A watercolour of Dowth by Gabriel Beranger dating from 1775. The mound was the tallest of the three big cairns, and Lord Netterville's cabin can be seen sitting on the summit. Today the site has a gaping crater where is was extensively quarried.
The Boyne Valley
Sites A and B
Sites K and L
The stone circle
Art - The Entrance Stone
The Newgrange henge
The Newgrange Cursus
Article by Tom Ray
The Great Mound at Knowth
The East Passage
The West Passage
Satellites 3 - 5
Satellites 6 - 8
Satellites 9 - 12
Satellites 13 - 15
Satellites 16 - 18
The chambers at Dowth
Art at Dowth
William Wakeman, 1848
Dowth is thought to be the oldest of the three great cairns in the Boyne Valley. The massive cairn is the tallest of the three monuments at around 15 meters; the top of the mound is 87m above sea level, the highest point in the valley and commands fine views, especially down to Newgrange 2 km to the east. Dowth sits on the west end of a long glacial ridge. The mound has suffered a lot of damage over the years from the various quarrying operations and rude excavations, one of which left the massive crater in the top of the mound. Like the other two huge cairns in the Boyne Valley, it dates to about 3,500 - 3,200 BC.
The cairn is of similar dimensions to Newgrange being about 85m in diameter and 15m high. It is bounded by a kerb of up to 100 stones, at least 15 of which are engraved. The site is dishevelled and neglected - the mound was extensively quarried in the past and there is great crater at the centre, the result of an excavation in the 1840's. The illustration by Gabriel Beranger from 1775 shows the cairn with nearly twice the volume of stones present today, with Lord Netterville's summer house perched at the summit. Now the kerb is covered by cairn-slip in many places, and the entrance to the north chamber is buried in the ajoining field to the west.
Fantastic virtual tour of the souterrains and neolithic passages of Dowth.
There are two chambers within the huge mound, both on the south-east side. The entrance to the northern chamber was damaged by a medieval souterrain and destroyed completely during a later renovation. Entry is through the souterrain or down a shaft that was added during Daene's restoration. The passage leads, via three sillstones, into a cruciform chamber, with the reassembled pieces of a large broken stone basin in the middle. There is a strange annex off the right hand recess that may be the remains of an earlier phase of the monument.
A photo of the mound of Dowth from the 1960's. Taken from Newgrange, the book by Michael O'Kelly.
The south passage is open and intact, and leads into a round chamber which was capped by a corbelled beehive roof, long since collapsed and replaced by a concrete slab. There is one large recess to the right, a strance space formed by three hugh slabs laid on end. This recess has a corbelled ceiling and some unusual engravings on the now perpetually damp west stone.
The site has not been scientifically excavated in modern times, thhe only known 'excavation' is the 1847 dig; from Michael O'Kelly:
The excavations of 1847-8
plan of Dowth from 1969 survey by Claire and Michael O'Kelly. The mound
ia about 85 meters in diameter and 15 meters high.
The examination of the passage or passages known to exist was not the primary object of the excavation. The committee believed that Dowth must contain a chamber similar to that of Newgrange and that the centre of the mound was the place to look for it since they erroneously believed that the Newgrange tomb was in the centre of itsmound. Wilde tells that 'Several excursions were made to the spot, for the purpose of deciding the best means for gaining access to the interior, as, from the analogy of New Grange, it was supposed to contain a central chamber'. It was debated whether to sink a vertical shaft from the top by means of a well-borer, or whether to tunnel horizontally from one of the sides. In the event, Frith decided to make a horizontal cutting from the west side of the mound towards the centre.'
There are several more monuments nearby: two small ruined chambered mounds, Sites I and J lie to the east, just behind Dowth Hall. In the field beyond Dowth Hall is a massive neolithic enclosure, one of the largest in Ireland. Beyond that again, near the turn in the road, another chambered mound was destroyed at Cloghlea. To the south west of Dowth are three mounds in a line, two circular and one long mound in between. The long mound which may be related in form and structure to Cairn E at Carrowkeel.
Immediately beside Dowth to the east
is Dowth Church and Castle which are on the grounds of Netterville Manor,
which was once a part of Dowth Hall slightly further to the east. The
Manor and tower house have been restored privately, and may be open to
the public at some stage.
Kerbstones on the south side of the great mound at Dowth. 15 of the kerbstones have art on them, while others are still buried, especially around the north side of the mound.