoustical properties
important in ritual. The gallery is 7 metres long, segmented
by jambs (one of which has an uncompleted cup-mark) into 3 chambers.
Much of the cairn (which is nearly 20 metres long) survives
to a height of 1.8 metres. Two lateral chambers at the N end
of the cairn were built a little later than the rest of the
tomb, and have independent entrances. The siting of the tomb
on a rock outcrop is unusual. The site itself has been unusually
well and sensitively landscaped, with an unintrusive fence and
a pleasant woodland approach.
Portal-tomb and passage-tomb
H 270 286
Sheets 28 and 28B
The wrecked passage-tomb
is right beside the road towards which the ruined passage leads.
In the middle of the field is the collapsed portal-tomb whose
handsome fiddle-shaped capstone of fine-grained granite has
fallen back with the portal-stones. This would have been an
impressive dolmen when it was standing.
~ 7.5 km WNW in Mullyard
(H 798 312) is a fine standing-stone about 2 metres high on
top of a hillock - which seems to be the only survivor of an
~ 3.2 km due S, in
County Monaghan, is Mullyash
A fine "tripod-dolmen"
stands at one end of the remnants of a long cairn, 7.2 km SW
of Camlough, with a ¾
door-slab between the
portal stones, which are about 2 metres high. The slab-capstone
(the only one actually to have been replaced on a portal-tomb)
is nearly 3 metres long, and is noticeably notched. At the other
end of the cairn was a box-like kist-tomb. Parallel with the
stone-kerbed long sides of the cairn are 2 straight lines of
stones, set in the cairn. The once-pleasant site is now hemmed
in (like many in Ireland) by grotesque
and ostentatious modern dwellings (which is how the indefensible
Iron Age cashels must have seemed
when they were built).
~ About 800 metres
NW (H 001 209) in Aughadanove is a long mound which looks
very much as if it might contain a megalithic tomb, though it
is not mentioned in the archæological literature. What
is mentioned, though, is a round mound at H 983 208 in Tullymacreave
which may contain a small passage-tomb.
~ 2.8 km NE (on Sheet
29) just visible from the narrow road in the middle of a rocky
outcrop in a non-bungaloid pocket of beautiful wild landscape
(J 016 234) is Ballard "Long Stone",
3.2 km SW of Newry,
and commanding fine views to the E this small, three-chambered
tomb (built around the middle of the fourth millennium BCE)
is entered from a shallow, asymmetrical forecourt of small and
medium-sized stones. A few of the corbel-stones supporting the
now-vanished roof survive.
~ 3.4 km SW (via the
10th century Killevy Church with its cyclopean W doorway) in
Clonlum (J 045 214 and marked Chambered Grave
on sheet 29) are the sad and overgrown remains of a court-tomb,
whose gallery is nearly 9 metres long, with a shifted roofstone
at the N end, beyond which 5 court stones survive. A small rectangular
chamber is set within this court.
About 600 metres SSW
of this, in the same townland, (J
046 206, marked Cairn on Sheet 29) is a small round cairn,
containing a tomb morphologically intermediate between a portal-tomb
and a megalithic kist. A massive (now broken) capstone was originally
2.7 metres long. A door-slab was placed, not between the portal-stones
(which are over 2 metres high) but between the side-slabs of
~ 5 km W by S is the
Ballard 'Long Stone' mentioned above.
~ 4.7 km WNW in Aghmakane
(J 020 253, marked Standing Stones and Cashel on sheet
29) in a field behind a house to the SE of the B.30 road are
more "Long Stones": the impressive remains of a tomb,
comprising a blade-shaped portal-stone 3 metres high, with an
impressive door-stone about 2.4 metres high, and the stump of
the other portal-stone adjoining the overgrown remains of a
cashel (from Latin castellum) or circular stone
fort which was very likely built after the ruination of perhaps
the highest dolmen in Ireland. Another of its fine stones is
incorporated in the cashel wall nearby.
