Ancient Irish Passage Tombs
The best kept secret in archaeological Ireland
Some of Ireland’s oldest archaeological treasures – cairns built in 4000 BC (during the Neolithic Period) as burial chambers – can be found upon the hills above Loughcrew. They are spread over the Carnbane East and Carnbane West hills and the Patrickstown hills. Together make up one of three main concentrations of Passage Tombs in Ireland and are thought to be much older than those at the better known Newgrange site. The Irish name for the collection is Sliabh na Callaí meaning “Hill of the Witch” or “Hags Hill.”
The cairns are in two groups; Carnbane West, has about 15 cairns, including Cairn L which is roofed and contains superb symbolic carvings. This group is about a 2km walk from the car park on gently sloping ground. Carnbane East includes Cairn T, also roofed and with excellent engravings, and is a shorter but steeper walk. The Hag’s Chair can be found here.
Many of the cairns have interior stone carvings and they sit among other monuments, including stone circles, henges, standing stones, Iron Age forts, and the remains of a cursus (a ceremonial entrance way).
The cairns are a special place to witness the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes and the Summer and Winter Solstices. The back wall carvings of the chamber in Cairn T are illuminated by a beam of light at sunrise on the Spring and Autumnal Equinoxes.
It’s funny to think St Oliver Plunkett would have visited these very cairns and perhaps wondered about the faith of those who lay within them. Why not visit the cairns yourself?
There is a Loughcrew Equinox Festival each March 19th to 21st and September 19th to 21st organised by Oldcastle Tourism Group. Bringing together the archaeological and astronomical past of the cairns as well as the spiritual energy of modern day druids and healers. It is a wonderful opportunity to experience the magic of the cairn throughout the Equinox mornings and days. Above is a video from the Autumn Equinox in 2016 courtesy of Boyne Valley Tours.
The team here at Loughcrew hold seasonal events, as well other interesting events throughout the year, such as guided walks. Make sure you check out our social media pages to find out what’s on. Retreat groups staying at Loughcrew often make the most of energy of this special place too.
Don’t forget to you can head to the Coffee Shop at Loughcrew for refreshments after exploring the cairns. Books and leaflets on the sites are available to purchase there too.