There are a number of megaliths in the landscape surrounding the massif of the Dartry Mountains. Many of these sites are court cairns, the social and religious buildings of the neolithic cattle herders - Ireland's first farmers. There are many courts around the margins of Carbury which must have been good grazing land in the neolithic. A chain of nine sites runs down along the northern faces of the mountain, from Shesken at the mouth of the Glenade valley to the sites around Grange. This corridor, which passes the mouth of the Gleniff Horseshoe, is still a migration route for swans and geese.
I wonder sometimes if megalithic architecture is inspired by features in the landscape. The courts may be models of the Gleniff valley, a huge glacial hollow in the north side of Dartry mountain. There is a cave, Diarmuid and Grainne's, high up in the cliffs of Annacuna at the back of the valley. At the back of court cairns you find a chamber or artificial cave - a replica of Diarmuid and Grainne's cave?
Locals call these megaliths giants graves or Trillicks, indicating a three legged structure. The Ballintrillick 'Trillick' was a megalithic structure removed during quarrying operations around 1950. Another collapsed Trillick survives in boggy ground across the road from the national school. I don't know of any monuments recorded in the Gleniff valley itself, I have a feeling that the place was held sacred all throughout the mesolithic and neolithic. The area is remembered in mythology as one of Fionn MacCumhal's favourite places to hunt.
There are many megalithic structures, mainly court cairns and wedges,
scattered around the base of the Dartry Mountains. A ruined court cairn
is located east of here behind the cottages towards Benbulben.
Dartry Mountain daytrip
On Sunday, 2 July 2000 Brendan Rooney led a group
of archaeology students, a geologist, and a few interested people up to
visit sites on Dartry Mountain, a massive limestone range which includes
Benbulben and Truskmor. We saw several archaeological sites, including
the remains of several types of dwelling and enclosure, as well as a few
Our first stop of the day was the cashel - a stone fort perched on cliff-edged terrace
on the south side of the mountain. The remains of three rings can be seen.
The stones from this monument were probably removed to build farm buildings
nearby. The fort seemed to be placed in a strategic position, looking out
over the east end of the Glencar Valley.
We stopped for a quick lunch break by this small mound, which may
be some kind of tiny barrow. There appears to be a small cist at the centre. After
looking at some large enclosure remains, and more dwelling sites, we arrive
at this monument. It seems to be a wedge monument - but Brendan pointed out that O'Nuallain
refused to classify it when he visited during the megalithic survey. The
slabs are very weathered, and it may have collapsed naturally over time.
Next, after seeing a few more modern enclosures, we visit this monument, which
could be called a Long Cairn. It looks like an Irish stone version of
an English long barrow. It is much longer and narrower than an Irish court
cairn. I am facing south, and the mountain ridge at the centre is called
the Giant's Toe, a peak on Keelogyboy Mountain, which is about due south.
The notches on the horizon were interesting, and though I didn't have
my compass with me, I thought the axis of the long cairn may be pointing
to an extreme setting position of the moon. At this end of the site is
a round low cairn with a stone box made of slabs. This is probably an
early monument with the long tail appended to the original structure.
The top of Dartry Mountain is cracked and fissured limestone
covered in a thick mantle of bog. There are fault lines running through
the limestone, which results in these collapses and sinkholes. Often,
they provide enought shelter from the wind for plants and small trees
to grow. The next example we saw, just by this one, had a sheep trapped
in the bottom.
We head up to the north, crossing this drumlin on the side of the mountain.
This is where the bog meets farmland - about 200 meters above sea level.
There seem to be many remains of both ancient and modern farming beneath
the peat. The group here are walking between two walls, tumbled and barely
showing in the bog, which are some 10 meters apart. The
mountains visible to the south are Benbo, Leean Mountain, Hangman's Hill, Keelogyboy