The Naper family have owned the remaining old estate at Loughcrew since the 1600's but are now selling up and moving on. The sale includes the gardens and coffee shop where the key for Cairn T can be picked up off-season.
Teams from Cork and Cambridge Universities have been using the recently-developed technology of Lidar (light detecting and ranging), which uses airborne lasers pulsing at 33,000 times a second to scan the landscape and pick up details of relief... continues...
I was completely blown away by the Loughcrew complex. Driving through, on our way to pick up the key for Cairn T, we were completely surrounded by an amazing landscape. It was spring so the hills were rich with greenery and, every so often, there was a mass of vivid yellow where the gorse was starting to flower.
There seemed to be a treat around every corner. We had Fourwinds as our guide so we were lucky enough to have all the major (and some minor) features pointed out even before we got out of the car. The majority of the features are passage tombs, some of which are still covered but most of which are open and weathering away. There are a few standing stones and we saw the remains of a stone circle from half way up Carnbane East.
As they say in the guidebooks, the Loughcrew complex is a huge graveyard and, as such, it is quite an emotional place. I got a bit teary at the top of Carnbane East partly because of the sheer beauty of my surroundings but also because I could sense the power and ritual of the place. It was obviously a very important part of a Neolithic community and other communities in years to come.
Rock art is in abundance in the area and is a mystery to archaeologists. There are many theories about what it could all mean but I can't even begin to think what significance it had. Whatever it meant, it is nice just to enjoy it and revel in the fact that you are witnessing something that was created 5000 years ago!
Well worth a visit and you could easily spend a day there especially if you're lucky enough to get a sunny day like we did.
Before I have done with the Irish instances I must append one in the form it was told me in the summer of 1894: I was in Meath and went to see the remarkable chambered cairns on the hill known as Sliabh na Caillighe, 'the Hag's Mountain,' near Oldcastle and Lough Crew. I had as my guide a young shepherd whom I picked up on the way. He knew all about the hag after whom the hill was called except her name: she was, he said, a giantess, and so she brought there, in three apronfuls, the stones forming the three principal cairns. As to the cairn on the hill point known as Belrath, that is called the Chair Cairn from a big stone placed there by the hag to serve as her seat when she wished to have a quiet look on the country round. But usually she was to be seen riding on a wonderful pony she had: that creature was so nimble and strong that it used to take the hag at a leap from one hill-top to another. However, the end of it all was that the hag rode so hard that the pony fell down, and that both horse and rider were killed. The hag appears to have been Cailleach Bheara, or Caillech Berre, 'the Old Woman of Beare', that is, Bearhaven, in County Cork.
From 'Celtic Folklore Welsh and Manx' by Sir John Rhys, 1901.
..the Cailleach Bheara is most closely associated with the great cairns at Loughcrew, about two miles south-east of Oldcastle, Co. Meath. The Hill called Sliabh-na-Caillighe is 904 feet high and a prominent feature in the landscape. It has three main peaks, two of which are covered with tumuli and cairns while the third had large tumulus on it which was broken up by the landowner to make walls round his property.
The legend, which was commonly related in the neighbourhood up to fifty years ago, was that a famous old hag of antiquity called Cailleach Bheara came one day from the North to perform a magical feat, by which she was to obtain great power if she succeeded. She took an apron full of stones and dropped a cairn on Carnbane; from this she jumped to the summit of Sliabh-na-Caillighe, a mile distant, and dropped a second cairn there; then she made a third jump and dropped a cairn on another hill about a mile distant. If she could make a fourth leap and drop a fourth cairn, the feat would have been accomplished; but, in making the jump, she slipped and fell in the townland of Patrickstown in the parish of Diamor, where the poor old hag broke her neck. Here she was buried, and her grave was to be seen in a field called Cul a'mhota, "Back of the Mote", about 200 perches east from the mote in that townland, but it is now destroyed.
p246 of "Legends and Traditions of the Cailleach Bheara or Old Woman (Hag) of Beare" by Eleanor Hull, in
Folklore, Vol. 38, No. 3. (Sep. 30, 1927), pp. 225-254.
She refers to Conwell and O'Donovan in Proc. R.I. Acad., vol ix, pp42, 356
This is a nice little story that I got from the Dúchas Visitors' Guide to The Loughcrew Cairns:-
The four hills are shown on Ordnance Survey maps as Sliabh Na Caillí or the Hills of the Witch. Legend has it that the Hag or Witch (sometimes known as An Cailleach Bhéarra) jumped from one hill to the next, dropping stones from her apron to form the cairns. After she had jumped onto three hills, she still had to get to another and make a fourth group of cairns in order to attain great power. As she attempted to get to the last hill, she fell and was killed. The story says she was buried where she fell, on the slopes of Patrickstown Hill.
Novembers Issue of PAST No.51
"The Loughcrew Project is studying in detail the wider environs of Slieve na Calliagh. The project developed from Elizabeth Twohig's interest in Corinne Roughley's doctoral research use of aerial photogrammetry to study the location of megalithic monuments in the Carnac region of Brittany and how it might be applied to Loughcrew".