The Labby Rock, a fine portal dolmen on the ridge of Moytura. The capstone is thought to weigh 70 tons.
The Labby Rock or Carrickglass dolmen sits tucked in a shallow valley on the north end of the ridge of Moytura. The Labby is an impressively massive portal dolmen: with a capstone weighing an estimated 70 tons, it is among the largest of such monuments in Ireland. The huge capstone measures about 5 x 3 x 1.5 meters, and was probably raised on site, as there are two other massive chunks of rock near the dolmen. The capstone is a hunk of local hoary Moytura limestone with chert and magnesium which gives it a strange, rugged texture. It rests on four supports which seem far too slight to support it's massive bulk. There is a well formed portal at the front of the monument.
An early photo of the Labby from about 1890. Compare with the picture below taken 120 years later.
It is said locally that bones were found in the chamber, probably by Louisa Tennison who also dug into Shee Lugh on the hill above. In the local version of the Battle of Moytura it is said that Nuada was slain on this spot by Balor of the Evil Eye, and the dolmen erected over his body. The Moytura myth has been mined by Hollywood and is the central theme of the first (now fourth) movie, A New Hope. The Labby Rock scene is where Obe Wan meets Darth Vader in the Death Star, and Obe Wan goes back into the force. George Lucas studied under Joseph Campbell, and his films achieved enormous popularity because they used a major ancient mythological archetype for their foundation.
All four types of megalithic monument are represented on the ridge of Moytura: there is the ruined chambered cairn, Shee Lugh, on the ridge above; a fine wedge monument is situated about 600 meters to the south, and the chamber or gallery of a large court cairn located on the south end of the plateau. There were some 14 megaliths on this side of Lough Arrow, but most are in a sad state of repair, and many are gone.
The portal at the Labby Rock. Portals are usually closed by a blocking stone as is the case here. This monument is oriented to the summit of the hill, about 600 meters away, where the mound of Shee Lugh is situated.
There is a fine bivalliate ringfort down the hill from the Labby. Lough Arrow has a well preserved range of medieval monuments including a ruined MacDonagh tower house and Ballindoon Abbey, on the lake shore, many crannogs and plenty of ringforts. Ballindoon translates as Town of the Forts and was the home of the MacDonagh chieftains. They probably had their inaugurations on top of Heapstown Cairn.
The massive portal dolmen on Moytura, is said to be the grave of Nuada of the Silver Arm.
The ridge of Moytura is one of the most important mythological sites in Ireland. The Second Battle of Moytura, the centre piece of Irish mythology is set here, and most of the monuments on the ridge are associated in some way with the Battle, such as the Eglone, a giant who was turned into a pillar of stone. The Labby is said in local folklore to be the grave of Nuada and Macha, where they were interred after being slain by Balor of the Evil Eye. This monument is located on the Historical Trail walking route, and is easily accessed by following the signs and path from nearby Cromleach Lodge - a hotel which takes it's name from the Labby.
William Wakeman's 1879 watercolour of the Labby Rock. There was no field wall at the time. People added to these drawings were often drawn smaller to make the site seem more monumental!
Unusually for a Sligo monument, there is no view from the Labby to Knocknarea Mountain and Queen Maeve's cairn, whch are now hidden by a forestry plantation, but also by a drumlin. The dolmen faces south-east to the direction of the winter solstice sunrise, the place of rebirth in ancient Irish cosmology. Newgrange for the best known example of a winter solstice monument.
Right, an unusual view of the Labby: landowner Turlough Moore covered the monument with tinfoil and took photos of the light reflections every day, until a group visiting the site ripped the covering down. Read the story here.
The entrance of the dolmen is oriented to the cairn of Shee Lugh which sits on the highest point of Moytura, though a group of trees from a nearby farm obstruct the view to the cairn. This seems to be a feature of Irish dolmens: that they are focused on a nearby hilltop where there may or may not have been a monument when the dolmen was constructed. This parallels the view from the Drumadone Dolmen near Boyle, which is oriented to the cairn of Shee Gorey in the Curlew Mountains nearby, and the Streamstown dolmen near Riverstown which is oriented to Cairn K on the top of Carrowkeel.
There is also no view from the Labby to Carrowkeel, which lies just west across Lough Arrow. The view is blocked by the local terrain. There are a two large ringforts in the fields nearby, which, though only a dozen metres higher offer amazing views of the surrounding landscape.
People are needed in the picture to show the true scale of the monument.