SELECTED MONUMENTS IN
COUNTY ARMAGH

Place-names in italics refer to listed entries.



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Annaghmare: Court-tomb
J 905 178
Sheets 28 and 28B

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.


Aughnagurgan: 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 alignment.

~ 3.2 km due S, in County Monaghan, is Mullyash passage-tomb.


Ballykeel: Portal-tomb
H 995 213
Sheet 28

A fine "tripod-dolmen" stands at one end of the remnants of a long cairn, 7.2 km SW of Camlough, with a 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",

an elegantly-pointed, very huggable,small standing-stone, some 1.4 metres high, leaning at an angle towards the S.

~ Just over 4.8 km E by S is Clonlum round cairn (see below).


Ballymacdermot: Court-tomb
J 063 238
Sheet 29

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 the chamber.

~ 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 building material.



Clontygora: Court-tomb
J 098 195
Sheet 29

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 Kilnasaggart.


Navan 'Fort'
H 847 452
Sheet 19

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.


Slieve Gullion: Passage-tomb
J 025 202
Sheet 29

The 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 "Caillech 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.
In 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) which may well be locked- or have been forced open...
It 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 corbelled chamber about 3m diameter whose corbelled roof has been partly reconstructed using concrete beams. It contains a basin-stone.

The 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.
This tomb is on the South Summit. On the North Summit (J 021 211) (via the magical black Cailleach Béarra's Lough) is another cairn, smaller and lower - about 18m in diameter - which apparently covers two megalithic kists. A few orthostats are set around its circumference.

~ 2 km E by N is one of the tombs at Clonlum (see under Ballymacdermot, above).