The Bottom Line
Loughcrew - anyone interested in megalithic culture and art should make a beeline here - situated on a group of hills near the town of Oldcastle you will find the second largest (after Carrowmore in County Sligo) megalithic cemetery in Ireland. Several passage tombs have been grouped together in this unique location. The rock carvings on display easily rival those you will see in Newgrange or Knowth. And solar alignments are to be found as well.
- Second largest megalithic cemetery in Ireland.
- Rock art rivals that at Newgrange and Knowth.
- Fantastic views underline "specialness" of location.
- A steep hike.
- Thirty-two burial mounds erected around 3000 BC, first described scientifically in the 1850s by local teacher Eugene Conwell.
- Smaller passage tombs cluster around huge mounds on hilltops; some tombs have solar alignments.
- Tumuli are to be found on the hilltops of Carnbane East, Carnbane West and Patrickstown.
Guide Review - Loughcrew Megalithic Cemetery (County Meath)
Before you can enjoy Loughcrew or Sliabh na Cailligh ("The Hill of the Witch"), you will be tested - an at times steep path has to be trodden from the car park, but you may disguise your stops to get your breath back as "enjoying the view". The view is certainly spectacular, the location of the hills between the fairly flat plain of Meath and the drumlin-and-lakes countryside of Cavan must have reminded megalithic man of a gateway. Is it any wonder that gateways to the other world, namely passage tombs, were built here? Ease of access to the building site can definitely not have been a reason ... as you will have found out once you reach the tombs.
If you planned on entering the tombs you will hopefully have studied the sign at the car park and followed the instructions on how to obtain a key. If you have not there is no reason for panic, some tumuli have disappeared, leaving the chamber and passage open and perfectly viewable. You will see several boulders bearing intricate designs carved into the rock. These might be the remnants of an ancient sun-worshipping cult (the most likely explanation considering the alignment of some tombs according to the sun cycle), psychedelic fantasies (a fringe explanation), maps or the doodles of a very frustrated stone-age builder - we don't know. Take them in and make up your own mind.
Do not forget to take in the view as well - to the South is Meath, a flat country stretching to the sea, famed for the royal seat of Tara and St. Patrick's paschal fire. Turn around and you glimpse Cavan, dominated by lakes and drumlins, rounded hillocks famed for being places of (human) sacrifice to dark pagan gods. A place between two worlds in any sense. The tall tower of Oldcastle's church can be seen to the north as well - stop here to see a piece of Loughcrew's most famous son, a bone of the martyred St. Oliver Plunkett.