Fourknocks Megalithic Tomb

Amongst the various megaliths we’d plan to see on our trip in 2016, Fourknocks was probably one of the most remote.  Since its tucked away in the Boyne Valley region like Loughcrew, it made sense to see both at the same time.  However, with GPS difficulties rearing its ugly head again, our plans were quickly dashed and we gave up, ready to reach our bed and breakfast in Kells.

fourknocks-aerial

Aerial view of Fourknocks.  Image Credit:  Knowth.com

Dating back around 5,000 years, Fourknocks (from Fuair Cnocs, or “”Cold Hills”) is another example of a cruciform passage tomb with its short entry passage, big central chamber, and three smaller side chambers.  At 42 square meters (around 452 square feet), its central chamber is more than double the one found at Newgrange, and it’s probably for this reason the original tomb lacked the roof seen today.  Its believed that, if anything, Fourknocks had a wooden roof supported by a central pole.

The National Museum excavated the site from 1950-1952 and found numerous human remains of all ages and sexes.  Grave offerings were also found, and are now in the side chambers, and are now on display at the National Museum.  After the excavation was complete, the dig team created the current roof from concrete.  Some holes were left to allow sunlight to filter through, illuminating the different carved designs.

fourknocks20face

Carving believed to be the first depiction of a human face in prehistoric Irish art.  Image credit:  Megalithic Ireland.

Fourknocks is only 10 miles southeast of Newgrange, and the two sites are actually in alignment with each other. But unlike Newgrange, Fourknocks is not illuminated during the winter solstice; though in line with the sun’s path, it’s too far north for any light to enter its chamber.   The site did once align with an astrological feature however.  Astronomers know that, when Fourknocks was built, Cassiopeia’s “W” shape would have been in perfect alignment with the four mounds.  It’s been suggested this is why a “W” motif commonly appears in the site’s carved stones, and that perhaps the roofless design was intentional for stargazing.

fourknocks2002s

Lintel stone with “W” motif.  Image Credit:  Megalithic Ireland.

Directions to the site can be very complicated, especially since signs telling you where you are aren’t very common.  But if you can find it, Fourknocks is said to be a wonderful, secluded site.  The mound is on private property, so visitors need to stop by Mr. Fintan White’s house roughly 800 meters away from the tomb to get a key.  He asks for a 20 euro deposit, to ensure you’ll bring the key back before 6pm, and his phone number is easily found across various websites.  Perhaps I’d written the number down while preparing for our trip, but I was unable to reach him.  If you do try calling him, I wish you better luck!  The number is 353 (0) 1 8354722.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Front view of the main mound.  Image Credit:  Knowth.com

I definitely still would love to see Fourknocks someday, though I’m a bit wary of trying to find it on my own after our experience.  Since coming back to the States, I have found private tours of the site, including other Boyne highlights, exist.  But the price is steep – €380 after a direct booking discount, for 1-3 people through Boyne Valley Tours.  Mythical Ireland offers tours as well, though they do not quote a price on their website.

Still, it might be worth considering, depending on what other sites could be combined with Fourknocks for this personalized tour.  Avoiding the nerve-wracking hunt for the site would definitely be a nice refresher!


Have you been to Fourknocks?  If so, what do you think, and do you have any tips for someone like myself who had difficulty finding the site?


Additional Links & Resources:

Boyne Valley Tours: Fourknocks

Directions to Fourknocks

Knowth.com – Fourknocks

Meath Tourism

Megalithic Ireland

Mythical Ireland

Advertisements

Sligo – Reflections

After multiple posts about my plans in and around Sligo, I feel it’s only fitting to dedicate a post to reflect on that part of our trip.

We arrived in Sligo around lunch time after a lengthy drive from our B&B in Galway.  Once again, our GPS favored a meandering route once we left the motorway, but I didn’t mind this time, heart and mind too caught up in soaking up every detail as we hugged Knocknarea’s base.  The rest of Sligo town sprawled below us, Benbulben looming in the distance.  We’d made it to Yeats Country at last.

IMG_1383

Looking out the car window at Sligo town and Belbulben in the distance.

Before setting off to see all that the town had to offer, we made our way to Strandhill per the suggestion of a local we’d met during our tour of the Gap of Dunloe a few days earlier.  She’d assured us the promenade was the best in town and the perfect place for a Yeats lover to begin their journey.

IMG_1395

We stopped in at The Strand Bar for some Guinness Irish Stew and were simply blown away by both the flavor and the portion size – one order would have been enough for both of us!  The meat was cooked exactly the way it should be, tender while still retaining texture, and the vegetables were too rich to want to waste a single bite.  I can certainly see why the bar boasts their stew’s famous – I know if I’m ever in Sligo again, I’ll definitely seek it out a second time.

Afterwards we walked the short distance to the promenade and ventured down to the beach along the Wild Atlantic Way.

IMG_1397

We couldn’t walk on the beach itself easily as there was little sand, only large water-rounded stones, but we did pick our way down worn paths through the grassy hills for a time.  Knocknarea dominated our view on the right, even more impressive from a distance.

IMG_1405
From Strandhill we headed back inland to see Carrowmore, the large megalithic complex I had imagined would be one of the trip’s highlights.  However, I must admit, I was a bit disappointed, especially now with Loughcrew for comparison.

We arrived shortly before a tour group did and were invited to wait for them and tag along on their guided walkthrough.  Unaware that the group was rather large, we’d decided to take the guide up on the offer but quickly regretted our decision.  We’d become used to walking at our own pace and avoiding large crowds for the most part (a definite advantage when taking photos), but with the group, we had little choice but to maintain the pace or risk missing what the guide had to say.

