Loughcrew

Loughcrew

Loughcrew in County Meath is a hidden gem in archaeological Ireland.

The whole area is rich in ancient sites. Here you will find a large number of chambered cairns built across four hilltops in the Neolithic era, around 5,000 years ago or more. A visit to cairn T, one of the largest and best preserved of the chambered cairns, is a walk on the wild side. It involves a ten-minute walk up a grassy hill in the countryside, in Irish weather. Once you get to the top amazing views greet you and in the centre of it all stands an ancient cairn containing beautiful examples of Neolithic art. Well worth the climb!

Spring and Autumnal Equinoxes

Cairn T
Cairn T

The tomb, labelled “Cairn T” by archaeologists, faces east, so that the rising sun at the Spring and Autumnal Equinoxes shines through the passage to illuminate sun symbols on a stone at the back of the chamber. The sun light is shaped by the stones of the entrance and passage, so that the beam of light moves diagonally across the chamber stone as the sun rises, illuminating each of a series of sun symbols in turn. There are 27 decorated stones inside the cairn. Crowds now gather on these mornings to witness the event.

The Hag’s Chair

The Hag’s Chair
The Hag’s Chair

The peak on which cairn T lies is known as ‘Sliabh na Caillí’ or the ‘Hill of the Hag’. The Hag is another word for crone or wise goddess. The Great Goddess was considered threefold: maiden, mother and crone/wise woman. (Ireland/Eire is named after the great goddess Ériu – Ériu’s land). On the north side of the cairn sits a massive stone in the shape of a throne or ceremonial seat. It is called ‘the Hag’s Chair’.

The drawing by E. Conwell shows the beautiful ancient symbols carved into the stone.
The drawing by E. Conwell shows the beautiful ancient symbols carved into the stone.

Loughcrew lies west of the town of Kells and south of Oldcastle in west Co. Meath. Visitors are welcome to walk up Carnbane East to Cairn T, a ten minute walk up a from a small car park. During the summer months there is a guide at Cairn T, at other times Cairn T is locked, so you will need to collect the key at the nearby Loughcrew Gardens.