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Loughcrew, possibly the oldest cemetery in the world, tells of
Ireland’s neolithic cultures, shrouded in myth and mystery.
One legend has it that the so-called burial mounds were created
by a witches flying overhead and dropping pebbles on the landscape.
Sounds hard to believe but who’s to say otherwise? The tombs
are located on three different hills. The largest of the three Cairn
T has a vernal and Autumunal Equinox which is when the chamber becomes
illuminated with sunlight.
Loughcrew Cairns form the largest complex of Passage Graves in
Ireland. The Cairns are megalithic structures containing symbolic
engravings. Like other passage graves in Ireland, they have clear
astrological alignments. There is evidence of many uses during the
millenia, but it is generally agreed that they were originally built
about 4000 bc as burial chambers. They were excavated by amateurs
at the beginning of the twentieth century, when many of the artifacts
were removed. A blessing in disguise, perhaps, as recent archaeological
scholars have concentrated on despoiling less explored sites, leaving
Loughcrew relatively undeveloped and unknown; the best kept secret
in archaeological Ireland.
In a landscape of inspiring beauty and intriguing history, Loughcrew
is rich in historical and archaeological, religious and natural
interest. One of ancient Ireland's major roads passes through Loughcrew,
crossing the great Road of the Chariots nearby. The lakes abound
with cranógs, and the drumlins are topped with innumerable
motte and bailey forts. The remarkable Loughcrew Gardens, partly
dating from the seventeenth century, and the Family Church of St
Oliver Plunkett are nearby (see Loughcrew Homepage).
The Loughcrew Cairns (prehistoric passage graves), some 5,000 years
old, are the oldest feature of this extraordinary area, and, set
on the highest hills in this part of Ireland, dominate the area
now as they have done for all time. They may be the oldest calendar
known, and may even be the world's oldest existing dwellings.
The Loughcrew Cairns have not been exposed, researched and developed
like nearby Newgrange. They thus remain relatively unspoilt and
unvisited, although the Office of Public Works keeps a Ranger on
site in summer months and has improved coach access.
The Cairns are in two groups; Carnbane West, about 15 cairns, including
Cairn L which is roofed and contains superb symbolic carvings in
good condition. This group is some 2 km 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 exposed cairns have suffered severely from acid rain erosion,
removing much of the relief of the engravings. Keys to both enclosed
cairns are available from the Ranger in the Car Park, who also stocks
books and leaflets on the sites.
For the layman, the main features of Loughcrew Cairns are the atmosphere,
the solitude and serenity, the extraordinary views (of seventeen
counties, reputedly). In the foreseeable future, the need to divert
visitors from the over-popular Newgrange to Loughcrew may deny us
the privilege of experiencing the extraordinary ancient site in
Loughcrew is rich in historical, archaeological, religious and
natural interest. One of ancient Ireland's major roads passes through
Loughcrew, crossing the great Road of the Chariots nearby. The lakes
abound with cranógs and the drumlins are topped with innumerable
motte and bailey forts. The Loughcrew Cairns (prehistoric passage
graves), some 5,000 years old, are perhaps the oldest calendar known,
and may even be the world's oldest existing dwellings.
The heartland of Loughcrew belonged to the Plunkett family. St.
Oliver Plunkett, Ireland's most recent saint, was born and reared
here. His heroic defence of the Faith as Archbishop of Armagh led
to his martyrdom and recent canonisation. His family church still
stands in Loughcrew and is the focus of devotion to St. Oliver.
The oldest part of the church building was formerly a Tower House,
the seat of the Plunketts until Sir William Petty installed his
brother-in-law, William Naper, in about 1655.
East of Oldcastle off the R163
Open (Entrance to the passage grave)
Mid June-Mid Sept Daily 10.00-18.00
Last admission to Cairn T 45 mins before closing
The key to the passage graves will be obtained by one of our drivers
for your visit to the Cairns.
Average length of visit
Visitors can visit the site anytine and take their timeto look
around, views etc.
Public car/ coach parking area, toilets. Please note that the approach
road is very narrow and extreme caution is needed.
Adult €1.60, Senior citizen/Group €1.10, Child/Student
€1.00, Family €4.50
049 854 2009
International : 00353 49 854 2009