Knockeen Portal Tomb, Waterford, Ireland

Knockeen Portal Tomb is one of the largest, and with its double capstone, one of the most imposing and mystifying dolmens I have come across. Knockeen is a short distance from the road, across a field, and is easily visible with its two capstones sticking up out of the boundary hedge and wall. Overall the tomb is an impressive 3.5 metres in height and 2.1 metres in width. Five upright stones support the two capstones, the doorstone does not actually support the structure, this is left to the orthostats which measure up to 2.8 metres. The interior chamber is entered by a small keyhole, 80cms in width, however the chamber itself is quite large, 2.7 metres in height meaning one can comfortably stand upright inside, the chamber measures 2 metres in length and 1.3 in width.

It is unclear what the tomb was used for, it has been noted that the entrance aligns with the Sugarloaf Hill in the Knockmealdown Mountains, 1 km to the northwest. This relationship with Sugarloaf Hill is reflected in local folklore as one entry in the 1938 schools collection states, “Some people say that a giant who was passing by one day took a bite out of Sugarloaf Hill, and the cromlech is made of the crumbs he dropped”. The tomb entrance is also quite possibly constructed facing northwest for solar and lunar alignments. The key-hole may have also been used as a way of leaving offerings for the dead or for accessing the tomb to perform rituals, local legends also refer to the dolmen as the ‘Druid’s Altar’

One thing I did not notice on my visit is that although part of the dolmen is built into a boundary wall, the boundary is actually that of an 18th century graveyard and a ruined church, Kilburne Church (described as a ruin by 1615), that is completely overgrown with vegetation and is not visible from the tomb.

GPS: 52.2075, -7.15912

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