Loughcrew is a megalithic burial site dating from 3500BC-3300BC built on three hilltops in Co. Meath. There are around 30 cairns and mounds dotting the site making it one of the largest megalithic burial grounds in Ireland. The site is known in Irish as ‘Sliabh na Cailleach’ which translates as ‘Mountain of the Witch’. Legends link the site with a witch called Cailleach Bheara and also with a hag named Garavogue’. The story goes that the hag was a giantess who is said to have dropped huge heaps of stones from her apron onto the land as she jumped from hilltop to hilltop.
As the site is spread over three hills I decided to focus this first entry on Carnbane East which features one of the most amazing passage tombs in Ireland named Cairn T. Cairn T is aligned with the rising sun on the spring and autumn equinox, when light shines down the passage and illuminates the beautiful rock art. The key for Cairn T can be requested from Loughcrew Gardens nearby and to sit inside it and scan the ancient rock art is a joy. The Cairn is an impressive 40 metres in diameter and serves as the focal point for the site, at the rear of Cairn T is a large stone known as the ‘Hag’s Chair’.
Cairn T is surrounded by several other uncovered Cairns, Cairn S is aligned with two ‘cross-quarter days’ at the beginning of May and August, it is surrounded by 18 orthostats. Little remains of Cairn V though it is believed it was aligned with the Winter Solstice sunrise. Cairn U is aligned with the ‘cross-quarter days’ at the beginning of February and November.
Carnbane East is a truly spectacular place and the changeable weather on the day I visited added to the atmosphere. There was a chilling cold and dull grey skies on my ascent, once I reached the top I sat inside Cairn T for around half an hour and avoided being drenched by a massive hail storm, when I emerged from the Cairn to explore the rest of the site the most glorious sunshine greeted me though the temperature remaining a hand-numbing cold!
GPS: 53.74466, -7.11254