But the gem of this great cemetery was the cairn which we called F. This contained
a magnificent chamber of unique and complicated design. It consisted of
a well-built entrance passage, a polygonal chamber with recesses cut off
by sills, and a second larger chamber beyond with three seperated recesses,
and in this, most remarkable of all, a slender pillar-stone in the centre-line,
5 feet in height, and 7.5 by 9 inches in section.
Over this the roof rose
to its greatest height, some 16 feet above the floor. The unfortunate
fracture of a large slab at some bygone time had brought about a great
collapse, and we had to remove tons of stuff to clear the chamber. Another
accident had snapped the standing stone across, near its base, but had
not impaired the sanctity which apparently was attached to it, for we
found the ashes of a burnt human body laid on the butt end of the prostrate
The architecture of this monument was of most massive character,
slabs up to four tons in weight being used in its construction; and its
design, and its inner sanctuary with the standing-stone, is without parallel.
R. L. Praeger - The Way That I Went, 1937.
Cairn F greets the visitor to Carrowkeel, along with Cairn
B, one on each side of the valley as they proceed up the Bricklieve Gap.
Majestically located on the left cliff-top on the ridge called Carn Mór,
Cairn F is the largest and most important of the cairns at Carrowkeel.
It has a diameter of 26 metres and probably stood 8 - 10 metres high.
It is located about 200 meters south of Cairn E at an altitude of 310 metres.
roof had collapsed by the time Macalister arrived to excavate it and the
chamber was full of cairn material. A huge lintel had cracked under the
strain of the roof, allowing spalls and small stones to fall in and fill
the chamber. The massive 4 ton capstone had fallen inside and lay on its
edge. The work crew broke it up and removed it to make room for their
The cairn contains a very large well built chamber formed from massive squared
limestone slabs, with five
compartments, two at each side and an end recess. Round pieces of sandstone
were used in places in an effort to relieve stress. Most interesting was
the discovery of a fallen standing stone 1.5 metres long within the chamber.
estimated the original height of the corbelled roof to be five metres; he
found this 'one of the most impressive and interesting ancient structures
remaining in Ireland'. The flagstones which all came from the same quarry
were trimmed and squared to a uniform shape, a characteristic trademark
of the Carrowkeel builders.
The Broken Pillar Stone
The presence of a standing stone in Cairn F is very unusual and will probably prove to be of great significance is the site is ever cleared up. This pillar-stone must have broken some time before the collapse of the roof,
since cremated human remains were found spread across the stump. When and how the stone
fell is a mystery; it may have cracked the sill stone of the south recess when it toppled.
There is a large hunk of sandstone outside the entrance to Cairn E that has been split in two. Perhaps it was broken at the same time.
The earliest antiquarian reports stated that Newgrange had a fallen pillar-stone in the chamber, although no evidence has come
to light since. It may be that it was a dislodged section from a roof
corbel. Cairn L at Loughcrew has a pillar in its chamber, known as the Whispering Stone or Speaking Stone, and it is
likely that the chamber cairn were constructed around this special standing
stone. The Loughcrew Whispering Stone is struck by a beam of light from
the rising sun on the November and February cross-quarter days, a truly amazing sight to behold.
In 1911 the chamber was completely cleared of all the loose stones and corbel
flags. The inner structure of this cairn is an amazing piece of architecture,
as can be seen from the excavation drawings. This chamber is approaching
the scale of the larger cairns in the Boyne Valley.
Today the passage
and chamber of Cairn F are completely caved in and choked with cairn material.
The spectacle of this majestic structure left in such neglect presents a sad
sight to the visitor. The passage is about eight meters long from entrance
The first set of recesses span three meters from east to west, and the second
larger set are lamost five meters across. The capstone is estimated to be over
5 meters above the floor. The passage and chamber are aligned due north
E, in the direction of the Deerpark monuments on the northern side of Lough
Cairn F is one of a very small group of Irish cairns aligned to the north. This position marker was used to measure the angle of the lunar standstill to Knocknarea from Cairns E and K and the summer solstice sunsets at Cairns E and G.
Another possible function may have been to observe the celestial pole at noon during solar