I’d still recommend visiting the site, especially if in the area, and do acknowledge I might have enjoyed seeing it more had we not gone with the tour group.  Even going on a cooler day might have helped – Ireland was in the midst of a heat wave, and I had been badly sunburned the previous day in the Gap of Dunloe.  But as it was, it had a very developed feel to it, especially inside Listoghil, where the rebuilt cairn’s stones were held in place by wire mesh.

IMG_1498

Listoghil at Carrowmore, with Queen Maeve’s Cairn on Knocknarea visible in the background.

After getting turned around once again, we decided to check in at our bed and breakfast before time got away from us.  Mary at St. Martin de Porres made us feel welcome the moment we stepped out of the car.  Originally we’d planned to merely drop in long enough to introduce ourselves and get our room keys, but Mary had tea and cookies ready and invited us to unwind a while.  It was a nice, surprising bit of calm in what sometimes felt like a constant race to do all we’d set out to accomplish, and something I’m quite thankful for.

From there, we followed the edge of Lough Gill to Slish Wood, experiencing some more GPS troubles along the way.  (A hint:  When the GPS says to drive through a barbwire fence into the lake to reach Slish Wood, don’t listen – it’s really the next left.)  But the trouble along the way was worth it, merely for the quiet beauty that awaited us.

Walking through Slish Wood reminded me of walking through the woods back home in some ways, just without the risk of my mom catching poison ivy.  But at the same time, the forest’s age is clearly evident.  Thick moss blankets most of the older trees, and barely any sunlight reached the trail.  What did filtered in through the trees nearest the lake, not through the canopy above.

IMG_1534

One thing puts me ill at ease about Slish Wood’s future, and feel even stronger about encouraging anyone who wishes to see it to go when they can -we found wild rhododendron bushes growing near the trail’s mouth.

It might sound strange to worry about a seemingly harmless plant like the rhododendron, but in our travels we quickly learned they crowd out native plants.  No matter where we went, if there was a rhododendron, someone was complaining about them, simply due to their invasive nature.  Ireland unfortunately provides optimal growing conditions for the plants, and due to their prolific seed production, once you have one rhododendron, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll have nothing but rhododendrons.

Slish Wood in particular, with its acidic soil due to its ancient oaks, is the perfect environment for rhododendrons to thrive.  Hopefully the plants at the trailhead won’t spread, but if they do, I believe it unlikely the woods will ever look the same again.

IMG_1528

With the evening quickly slipping away, we left Slish Wood behind and sought out Rosses Point.  As the woman we’d met in the Gap had said, the Point wasn’t as interesting to explore as Strandhill, but we found another wonderful restaurant to eat at for dinner.

Harry’s Bar and Gastro Pub looks right out on the bay and serves local seafood, as would be expected.  But it also handles other dishes well, as my mom learned when she tried their ribs.  Still very stuffed from lunch, I opted for an appetizer only and tried their seafood chowder.  The portion size was on the large side, filling me quite easily, all while giving a peak at what creatures lived in Sligo’s waters.

IMG_1647

Looking out from Rosses Point

The next morning, we made one final Yeats stop before starting our journey to the North. Skirting the other side of the peninsula, we headed to the Sligo-Letrim border, where the Glencar Waterfall straddles the two counties.  It was just as beautiful as I’d imagined it would be, the waterfall’s spray keeping the air cool and the ferns moist even with the ongoing heatwave.

IMG_1727

Our short walk there and back certainly became the highlight of our day, as we’d soon become so hopelessly lost we’d give up on seeing any other sights, ready to simply eat and fall into bed.


For more information about Carrowmore and following Yeats’ Stolen Child, please see my previous blog posts and their additional links here and here.  Also, many more pictures from my Sligo adventures are available on my dA account here.

Carrowmore – Megalithic Cemetary of the West

Carrowmore, located just outside of Sligo, is Ireland’s largest megalithic cemetery. Some controversy surrounds how old the tombs at the site truly are, with dates ranging between 5,400 BC and 3,500 BC, but it’s widely believed Carrowmore predates Newgrange by at least 700 years.

carrowmore-bing

Arial view of the complex.  Image Credit:  Bing Maps, via Carrowkeel.

Each of the many dolmens, passage tombs, and stone circles are identified by number rather than by name, just as they have been since 1837.  However, some of the tombs are “missing” – of the 60 originally described, only 30 have survived years of stone quarrying and general disruption.  These remaining tombs are almost all partial examples, but generally would have displayed short passages with small inner chambers.

Even though these megaliths are referred to as tombs, almost none contain interred bodies. Instead, archeologists have found signs of cremated remains along with small material possessions commonly found in other Irish tombs.

800px-carrowmore_tomb2c_ireland

Tomb 7.  Image Credit:  Wikipedia.

Tomb 51 is the largest and most complete, sitting at the complex’s highest point. Known as Listoghil, it’s the only tomb still covered by a cairn and measures slightly over 111 feet (33 m) in diameter. Some restoration has been performed, including the addition of a public viewing platform of the cairn’s inner chamber. From Listoghil, it’s also possible to see Queen Maeve’s cairn on nearby Knocknarea.

listoghil-panorama

Listoghil.  Image Credit:  Carrowkeel.

The site is open to the public March 24th thru October 20th from 10:00 am to 6:oo pm.  Without a Heritage Card, admission to Carrowmore is 4 euro per adult, 3 euro for seniors and 2 euro for children.  Guided tours are available upon request.


Additional Links & Resources:

Carrowmore Facebook Page

The Golden Book: Ireland, page 96

Heritage Ireland: Carrowmore

Ireland Legends & Folklore, pages 198-201

Megalithic Ireland