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There are reportedly 28 bullaun stones in the vicinity of the monastic complex of Glendalough (see the Archaeological Inventory of Co. Wicklow). The bullauns are said to be in 7 different locations, with the highest concentration on both sides of the Glendasan river, north of the monastic complex and before it joins the Glenealo river. Most of these have one bullaun/basin but some are multiple. Of the 12 stones I located today, most are set in earthfast boulders with very little other working of the stone. However, 2 in particular are very font-like, with the stone having been split and sheared prior to the bullaun being set. Another one, the main stone of the "Seven Fonts", has 4 bullauns in total but with 3 set in a deep basin that has been carved out of an earthfast boulder.
The Glendasan river is the boundary between the townlands of Brockagh and Sevenchurches or Camaderry. On the bank opposite to Brockagh in Sevenchurches or Camaderry there are 4 different entries in the Archaeological Inventory of Co. Wicklow for sites with bullauns stones. These are T121970, T121967, T123969 and T122970. I only had time to visit two of these; T123969 said to have "4 granite bullauns, 2 in the Glendasan river, one beside the river and one outside the caretaker's house" and T122970, "4 granite boulders, 2 behind the sawmill on the west bank of the Glendasan river north of the main complex, one 19 metres upstream and one to the north-east on the other side of the river."
However, the first stone I located is the Deer stone.
Walk straight through the main monastic settlement and cross the wooden bridge over the Glenealo river and there it is. The first of the font-like stones, it's surrounded by a heap of 'megalithics' that may or may not pre-date the christian settlement in their arrangement.
I goofed about the round tower and churches for a bit and then headed for what I took to be the caretaker's house. There's said to be 4 stones in the hereabouts but I could only locate the one.
It's beside the right-hand pillar at the end of the car-park and is hugely ignored, with rubbish littering its vicinity. The stone itself has been broken, probably dug up and brought here to be willfully neglected.
On a late November day there were few of the tourists around that normally throng this place. I reckoned that I could explore in the field behind the gate without being bothered too much. Still I didn't locate the reported other 3 stones.
Heading north-west from the caretaker's house, I decided to try and locate the stones behind the sawmill. You can see this about 80 metres up along the west bank of the Glendasan and as I was already in the field I went for it. Careful back here! The banks of the river are very steep and slippery. I was fairly nervous here but then I spied the huge stone in the river with the single bullaun Quite mad really, but I descended to have a better look and get a better shot. The late-November-swollen river, and the fact that I was in someone's back garden, stopped me going any further.
The most fruitful, and the area with the highest concentration, is Brockagh T123970.
100 metres or so back from the Wicklow Gap road/Glendalough/Laragh road the Wicklow Way comes down to the road from Brockagh mountain. There's a clear signpost for it there and directly opposite on the other side of the road there's a farmgate. Over this about 20 metres into the field and to your left is the first of the bullauns. Said to have '9 granite boulders with 13 basins', I located 8. The first of these is very font-like, with one bullaun carved/worked into the flat surface of a split rock. 10 metres to the west of this is a boulder with 2 bullauns, one of which seems to be in poor and very worn condition. Roughly 10 metres south of this is another double bullaun, again with one perfect specimen and its worn twin. Walk roughly 20 metres south-west of here and you're confronted with the "Seven Fonts". This is a concentration of 4 boulders, 3 with a single bullaun and one with the aforementioned rectangular basin with 3 bullauns inside it and one outside. 25 metres north-west of here is a huge earthfast boulder with a single bullaun. Which gives you 8 stones and 13 bullauns!
Cloghleagh megalithic cemetery and the vandals of Kilbride
What a strange afternoon! Scorching sun and puzzlement below Seefin. On my last trip out I'd found some interesting stuff on Seefin (aka Scurlocksleap) and wanted to return there at the earliest opportunity. What with the heat, however, I thought I'd opt for something gentler and Cloghleagh is marked on the map as beside the road. The cairn is just beyond a very modern farm gate at the top of a large clearance in the forest.
This cairn is just a pile of rubble about a metre and a half to 2 metres high. It has obviously been disturbed and the stones just thrown back up to form an irregular pile. It could be that the smaller stones of the cairn were thrown back on first, for what can now be seen are the large, structural stones. There are some quartz boulders amongst these and they are mainly on the south-west side.
When I mentioned this place the last time, Fourwinds had said that there are 3 cairns here, so off I set. This was a trudge around this largely overgrown field. In the end I believe I discovered the other 2 cairns, but I also came across 3 other cairn-like mounds. There really isn't much to see with lots of gorse and I couldn't make out any sort of tell-tale kerbing on any of the mounds. I kept glancing up the ridge at Seefin and regretting not making the extra effort.
