Ballymacdermott Court Tomb and the cairn that encapsulates it couldn’t be placed in a more picturesque spot, standing on the side of a mountain overlooking the beautiful Meigh plain. The Cairn is believed to have been built around 3,500 BC and the court tomb that stands exposed is one of the finest examples I have seen. The court entrance to the tomb almost forms a complete circle, with the tallest stones standing at either end of its 7 metre diameter. The courtyard is 5 metres deep and leads into a three chambered gallery about 7 metres in length. It is believed a corbelled roof would once have helped support the structure within the cairn. The cairn itself is massive in size 28metres long and 9metres wide at its narrow end!
In 1816 locals opened the tomb and discovered an urn and what they believed to be human bones. Strangely enough to tomb was disturbed again and its lintel stone knocked down and pillars broken when an American Army tank on maneuvers during WW2 ran over part of the site! In 1962 an academic excavation took place and pieces of pottery and cremated bone were discovered.
Locally the site was also known as ‘The Fairy Ring’ and a description of an old story surrounding it was told by local Barney Murphy on the excellent ‘Voices from the Dawn’ website. He tells of a man “…coming home from the town very late at night, quite possibly revved up with drink in ’em, and he said he heard music. Heard the fairies – were playing music and dancing, in on the graves”. Ref: http://www.voicesfromthedawn.com/ballymacdermot-court-tomb/
The tomb is an unusual place, the tight forest of planted trees adjacent to the cairn is quite foreboding due to its darkness with little light penetrating the forest floor. The tomb itself feels inviting and I found myself sitting in it for quite some time looking across the plain towards Slieve Gullion.
GPS: 54.15409, -6.36958