Ballykeel Portal Tomb, Armagh, Ireland

Ballykeel Portal Tomb stands at the foot of Slieve Gullion, a magnificent mountain which is home to Ireland’s highest passage grave. Known locally as ‘The Hag’s Chair’, this Portal Tomb stands at the southern end of a large cairn, 30×10 metres in size, and dates from around 3500 BC. At the north edge of the cairn a cist grave was found during excavations in 1963, several hundred shards of Neolithic pottery, remnants of three highly decorated ‘Ballyalton’ bowls, a javelin head and three flint flakes were found. The cairn runs south-east to north-west and is parallel to a nearby stream that is a tributary of the Forkhill River. The tomb itself consists of two portal stones and one backstone supporting a large capstone. This beautiful site is sadly, and in my mind pointlessly, surrounded by a fence, this seems to be a common trait of megalithic sites I have visited in Northern Ireland and I’m yet to find an adequate reason why this is done. In spite of this mild annoyance the tomb is a real beauty as echoed by local poet Art Bennett in a letter to a friend in 1850, ‘There is more Irish history in the rocks of Ballykeel than ever there was possessed in Belfast. It was cradled and nursed there and more than likely will never waken’

GPS: 54.13132, -6.47726

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