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Ballaghaglash: Burren wedge-tomb
R 373 995
The chief interest of this
ruined tomb is that the surviving side-stone of the chamber is perforated
with a hole 60 cms in diameter, beside which is a matching round stone
which would have plugged it. Perforations in transverse stones occcur
in Irish tombs, but rarely (if ever) in side-stones. And while a few
bung-stones survive in the Paris-basin tombs of France, this is the
only one in Ireland - if it is genuine.
~8.5 km NE is the fine portal-tomb at Crannagh in county Galway.
This handsome wedge-tomb is
also a holy well (tober) dedicated to the sun (grían:gráinne,
which features in several Irish megalithic names). Its outer walls are
still pretty much covered by the surrounding bog, but looking inside
you can see that the gallery goes down a full metre below ground level.
Two fine overlapping roofstones - scattered with coins and little offerings
- cover the whole gallery. Looking in from the front through one of
the chipped away pieces of the septal slab that seals it off you can
clearly see the 'wedge' shape of the gallery. Two stones to the front
of the gallery form a small now-roofless portico.
~ 13.4 km N by E in Bohateh North (R 678 906, sheet 52), and splendidly located on the hills to the north of Lough Derg is another wedge-tomb - which looks more like a megalithic kist. A huge squarish capstone leans against the one remaining wall stone to the west. The north and south wall stones are present but have collapsed beneath the capstone. An odd monolith stands just to the side of the main monument and an outlying slab stands 30 metres to the northwest. The chamber would have been about 1.5 metres square internally and about 1 metre high. It's interesting to note that several of the other many tombs around here are well set into the bog, but this one has definitely been built on what would have been a high spot before the bog developed.
~ Close by Bohateh is Cappaghbeha Mountain on which there is a ruined single-chamber portal-tomb/wedge-tomb hybrid (R 661 904) affording more spectacular views. Other very ruined megalithic remains are scattered about.
~ NW of Ballycroum in Corbehagh (R 515 937) are the neat remains of a small wedge-tomb about 1 metre high and 3 metres long, on low pasture land. To the south the ground rises and there are exposed rock-surfaces, where engraving has been reported but never photographed.
South: Burren wedge-tombs
Situated 1.5 km
NW of the prominent Leamaneh Castle, this fine but damaged tomb has
the largest chamber in the Burren, formed by 2 great sidestones over
5 metres long and a neatly-fitting backstone. The top of the S sidestone
juts forward like a prow and bears definite traces of dressing. The
front (W) end of the chamber is partly closed by a large slab which
leaves a gap at the N side. Over the W end of the tomb are two broken
slabs which, together with fragments inside and outside the chamber,
formed the huge roof of the tomb. There is a low septal sill-stone.
In 1955 a large bonfire was lit on the intact roofstone to celebrate
a Hurling victory.
~ Looking from the above tomb
West along its axis is another tomb in Ballyganner North (R 223
953) now located within a cashel which has incorporated some of its
cairn. The gallery is some 4 metres long, and from its E end (under
the broken and collapsed roofstone) a souterrain
My colleague Tom FourWinds
big Ballyganner South tomb (first listed above) is built as if to dominate
the area. Many Burren tombs seem to be built on hillsides, but here
all the tombs (apart from the court-tomb) are built in prominent places.
One of these is so prominent that a cashel was built around it. The
nicer Ballyganner South tomb is built on a plateau but is raised up
The whole area is somewhat puzzling. Was the larger tomb built to dominate the court tomb builders? Or were the court-tomb builders intrusive ? What (if any) is the significance of the axis that the Ballyganner North (wedge in cashel) and the smaller Ballyganner South tomb share?"
~ 3 km ENE of the large Ballyganner South tomb, in Deerpark (R 248 950), is a charming but damaged wedge-tomb with a double roofstone and a 'soul-hole' at the back as at Baur South.
~ 2.4 km NW, in Noughaval (R 213 966), is a stone fort or cashel known as Cahercutteen, with exceptionally large stones and a fine flight of steps giving access to the cashel wall.
~ 1.2 km E by S of the large Ballyganner South tomb, in Clooneen (R 232 943), is another large wedge-tomb with a huge capstone and in a good state of repair.
~ 6.5 km ENE is
Cahercommaun stone fort (marked Cathair Chomáin on the
map at R 282 965), about which my colleague at megalithomania.com
"Do not let the 'Cahercommaun
1 km' sign at the road stop you from trekking to this amazing place.
