Banner: Knocknarea at Sunset.
Ardnaglass megalithic structure.
A ruined chambered megalithic megalithic monument located in a beautiful settingin Ardnaglass on the north side of Benbulben, the most famous head on Dartry Mountain in north County Sligo.

Dartry Mountain megaliths

There are a number of megaliths in the landscape surrounding 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 monuments runs down along the northern edges 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 a major migration route for swans and geese.

Tievebawn mountain.
Tievebawn mountain seen from the remains of a court-cairn near Ballintrillick. The monument is largely ruined, stones having been taken to build the nearby road.

Perhaps the megalithic architecture was inspired by features within the local landscape. The court-cairns may be modelled on 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 a typical court cairn you will always find a chamber or artificial cave.

Clough portal dolmen
Clough portal dolmen, the Trillick of Ballintrillick in County Sligo was destroyed around 1950.

Some kind of megalithic tomb stood on a low hill within the entrance to the Gleniff Horseshoe. It may have been a wedge-tomb. The monument was undermined by gravel quarrying during the construction of the Barytes mines processing buildings. The monument collapsed between 1951 and 1962:

The Trillick.
A hutsite, which may well date to the neolithic, beside the collapsed portal-dolmen called the Trillick, which gave the village of Ballintrillick its name. Beyond is the striking head of Benwisken, Ben Uisce, the wave mountain.

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.

View from Streedagh
Looking east to Benbulben's head from the megalithic wedge monument at Streedagh.

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 megalithic monuments.

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.

A cashel on Benbulben, Co Sligo.
A cashel on Benbulben, Co Sligo.

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.

Wedge tomb, Co Leitrim
A remote megalithic monument in Largydonnell on Dartry Mountain.

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.

Court tomb, Co Leitrim
Another megalithic monument in Largydonnell, Dartry Mountain.

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 and Crockauns.

A megalithic monument, perhaps a court cairn. There are certainly a lot of stones gathered, with a couple of large boulders at the north end. There are plenty of glacial erratic sandstones mixed with the native limestone in the cairn. Looking south-east towards Benbo.