Creevykeel Court Tomb, Sligo, ireland

Put quite simply this was one of the most interesting experiences I have had visiting a Neolithic site in Ireland. The reasons are twofold, firstly the tomb at Creevykeel is awesome, its incredibly striking in overall design, also being trapezoidal in shape, secondly the experience of visiting the place itself was magical  Now I’m very much aware that there is the danger of ridicule when you mention any sort of ‘experience’ when your speaking about a site such as Creevykeel, but if every place I visited had such a resonance I wouldn’t be too concerned with the ridicule.

Creevykeel was built during the Neolithic period, between 4000-2500BC. This beautiful court tomb is 21 metres in width at the South-eastern front side, tapering from front to back. It is believed the cairn was at one stage 48 metres long but part of the rear was destroyed. The entrance passageway is flanked by large vertical slabs (Orthostats). The oval shaped forecourt is impressive in size, measuring about 9 metres by 15 metres. A much later Christian period passageway is built into the side of the court leading to a kiln. At the rear of the court are two large jambs supporting a re-erected lintel stone, this leads through to a further two burial chambers. The two chambers are both roughly 3 metres by 4 metres in diameter. A large stone marks the rear of the second chamber, a feature that would’ve been essential to support the corbelled roof the original structure would’ve had. At the rear of the cairn are three smaller chambers, all of which would’ve had their own entrance. The site was excavated in 1939 and neolithic axeheads, knives, clay balls and some bowls were amongst the finds, also some cremated bone was found in the two central chambers.

Its about two months since I visited Creevykeel with a couple of old friends and it still strikes me as an unusual place. The cairn being placed just off the main road sadly hasn’t got a huge amount of space around it to stand back and take it all in. On our arrival we walked up the short path from the road and came to the north -eastern side of the cairn, being a cold day we set about fixing scarfs and zipping up jackets. As we were standing there talking I looked to one of our party and about three inches above his head was a mess of black feathers, it took me a second to focus and see that it was a blackbird flapping furiously, one that a couple of seconds before had been casually perched on one of the large vertical stones. The bird then proceeded to dive bomb all three of us repeatedly! The pattern being the same almost each time, the bird would fly the dimensions of the cairn (being shaped like a triangle this meant sharp turns and serious speed) and then swoop down on one of us. Initially we assumed it was blocking a nest that must have been hidden within the structure but during our time there we saw nothing to indicate this.

We walked around to the entrance of the tomb, the second member of our party made his way through the passageway and was about to step foot into the main court when the bird swooped and landed solidly in front of his feet, a brave mood from the blackbird considering it was landing beside massive size 10 boots! The bird had to be physically brushed away to allow us to enter the court and then proceeded to squawk  leap into the air and dive bomb again. When we tried to enter the first of the two chambers the thing became even more enraged and squawked louder again. We decided at this stage that perhaps a trip back to the fairy tree was called for, we had passed the tree on our way in, a hawthorn covered in ribbons. Feeling somewhat silly we walked back to the tree and began to tie pieces of cloth around the tree, laughing away to ourselves about how insane this might appear to a casual onlooker. While laughing I turned to one of the others and was astonished that he hadn’t noticed the blackbird repeating the same panicked flapping about a foot over his head as it had done earlier. It then proceeded to fly close over the heads of each of us, circle the tomb three more times and then flew away. We then made our way towards the tomb and entered, spending quite some time there as the sun had suddenly appeared (while getting this piece together I reviewed the photos I took and the change in weather is quite pronounced). The blackbird did not reappear for the rest of our time soaking in this special place.

GPS: 54.435, -8.43149


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