The path is fairly easy going apart from the last little up hill bit
that takes you onto the plateau upon which the fort stands The fort
itself is very ruinous, but what does remain allows you to easily envisage
its form and perhaps even its scale. It was roughly D-shaped with the
flat northern edge against a high cliff face protecting that side. The
central area (the main stronghold) had walls 3 metres thick which protected
huts within the inner sanctum, and which still reach a height of 3.5
metres in places. Outside of this are two concentric areas, within which
you can still find the foundations of further huts. Before you reach
the main site you walk past huge rings of stones marking where and outer
settlement once stood, which in themselves are quite fascinating when
you start tracing the outlines of the huts.
Unfortunately, a wooden ramp with a central viewing platform has now been constructed around the perimeter of the fort.
500 metres East of the fort and facing it (R 287 966) is a small and neat unmarked wedge-tomb." (See Tullycommon under Creevagh.)
A fine and large stone fort measuring 49 by 39 metres internally, and built of large limestone blocks, it has a fine chevaux-de-frise of closely-spaced upright stones to impede attack, including a larger standing-stone - part of a destroyed megalith ? The wall, surviving up to 4.5 metres high is typically built in vertical layers so that it is as much as 6 metres thick in parts. Remains of huts can be seen built against the wall inside.
There are four wedge-tombs
in this townland, the most curious of which is located in a basin hollowed
out of the bedrock. Just one wall-slab and part of the backstone stands
now. Another slab lies to one side and is probably the remains of the
other side. There are traces of the cairn outline, which was only a
little larger than the tomb itself. Directly in front of the tomb is
an 40-metre square expanse of exposed karst pavement, with many stones
standing up in the grooves.
~ Farther SW in the same townland, at M 110 026, under a small cliff, is a tomb in better condition, with an intact gallery forming a chamber 3 metres long and 1.5 metres tall and wide. The open end has been three-quarters blocked with sturdy dry-stone walling, and a curved wall arcs out in front. Until recently there were small buttress-slabs set at right-angles along the outside of the walls - but these are now lying in a pile to one side.
30 metres S,
on the opposite side of an expanse of exposed limestone is a massive
swallow hole, with another some 75 metres E of it.
~ 7 km ENE is another wedge-tomb at Derrynavahagh.
South: Burren wedge-tomb
About 8 km WSW of Ballyvaughan, on the edge of a craggy plateau and just visible from a tarred track, this fine well-preserved wedge-tomb is built typically of thin Burren slabs and contains, unusually, a chamber within a chamber 2.4 metres long, both sharing the same backstone, and retaining its roofstones. As at Poulaphuca (2.5 km NE) the E endstone has a corner chipped off to create a 'soul-hole'.
~ About 600 metres NE, on a farm track and overshadowed by a shed in Baur North (M 223 005) is a less-beautiful example, with grass-grown roofstone.
~ 2.4 km N by W in Berneens (M 215 025) at a height of 190 metres is a very wedge-shaped slab-built tomb whose door-slab is missing.
~ About 1100 metres SW in Lissylisheen (R 211 992) is a small wedge-tomb with damaged gallery still embedded in its cairn, some 1.3 metres high and 4 metres in diameter.
~ 5.6 km S by E is the large but damaged tomb at Ballyganner South.
~ 1.2 km W by N is a fine stone fort at Cahermacnaghten, containing foundations of rectangular stone buildings.
~ 2 km ESE is another stone fort at Caherconnell, in use until (or re-used in) the 15th century. Following archaeological excavations from 2007 to 2009, a prehistoric chamber with a short passage was found 30 metres southeast of the fort, within which were burials dating from the stone age to the 17th century CE!
800 metres SW of Crusheen, this tomb is not very attractive (a stone wall has been built against it) but is included because of its accessibility. It displays the characteristic wedge-shape of these tombs. A long chamber of 5 stones supports 2 roofstones.~ 3.3 km WNW by the roadside in Moyree Commons (R 363 891) is a ruined portal-tomb - one of only two in the Burren (the other being the much-photographed one at Poulnabrone). One portal stone stands over 3 metres high, but the other has broken at a height of around 2 metres, with the upper part leaning inwards against the taller one. The chamber is somewhat wrecked. To the front of the broken portal stone there is a very low stone which may be the remains of a small court in front of the entrance, whose doorstone is missing. A pile of cairn material lies to the N, and, curiously, a sturdy drystone wall has been built just 1 metre from the tomb.
~ 10 km NE is Derrycallan North wedge-tomb, county Galway.
At a height of about 210 metres above Black Head this fort is worth the climb up from the coast road for the Burren flora and the view over Galway Bay alone. The fort is built on a level piece of limestone karst and is roughly D-shaped. There is a terrace and traces of stairs. It is about 20 metres in diameter with jointed walls over 4 metres high and almost as thick in places. The stonework - of beautiful fissured Burren limestone - is better on the N and E sides than on the S and W, which, together with the irregularity of shape, suggests unskilful rebuilding at various times.
