Cairns as described in
Vale of the Boyne and Royal Meath
published in 1898 for the Great Northern Railway Company.
To the archaeologist, to the explorer of archaic sepulchral remains, the Slieve-na-Calliagh
range of picturesque hills, just over Oldcastle, offers a quarry almost
inexhaustible. There indeed, within the radius of a rifle-shot, may be seen
grouped together the most extraordinary collection of primitive monuments to be
found in Ireland - perhaps in Western Europe. The principal feature of the group
(the ruins of about twenty-four, besides numerous smaller graves, remain)
measures 116 feet in diameter.
It contains a cruciform chamber like that of
in miniature, which is
approached by a narrow funnel-shaped recess. Round the base is a closely set
circle of stones, varying from six to twelve feet in length, and serving as a
kind of retaining fence to the loose, dry boulders which form the body of the
tumulus or cairn. One of these blocks is somewhat in the form of a chair, and is
supposed by the people to have been used as a seat by a hag, of whom the
neighbouring peasantry tell some wonderful stories, while by some antiquarians
it is looked upon as a throne, or judgment seat, used by
, who was a great law-maker and judge himself.
Many of the stones forming the chambers are most elaborately carved with dots,
concentric circles, spirals, lozenges, and other devices, which no doubt were
intended to convey some meaning, the key to which has been lost for ages.
Similar devises occur on prehistoric monuments in
, but very few are to be found elsewhere in Europe. There is no
doubt, however, that this cemetery is the Tailtenu of Irish annalists. According
to the "Four Masters," numerous were the kings, queens, mighty warriors, and
chieftains buried here some thousands of years ago. The first whose name appears
is Ollamh Fodhla, son of Fiacha Finscotagh. He had been a learned Ollamh, and
was afterwards King of Ireland. His death is set down as having occurred in 1277 B.C.
There are various other Cairns of the
type scattered over the Hill
standing near each other. Some of these are almost perfect, whilst others have
more or less fallen in. All the chambers, large and small, were, upon
examination, found to contain calcined human bones, numerous pieces of archaic
pottery, beads of amber, glass, and stone, flint flakes, balls of various kinds
of stone averaging about the size of an orange, besides knifelike objects, and
combs formed of bone. Some few small articles composed of bronze were also
discovered, but these are supposed to have been dropped by visitors, and not to
have formed portion of any original deposit.
A delightful view can be had from these ever-breezy hills of Loughcrew
extending over many Counties. In the garden owned by Mr. Napier may be seen a
souterrain, which was a dwelling place for a family, or families, probably three
thousand years ago. It should not be overlooked by antiquaries who visit the
Interior of one of smaller cairns in Western Hills (Carnbawn), Loughcrew Hills.
Boyne Valley Private Day Tour
Immerse yourself in the rich heritage and culture of the Boyne Valley with our full-day private tours.
World Heritage site, explore the Hill of Slane, where Saint Patrick famously lit the Paschal fire.
Discover the Hill of Tara, the ancient seat of power for the High Kings of Ireland.