The megalithic sites at Loughcrew contain a wonderful collection of engraved neolithic slabs. At Cairn T the engravings interact with the beam of light projected the rising sun on both the spring and autumn equinoxes. In total there are twenty-nine carved stones within the passage and chamber of Cairn T.
The Hag's Chair
The first engraved stone is found outside the cairn, on the wonderful megalithic throne known as the Hag's Chair, a massive kerbstone bearing extremely weathered carvings. The stone faces to the north and is the largest of the kerbstones at Cairn T.
The art was recorded by Du Noyer and Conwell, and the entire surface of the great slab is decorated. Today the designs are not
easy to see, the sandstone boulders having become quite weathered since Conwell's time at Loughcrew.
According to local folklore a Cailleach who was named Garavogue used to sit and watch the stars and the landscape from this location.
The Garavogue is remembered as the builder of the monuments, having gathered all the rocks in her white apron and transported them to the hills. The Hag's Chair faces due north and is positioned on the north side of the chamber. It occupies a similar position to Kerbstone 67 at Newgrange.
Many years ago a local from Oldcastle told me that a great dish or basin, carved from a huge piece of quartz, and filled with cremated bone, was discovered buiried close to the Hag's Chair. The basin was reburied. A cross carved on the seat possibly dates from the Penal times when open-air masses were said to have been held here, athough such a highly visible location would be an unlikely and unsuitable place for a Penal Mass.
Within Cairn T
The passage of Cairn T points to a few degrees south of east. When Conwell first visited Cairn T, the passage roof had collapsed and only one roof-stone was in its original position.
The outer section of the roof was restored by the Board of Works some time after 1880, when a concrete slab was cast over the passage. The stone orthostats lining each side of the passage are decorated with a range of motifs.
Within this ancient corbelled room you are presented with the classic cruciform
chamber of an Irish Passage Cairn. This is among the oldest free-standing
buildings in Ireland and probably dates from about 3,500 BC.
many small engravings on the chamber stones, in particular the west sill.
Three small cells, seperated from the central space by sillstones open
off the main chamber, to the south, west and north. The backstone of the
west recess is richly carved with symbols which resemble combs and flowers.
This is the Loughcrew Equinox Stone.