On top of a hill of deeply-fissured limestone surrounded by limestone pavements, this fine tomb is difficult to reach and requires some caution. It is almost complete, retaining its massive roofstone now broken in two. The walls are made from single slices of limestone. The backstone is missing, and so the rear section of the roofstone has dropped back slightly and now points into the air. The door-stone is a slab which is two-thirds of the width of the tomb, leaving a gap on one side. The interior rises to 1.6 metres, and the floor seems to have been paved
There are three cairns on the hilltop, the highest one without grass covering it and bearing an Ordnance Survey trigonometrical marker. Any or all of them may contain tombs.
4.4 km N in Coolnatullagh, on a south-facing slope that overlooks
the little road running up the valley (M 310 031), is a tiny wedge-tomb
with a roof-slab just 2 metres by one metre, and wall-slabs no higher
than 50 cms. One of these has slipped, so that the roof has tipped;
the other has been damaged, thus allowing access to the tiny gallery.
The edge of the covering cairn can just be distinguished.
In the same townland, not marked on the map, is another cairn, apparently complete, and excavated in 1999. Unfortunately I have no co-ordinates, just the photo below.
6.6 km SW is Parknabinnia wedge-tomb.
Not quite on the top of a hill and clearly visible from a by-road, this fine alignment (NE-SW) comprises three stones around 1.7 metres tall and 2.5 metres apart. The two outer stones are charmingly askew.
~ 3.2 km E, and 1.6 km W by N of Tulla, by a hedge in a field to the left of a lane leading to Newgrove House (R 452 802), in Newgrove, is a small wedge-tomb which retains its roof, most of its outer-walling, and some of its circular cairn. Four mossy stones NW of the chamber may be the remains of a kerb. The roofstone is chocked by a small boulder resting on the N corner of the closing-slab at the W end of the tomb. A loose block of sandstone lying at the E end of the chamber with a round depression 27 cms in diameter and 9 cms deep may be a bullaun.
~ 4 km ENE, immediately S of a by-road in Tyredagh Lower (R 454 822) is a fine standing-stone some 3 metres tall and only 15 cm thick, 100 metres NW of which is a typical single-bullaun.
~ 4 km S in Ballyhickey (R 424 762) is a fine wedge-tomb complete with orthostats and roofstones, in a paddock next to a farmyard.
~ 13 km E on the boundary between the townlands of Clogher and Coolbaun (R 546 800) are the sad remains of a once-impressive portal-tomb, whose huge capstone sits in a wooded quagmire.
~ 5.6 km E by S, in a lovely setting next to a road in Milltown (R 468 799) are the neat remains of wedge-tomb whose chamber with grass-topped capstone and four orthostats survives.
~ 4 km SSE is Magh Adhair inauguration-site (see below).
~ 9.6 km SSE in Knappoge or Knappogue (R 443 719) in a field to the west of the entrance to Knappogue Castle is a group of three stones (near the gateway) and a lone stone 200 metres away - perhaps the survivors of a row or avenue some 200 metres long. They are up to two metres high and of marvellously-decayed limestone.
~ 12 km SSE, on the W side of the railway-line beside a ruined church at Ballinphunta (R 479 616), the remains of a wedge-tomb and its circular cairn (completely buried in field-stones and undergrowth when I visited it in 1975) stand overlooking Craughaun graveyard. The surviving square roof-stone has a number of solution-pits, and beneath and behind it the chamber (containing a fallen, smaller, roofstone) extends almost 5 metres. The door-stone is impressive.
Some 8 km from O'Briensbridge is a fine, well-preserved wedge tomb crowning a low knoll.
~ 9 km NW is the portal-tomb at Clogher (see under Clooney, above).
Just W of a by-road across a stream and signposted, this is more complex a wedge-tomb than most, with grass-grown roofstone and impressive, tall, outer wall-stones. In front of the tomb is a tall slab nearly 2 metres high marking a possible antechamber.
~ 1.8 km NE in Tullycommon (R 287 966) is a tiny wedge-tomb not marked on the map, with a gallery only 1.7 metres long and 80 cms high. The tomb is 500 metres W of Noughaval stone fort (see under Ballyganner South).
~ 1.8 km SSW are the tombs in Leana (see under Parknabinnia).
~ 5.4 km WSW is the large wedge-tomb at Ballyganner South.
~ 3.5 km NW is the tomb or kist at Meggagh (see under Poulaphuca).