There's tons of large stones scattered about this site that is a clearance running roughly NE to SW through a pine plantation. I can only guess that it wasn't planted because of the cairns, but there has been large-scale disturbance of most of the stones in the field. The feeling I got as I struggled around the place was that I was in a megalithic cemetery, literally and figuratively.
Disappointed, I headed for Knockatillane and the cairn marked at O038179 on sheet 56. The map shows it at the end of an avenue of trees and they're there, but where's the cairn? I didn't spend too long looking as I was on private land without permission. I passed what may be some standing stones but it's hard to tell. Though I was in a hurry I was still pretty determined and I climbed a few fences to double-check.
There was one field that had massive stones as its boundary wall. I believe this field was where the cairn may have been and that it ended up as part of the wall. In fact the stones look as if they could have been part of something greater than a simple cairn.
Overall, a let-down of a day. Should you happen this way you could avoid these two places without missing much and besides, there's plenty of excellent site close by.
A demented dash for Seefingan
Had a crap day in work so needed some megalithic healing. Got home and got the dog and decided to go to Annacarney sweat lodge. I know some guys that organise sweat lodges and though I've never given it a go I've always been curious. Headed up the Ballinascorney direction and on an impulse diverted over to Seefin. I'd said that I was going to return here and I wanted to check Seefingan. Twas getting late but I headed up.
Seefin Hill is a challenge for one so unfit as me. The views are breathtaking once you get above the treeline about half way up. This is where the rocks start to get really interesting too. I really don't know about some of this stuff I see. There are a few places on the way up that look to have been manipulated by humans, modern or ancient. There's a particular spot that has many stones that seem to have been worked and though it could be just a rubble fall I'll post a few of the shots later. I didn't really check the place out until the way down as I was in such a hurry to get up.
Seefin Hill portal tomb was quiet and as beautiful as ever but I didn't stick around.
I headed for Seefingan.
You could approach Seefingan from an alternative route to Seefin, but why would you want to? Seefin Hill ought to be your first stop if you're heading this way. From Seefin Hill passage tomb the distance across to the cairn on Seefingan looks deceptively short. Don't be fooled: it's quite a hike. And whereas the ascent to Seefin is relatively dry, the dip and the ascent across to Seefingan was boggy the day I was there on the last day of May 2006.
My anticipation at what I was going to encounter on Seefingan was heightened as I approached and saw the cairn up close for the first time. It's slightly larger that the tomb on Seefin and I thought that there must be a passage and a chamber, but sadly no, there isn't. It's still impressive, with amazing views across the city towards Howth. So what was it's purpose? (Pure speculation warning) Sitting there atop the hill it seemed to mirror Howth peninsula way in the distance, as if its builders were paying homage. Others have noticed the significance of Howth before and in my travels around some of the other sites near here I have tended to agree.
I had a very short time up here as light was fading fast and I didn't want to be caught heading down the mountain in the dark. There is an indentation on the east side of the cairn that looks like it could have been a passage entrance, though I guess this is just wishful thinking. There are quite a few quartz boulders peppered about the cairn surface and below. The modern pillar stone atop the cairn was quite strange and could signify the limit of the army rifle range that is in the valley below. (On the day I went up I could hear firing, so be warned). Overall, a bit of a disappointment, especially after Seefin, but worth the extra slog nonetheless.
There are 3 hills around here with megalithic significance. I met some hill-walkers and they were on a tour of the 3: Seahan (648 metres), Seefingan (724 m) and Seefin (621m). If you had an afternoon and were feeling energetic, this could be an ideal way to work off some pounds. (If you start at Seahan you would need to take in Corrig mountain (618 m) on your way across to Seefingan.)
Leaving Seefingan as the sun was going down, the downhill march back across to Seefin was a relief after all the climbing. I spent about 20 minutes in and around the tomb. The easy and free access to the tomb is great. I haven't brought a torch with me the two times I've been up here but the revelations of the camera flash are always a surprise. Some of the colours of the stones in the passage are breathtakingly gorgeous. The rubble that covers the floor of the chamber is a shame (well, it's the roof collapse itself and maybe not that shameful after all). Standing above the hole in the roof I've been tempted to start my own little excavation to clear it out. Ought this place be renovated? Would that popularise it and destroy the precious ambience? So many questions.
The sun was really heading down now and I tried to get some good shots on the humble 2.1 ixus. There was a thin line of cloud a few degrees above the horizon line as she dropped inexorably down and this seemed to split the light pouring onto Seefin. The beauty of the stones with the low sunlight on them is something that I'd like to see again and again.
I'm curious about all the stones that surround the cairn as it looks like there may have been a circle here once like the one at Newgrange. In fact there are a pair of stones on the direct opposite side to the tomb entrance that seem to mirror the entrance stones themselves. Hmmmmm. All that remained after all this energy and thought was to head back down and try and check out what I had seen on the way up. About 150 metres to 200 metres below the tomb on the path that is beside the firing range is a large collection of stones that have many markings and appearances of having been placed there.
