Here is a brief introduction to the Cairns. For more information we offer guided tours and provide guide books at our centre at the base of the hills. Hope you call in and visit when you're in the area.
Start Point: Loughcrew Megalithic Centre / Car Park
Hill Opening Times: All Day
Cairn T Opening Times:
Summer (May-Aug) - OPW Guides will be there between 10am and 5pm
Off Season (Sept-Apr) - Daily tours from our centre with access to the cairn or you can get the key from Loughcrew Gardens between 10am-4pm
Also Know As:
- Loughcrew Passage Tombs
- Megalithic Cementary
- Sliabh na Callaighe (Mountain of the Witch)
What is a cairn, who built them and when?
- A cairn is a man-made structure of stones.
- Built by the first large scale agriculturalists from the Neolithic Period (4000BC to 2500BC)
- Building of passage tombs are centered around 3200BC-2900BC
- Loughcrew is estimated to be 5,200 years old.
The Loughcrew Cairns were indeed
- a burial ground, but also:
- ritual monuments
- places where gatherings took place
- a place where people celebrated their Ancestors, Gods, and Nature.
- 32 recorded cairns spread over the four rolling hills of
- Carnbane West, Carrickbrack, Carnbane East and Patrickstown.
- The highest point is Cairn T which at 276m above sea level
- Each of these cairns have features and alignments unique to themselves.
- In 1863, Eugene Conwell discovered the cairns while on a picnic
- His identification system using the letters of the alphabet is still in use today
- From Cairn A1 on Carnbane West to Cairn Y on Patrickstown.
- Most famous is Cairn T
The Spring and Autumn Equinox
- Rediscovered by Martin Brennan in 1980,
- The alignment of Cairn T with the first rays of the sun is a spectacular feat of design.
- The rays of the morning sun enter the passageway at dawn and illuminate the decorated back stone.
- This alignment marks the halfway point between the winter and summer solstice.
- A modern-day Equinox festival celebrates this event around March 21st and September 23rd.
- Circular carvings are to be found in many of the cairns.
- The Hag's Chair (pictured) was protected by fallen cairn material.
- The inside of Cairn T has a world of carvings and art, including
- Bursting sunlight motifs at the back stone of Cairn T.
Things to Look Out For
- Carnbane (alternative name for the hills) is the anglicised version of Carn Bán which means white cairn.
- These cairns were once covered with white quartz
- A remaining piece of white quartz stone can be seen in the ground outside the gate of Cairn T.
- The Hag's chair, which is a stone throne on the north-side of Cairn T, is an enchanting feature and one where people like to sit and make a wish.
Visible on a clear day:
- the Cooley mountains,
- Mourne mountains and
- Slieve Gullion to the north east,
- the Dublin and Wicklow mountains to the south east,
- Slieve Bloom mountains (Laois and Offaly) to the south, and
- mountains in Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo to the west.
The Legend of the Witch
Sliabh na Callaighe is the Irish name for the hills and it translates to “Mountain of the Witch”. The story goes that to rule over all of Ireland the Hag (or witch) had to complete a feat of enormous strength. She had to leap from hill to hill with stones in her apron. As she jumped from peak to peak she dropped a handful of stones. These stones became the cairns. On her final jump, to make her mistress over all of Ireland, she broke her neck and was buried under the stones on the side of the hill.
To really get to know the area and other local stories you can spend a few relaxing days in this tranquil corner of the Boyne Valley.