Situated about 8 km WNW of Lisdoonvarna, this tomb, together with those at Baur South and Ballyganner North, is one of the finest of many wedge-tombs in the Burren of Clare. The flora surrounding it, and the superb view S over the remarkable limestone pavement (or karst) as far as the mountains of county Kerry (on a good day) add to its appeal. The chamber, which is about 3.4 metres long is covered at the W end by a large, broken, grass-covered roofstone measuring 2.1 by 2.4 metres. Some of the stones of the characteristic outer wall are higher than the roof. The E end is closed, and the entrance at the W end is partly closed by a high slab at right angles to the chamber.
~ 7 km WSW are more wedge-tombs at Ballynahown.
& Cahermackirilla: Wedge-tomb, alignment, etc.
A large hilltop wedge-tomb forms the centrepiece of a complex of monuments. It has a west-facing gallery 6 metres long, each side is formed by two slabs. The large wall-slab on the north side has collapsed inwards to about 45 degrees and is supported within the gallery by a small stone. This collapse gives the massive roof-slab a steep slope. It also is broken in two, with the front 1.5 metres lying on the ground in front of the gallery.
it would have weighed somewhere in the region of 10 tons. At the front
of the gallery the front slab is still in situ, but does not
fill the whole width of the gallery. On the southern side in particular
the remains of the double walling are good. The massive roof-slab would
not have covered the back sections of the walls, which may have been
~ Just 50 metres to the east of the wedge tomb there is a large circle of stones that could be a fairly recent enclosure, but its proximity to the other monuments suggests that it is of similar antiquity to them. Just outside its southern edge there is a small cairn whose top has been removed, exposing a small body-sized kist, only 30 cm or so wide, formed by two limestone slabs 1.5 metres long, aligned north-south and blocked by smaller slabs across the ends. The cairn itself is about 1.5 metres high and 4 metres in diameter, making the kist relatively large for the size of the cairn.
~ 400 metres S - R 254 967 (GPS R 25383 96652) - and tucked up against a 3 metre bluff there is a sub-rectangular dry stone wall enclosure measuring about 6 x 4 metres. At one side there are two large, rounded boulders that seem to form an entrance. Just outside the opposite wall there is a rounded boulder on a raised section of limestone pavement. In the centre of the enclosure there is a large boulder that appears to have a small cavity beneath it.
~ In Cahermackirilla, immediately N of the wedge-tomb in Fanygalvan, is a NE-SW alignment of 3 stones - rare in this part of the country. (Though all over the Burren there are many small slabs set upright in the cracks in the limestone pavements - echoes of prehistoric stone rows ?) The middle stone is the tallest, at 1.6 metres high, with the smallest (possibly broken) stone at the southwest.
~ About 100 metres W is a large hut-circle some 10 metres in diamete, defined by small slabs set on end. There is a larger enclosure nearby, and another hut circle lies close to the nearby chambered cairn.
~ At R 25422
97121 (GPS) is another cairn, 2 metres tall and about 10 metres
in diameter. A field wall runs east-west across the foot of its southern
~ Still in Cahermackirilla, at R 256 976, is a ruined cashel or stone fort occupying one of the highest spots on this particular hilltop. The walls on the west and north sides stand well over 4 metres in places. The south and east walls have disappeared and have been replaced by a thin Burren-style dry stone wall.The central area is raised at least 1.5m above the surrounding fields. Against the inside of the west wall there are the remains of two buildings, one wall standing 2 metres high. In the fields immediately to the west and east of the main structure there are a lot of smaller remains, indicating that there was quite an impressive little settlement around the cashel.
~ 2.1 km N of
the Fanygalvan wedge-tomb is the tomb or kist at Meggagh (see
Christianised megalith ?
Also spelt Iniscealtra and
referred to as Holy Island, this monastic site (founded in the 7th century)
with Round Tower in Lough Derg has numerous Christian monuments, mainly
12th century and earlier. There are also no fewer than seven bullauns
and a perforated slab known as 'The Bargaining Stone'.
Adhair: Inauguration site
Placed unusually in an amphitheatre of low hills, this eroded site, traditionally the Inauguration Place of the kings of Thomond has the usual features (like Tara) of large mound and other earthworks in a place of older antiquity marked by megaliths. To the N of the large mound over 6 metres high is a large stone with a bullaun in it, and to the W of the mound is a cairn over 3 metres high. These features are partly enclosed by an earthen bank on the E in which stand many stones, and partly enclosed on the SW by a stream near which is a two-metre high Standing-stone. Close by this site there were great gatherings down to the time of the Great Famine.
