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Established 16/3/2000
Loughcrew - Sliabh na Caillighe

The Loughcrew mounds are located 40 kilometres from Newgrange, situated on three hill summits near the town of Oldcastle, Co. Meath. The hills, known collectively as "Sliabh na Caillighe", or the "Mountain of the Witch" and sometimes "The Storied Hills", are individually called Carnbane West, Carnbane East and Patrickstown. The highest of these peaks reaches over 900 feet above sea level.

Rediscovered in the 1860s, and described by E.A. Conwell in a paper to the Royal Irish Academy in 1864, there were surveys and investigations carried on by Conwell, followed by Rotherham in 1895, and George Coffey at the turn of the 20th century. The cairns are probably older than those at Brú na Bóinne. Martin Brennan (The Stones of Time, P.151) says that "many of the symbols and arrangements used in Boyne Valley art were anticipated at Loughcrew".

Ceiling stone
Pasage stone
Equinox Stone
Click here to see these wonderful illuminated markings on the stones inside Cairn T - are they star maps??
Equinox stone at Cairn T
This is a highly-decorated stone in the end recess of Cairn T at Loughcrew. At the spring equinox a beam of light from the sun illuminates some of the features of this stone.

The main cairns are tumuli called Cairn L and Cairn T, although there are well over 30 sites remaining and, according to Martin Brennan (The Stones of Time), there may once have been as many as fifty to a hundred mounds.

Cairn L, on Carnbane West, is 45 yards in diameter, and has a passage 12 feet long. There are seven chambers within the passage interior. Conwell was reported to have found bone and pottery fragments in these chambers. A quadrangular stone basin, which has been hollowed out to a depth of over 3 inches, lies on the floor of one of these chambers. Stone basins have also been found at Newgrange, Dowth (North) and Knowth (East and West).

Equinox stone at Cairn T

Cairn T, which is known as the Tomb of the Ollamh Fodhla, is the most striking cairn on the hills. Ollamh Fodhla, said to have been the first law-giver of Ireland, dided according to the Annals of the Four Masters in 1277 BC, and is stated to have been buried at Taillten (Telltown).

The cairn is 38 yards in diameter and has a kerb of 37stones. The massive carved stone known as the "Hag's Chair" forms part of the kerb. It measures 10 feet by six feet by two feet, and the front face of the stone is highly ornamented with concentric circles, cup marks and other designs.

(LEFT): The beam of spring equinox sunlight strikes the 'daisy' at top left and follows the zig-zags towards the next daisy-like feature.

Passage stone L5

This is the highly-decorated passage orthostat L5 at Cairn T.


Some of the stones at Cairn T were decorated before being put in place, as has happened at other sites such as Knowth and Newgrange. Gabriel Cooney (Landscapes of Neolithic Ireland) suggests that they could have possibly been used from an earlier site.

There is, according to Cooney, a preference at Loughcrew to orient the passages towards the east. But there is also a 'deliberate alignment to other passage tombs, particularly Fourknocks to the southeast.


Left recess

Another highly-decorated stone, in the left recess of Cairn T.

Cairn T and Cairn V

This photograph shows the remains of Cairn V in the foreground and Cairn T in the background (note the entrance). The Cairn V stone in centre of picture is inscribed with two sets of concentric circles.

Ollamh Fodla's Seat

This strange looking rock at Cairn T is known as 'The Hag's Chair' and 'Ollamh Fódla's Seat', after the twentieth king of Tara. Incidentally, the hills of Loughcrew are clearly visible from Tara.

Stone at Cairn T
Detail from a stone at Cairn T, Loughcrew.

Detail from Cairn T stone

Another highly-decorated stone at Loughcrew. Detail from a stone at Cairn T, Loughcrew.

The passage of Cairn T looking inwards. On the left of the picture is the highly-decorated orthostat, L2, which features a series of concentric circles as well as dots, waves, arcs and lines.

Looking in to the end chamber at Cairn T.


All information and photos, except where otherwise stated, copyright, © Anthony Murphy, 1999-2015
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