Other stones near the portal are puzzling. If these are in their
original position then they seem to be the remains of a burial
chamber into which the portal would not lead. But it's not likely
that the smaller stones are in their original position, given
the contiguous cashel. Was the tomb destroyed when the cashel
was built, or did the tomb give the cashel some cachet ? This
looks like a site well worth excavating, because there aren't
many cashels built right against a ?portal tomb. The big orthostat
is surely too high for a court: Clontygora (below) is
about as high and massive as they get.
On the other hand, the cashel might have been built entirely
from despoiling a huge court-tomb, rather as other tombs in
South Armagh were dismantled two hundred years ago to provide
Although somewhat mutilated,
this tomb, known as The King's Ring (close to the Border
with county Louth) is still very impressive, with most of the
forecourt's massive orthostats surviving. Similarly large sidestones
delineate what is left of the gallery which has 3 chambers,
the first of which has a slipped lintel and a large capstone
over 3 metres long partly-supported by corbel-stones. It is
unfortunate that a typically charmless bungalow has been built
close by, but environmental planning in Ireland is notable for
its absence. Scant remains of another court-tomb, marked by
a clump of "fairy thorn" are some 200
metres to the S. These monuments and others were pillaged to
build the Newry Canal in the 18th century. The townland name
is pronounced "Clinchycora".
~ 5.6 km NNW is another
court-tomb at Ballymacdermot (see above).
~ Just under 6 km SW
is the fine Christianised standing-stone (2.1 metres high) at
H 847 452
Two kilometres W of
Armagh City, this complex and intriguing monument of enclosures,
mounds, ditches, the only prehistoric artificial lake in the
British Isles, and buried sacred objects - also known as Emhain
Macha, and historically the scene of an important annual
festival known as Eonach - was excavated over many years,
and the results are displayed in a Visitors' Centre.
~ The figure
which is the logo of this website, a statue of the Horned-Helmeted
god Nuadú of the Silver [artificial] Arm (above left),
was - at least until recently - kept with a miscellany of other
figures in the vestry of Armagh (Anglican) Cathedral, where
I photographed it.
~ 1 km ESE are The
King's Stables, a beautiful, overgrown water-ritual site,
well described and illustrated on the Voices
from the Dawn website.
J 025 202
easiest way to visit this tomb is by the spectacular drive through
Slieve Gullion Forest Park (open officially in summer only!)
to the highest point, from where a signposted track leads up
the rest of the legend-rich mountain to the S of the summit
ridge. Slieve Gullion is associated with the legendary Ulster
hero Cú Chulainn ('Hound of Ulster'), and with that avatar
of the Celtic hag-goddess known in Ireland as the Cailleach
Bhéarra. The passage-tomb is known as
"Caillech Birra's House", the nearby dark lake as
Birra's Lough" - and the Loughcrew passage-tomb complex,
to which the passage of this tomb points, is on the Slieve na
Calliagh hills, some 60 km away.
A better way, however, is to approach from the N and take a
gentle three-kilometre walk via the North Cairn (see below)
and the magical "Caillech Birra's Lough" to the South
good weather, a splendid view over almost half of Ireland rewards
the visitor far more than the tomb, which, like that at Knockmany
in Tyrone, is now enclosed in a concrete shelter - due to vandalism
in the mid-twentieth century.
has more in common with Continental tombs than the nearby Irish
examples. The cairn is 30 metres in diameter contained by massive
kerbstones which are - unusually for Ireland - laid flat. The
lintelled passage of the almost cruciform tomb is more than
a metre high and wide, and 4.5 metres long. It leads to a chamber
about 3 metres in diameter whose corbelled roof has been partly
reconstructed using concrete beams. It
contains a basin-stone, which is illuminated by the rays of
the setting sun at the period of the winter solstice.
octagonal chamber and the passage have dry-stone walling (reminiscent
of some court-tombs as well as Breton passage-tombs): the only
orthostats frame a recess in the chamber opposite the passage.
The North Cairn (J 021 211) is smaller and lower - about 18m
in diameter - which apparently covers two megalithic kists.
A few orthostats are set around its circumference.