~ About 500 metres SSW is Cahercalla large trivallate (triple-walled) stone fort.
~ 7.2 km SSW, in the grounds of Drumoland Castle, 1.2 km NNE of Newmarket-on-Fergus, is Moghane or Moughaun Stone fort (R 407 706). A triple-walled construction, commanding extensive views over the Shannon Estuary, covering an area of over 10 hectares, is believed to be the largest hill-fort in the country. At the highest point is the inner cashel or citadel with walls over 3 metres thick and a diameter of over 100 metres.
~ 4 km NNW is Clooney stone-row (see above).
2 km NNW of Killinaboy, this is one of the more accessible tombs in the dramatic landscape of the Burren, close to a by-road, remains of its cairn survive. The roofstone is over 3 metres long and now growing a crop of grass. The sides are formed of single massive slabs. The E (rear) end is closed and the front is partly closed, with a corner of the door-slab deliberately removed to make a 'spirit-entrance'.
There are several tombs in Parknabinnia, at least one of which, visible from the tomb just described, at R 260 934, and now partly-incorporated in a wall, is very similar - though quite a lot of cairn survives, and indications of a second gallery. The largest wedge-tomb, at R 258 933 is now only partly-roofed. Another, recently excavated, proved to be a court-tomb. The area around Roughan Hill has the highest density of wedge-tombs in Ireland.
~ 500 metres NE in Leana (R 269 940), overlooking the monuments in Parknabinnia, and affording splendid vistas, are a round cairn and a wedge-tomb. The wedge-tomb's cairn is quite high, with its single roof-stone tipped at an interesting angle. The gallery is aligned roughly north-south, and all four walls are in place. At the north end two overlapping stones block the entrance as at the main Parknabinnia tomb.
The round cairn
is 25 metres in diameter and 3 metres at its highest, though its dominating
position makes it seem higher.
About 6.5 km SW of Ballyvaughan, this tomb has a very neat box-like chamber, closed at the E end by a slab reaching to the roofstone which rests on 2 long sidestones and the backstone. As at Baur South, the E endstone has a corner chipped away.
Just 10 metres N is a small raised area with a few exposed stones sticking up, and an exposed kist at the centre made from small stones. The remains of the cairn are no more than 30 cms high. A little bit further N there is another bump that is almost certainly another kist-cairn.
~ 1.3 km N, by foot across treacherous limestone pavement, in Eanty More (M 264 004) is another box-like tomb. It has a superb and perfectly-preserved door-slab at the W end, with a much smaller 'soul-hole' on the top corner at the N. Part of the roof-stone lies inside the back of the gallery, and the back-stone has been moved and thrown down. Both these tombs resemble the box-like tombs of the French causses, where 'soul-holes' are a common feature, though usually in massive side-slabs.
~ 2.2 km SE in
Rannagh East (M 284 006) is one of the smaller, but better-preserved
of the Burren tombs, with a gallery only 2 metres long and little more
than 1 metre wide. The cairn survives to a height of about a metre,
not quite reaching the large roofslab that covers the entire gallery,
but has a chunk broken off.
~ 3 km S by W, just N of a by-road in Meggagh (R 258 988) is a neat little tomb not marked on the map. Only 1.4 metres square and 1 metre high, it looks like a small chamber of a court-tomb - or else it is a megalithic kist...?
~ 10 km WSW is the fine tomb at Baur South.
Next to the carved stones at
Newgrange, this is the most-photographed megalith in Ireland. It is
a fine tomb set on the limestone pavement to the E of the road from
Killinaboy to Ballyvaughan, in the centre of a low round cairn. The
entrance faces N and is marked by a low sill-stone. The thin roofslab,
lifted to a height of 1.8 metres by imposing slab-like portal-stones,
is tilted at the usual portal-tomb angle.
The tomb has recently
been repaired after damage similar to that at Ballyganner South
~ 1 km NNE is Cahercashlaun cliff-fort, a roughly-oval 'cashel' containing a souterrain, and an outer defensive wall on the NE side. The entrance is a natural cleft in the limestone, and was originally roofed with slabs.
~ 1.6 km NNW (M 230 022) is a wedge-tomb in Gleninsheen - a small, box-like tomb resembling a stone kist whose E end is now open.
Remains of two other wedge-tombs stand nearby, one of which is just 100 metres to the E and comprising just one upright side stone, another one flat on the ground, and two oddly pointed overlapping stones that would have closed the (higher) west end.
There is only a handful of court-tombs in Clare. This tomb sits in a hollow beyond which is a view down to the sea. Two large chambers are entered through the remains of a court, whose tall portals and part of the left side survive.