There's one in particular that has that thin layer of quartz down its side so beloved of the tomb builders. Maybe there's more megalithic goings on on Seefin than just the awesome portal tomb.
Mount Venus and Brehon's Chair
A five minute drive from my house brought me to another of my 'local' tombs. I'm continually blown away by what lurks in them there hills.
The name Mount Venus Road always brought much juvenile mirth to me and my friends when we woz kids. It has a quite well-known modern cemetery, but from now on I'll know it for the far more interesting and immense portal tomb that lies ruined and hidden behind the hedges and brambles. The 2nd biggest/heaviest capstone in Ireland after Browne's Hill, they say. And they also say that Browne's Hill is the biggest in Europe. So what does that make this? (Something I've noticed is a certain competitive streak that runs through a lot of megaltihic discourse. I've even checked where I am in TMA's list of contributors.)
This was not as easy to get to as I first imagined. We had to 'trespass' onto the DSPCA's ground, climb a barbed-wire fence and struggled through brambles and nettles, but was it worth it!! The capstone is held at a 45 degree angle by the one remaining upright. It seems that this is collapsing under the huge weight and will eventually fall. What a pity. Investigating around the tomb was difficult with all the growth but we came across a 2 metre stone laid flat that may have been one of the supporting stones. As is the case with some of the places I see in the foothills of the Dublin mountains, this site could be in danger of being privately developed. Housing is creeping ever so slowly, but surely, up here (I live at the foot of Montpelier myself) and it seems with a lot of this that as long as there's money to be made, no-one gives a shit.
Unknowingly, I picked a perfect example of this for our second visit. Brehon's Chair portal tomb is on a private, gated housing estate under the M50 bridge behind Marlay Park. We waited for someone to leave (in her 4x4 beemer, natch) and headed in. What remains of the tomb only provoked in me the one question – where's the rest of it? I couldn't really get in to this place. The 3 remaining stones are lovely but some shithead had used the little chamber-like area to dump his builders crap. I sniffed around the estate and saw some lovely stones used as supports for the raised front gardens of the houses. Overall I felt down here. Modern Ireland, with the odious M50, butted up against ancient Ireland a little too uncomfortably for me. I'm off up Seefin at the earliest opportunity. They won't get me there!!!!!
Glencullen, Onagh and Kiltiernan
My first Saturday off in a month so what better to do than a round of par 3 followed by a visit to some new sites? Handy that the par 3 course (I'm a bit freaked to say golf as I reckon that's a four-letter-word around here) has the quartz standing stone that I visited with Roisin last week. Besdies, the views of the Sugarloaf and the Dargle Valley are stunning from here, especially from the 8th tee (jeez, enough with the golf already).
So on to Onagh portal tomb. It looks like the runied cottage may not be there for too much longer. There's a drive of hardcore just been laid on the entrance to the field that contains the tomb and there's a lot of building work going on in the vicinity (so what's new? This is Ireland after all). The tomb itself is quite overgrown now in late May. The slipped capstone has that lovely weathered sheen, contrasting with the roughness of the worked underside. I couldn't really make too much out of the other stones, save for the reddish backstone of the chamber. The Sugarloaf is a dominating presence here, though the views across the Glencree valley to Maulin and Tonduff North and South are to die for. Hopefully I'm wrong about the building work, though I suspect I'm not.
After a quick detour to show my mate the Glencree River (he's big into fishing) we headed for Kiltiernan portal tomb. We parked at the end of the farm track and headed up to the dolmen. There is now an electric fence around the field with the dolmen and this was off-putting at first, so much so that we passed on 30 metres more than we needed to. This was maybe a fortuitous mistake as we discovered a pile of rocks, more of which later. Backtracking, and rolling under the said fence the dolmen appeared slowly out of the gorse.
What a spot! I love the proud snout of the capstone. This is a statement of vigour if ever there was one. Once again, as with its sister Glendruid, how the hell did they get that up there? The gorse around the tomb is annoying, if only because it impedes the taking of some good photos. I had to climb this beast's back.
As is often the case there were many stones scattered about the place. I had an urge to go back to the pile of stones that I had seen earlier. They looked like they had been dumped there in a field clearance but their shapes said megalithic. There were some strange markings on one of them and this drew me up to investigate, almost breaking my neck on a shaky bugger. On closer inspection the shapes appeared natural and then, once again, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a lozenge type marking. It was 'carved' on two faces of the stone and had a definite centre. The indentations were old but the doubter in me said "you'reonly seeing it coz you want to see it." Ill post them anyway and see if anybody has any thoughts.
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Taxi-driving, graphic artist with a penchant for high hills and low boulders. Currently residing in Tallaght where I can escape to the wildernesses of Wicklow within 10 minutes.