Duntryleague Passage Tomb, Limerick, Ireland

Duntryleague Passage Tomb is situated near the peak of a small but steep hill outside the village of Galbally in County Limerick, overlooking the River Loobagh valley to the north. Duntryleague also known as Darby’s bed or Diarmuid and Gráinne’s bed is derived from the Irish Dún-Trí-Liag meaning the Fort of the Three Pillar Stones. Duntryleague is an unusual structure as passage tombs of this size are rare in that part of the country another curious aspect is its three roof stones which are rested on top of one another, a style very common in Brittany. The natural approach to the tomb is from the rear and the entrance is orientated North. There are no remains of the cairn that would have covered the tomb however some of the kerb-stones on its north side that would have been part of the original structure can be seen. The passageway is 6 metres in length, leading to a chamber 3metres by 1.5metres, which consists of three orthostats on the east and west sides and one slab at the south end forming the back of the tomb, as previously mentioned it is capped with three roof stones. At the entry to the chamber are two side chambers, the one on the west side with a still intact capstone. Although heavily covered in newly planted woods Duntryleage has two other tombs that are not visible at present, one cairn at the summit of the hill and another to the south of the passage tomb.

Though the tomb would date to around 5000 years ago one of the stories ascribed to it is the burial place of a 2nd or 3rd century semi-mythical King of Munster known as Ailill Aulom, aka Oilill Olum, the name Aulom refers to him being “one-eared”. According to the legend he got the name when he visited Knockainey (The Hill of Aine) because the grass on his fields would not grow. With his animals beginning to starve a Druid named Ferchess told him to go the hill on Samhain Eve. Ailill became sleepy when on the hill and once he drifted off he had a vision of the Goddess Áine, the goddess of fertility and plentiful crops. Overcome with his senses Ailill tried to force himself upon Áine who in turn but of his ear. When he awoke he had but one ear which rendered him unable to serve as the High King of Ireland as only an “unblemished” person was allowed to rule. Like many passage tombs throughout Ireland Duntryleague was also associated with the tale of Fionn MacCumhaill chasing Diarmuid and Grainne who are said to have rested at Duntryleague for a night, this also reflects in the name Darby’s bed, a derivative of Diarmuid.

GPS: 52.40702, -8.32505

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