Dunnaman Court Tomb, Co. Down

Also called the Giant’s Grave or Massforth Court Tomb.

A particularly long court tomb situated in a field beside the graveyard at St. Colman’s Church, Massforth, on the outskirts of Kilkeel.

Nothing remains of the forecourt or the covering cairn of this tomb but it is worth seeing for the remains of the 12-13m-long gallery and some features of the wall construction.

Looking down the tomb from the single boulder across the closed end of the gallery to the opening at the other end where the forecourt would have been

The outer walls are made from large split granite boulders and jamb stones segregate the gallery into 4 chambers.

Rather being placed end to end, the large boulders along the length of the tomb were  placed so that the stones overlap each other(see below). This is a feature seen at some of the Clyde Cairns in Scotland and other court cairns in Ulster and probably made the structure more stable. At Dunnaman, where only the bare skeleton of the tomb remains, it is particularly obvious.

Overlapping split boulders
Looking towards the NE end of the tomb (forecourt end). Note the old sign in the bushes behind.

There’s a  sign and information panel at the entrance to the site but the old sign is still there in the bushes behind the tomb.

The tomb is close to the A2 Newry road and is easily accessible via a signposted path.

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Clontygora Court Tomb

Clontygora is one of the Neolithic tombs situated in the Ring of Gullion, an area of south east Ulster famous for its outstanding geology, history and archaeology.

Clontygora (5)

This would have been a massive structure when it was covered by its cairn of stones  but it is still one of the most impressive Neolithic tombs in Ireland and a good example of a court tomb.
Fortunately, many of the huge stones used to build the 3 burial chambers and the forecourt are still in situ. Granite orthostats up to 2.7m high form the U-shaped forecourt and the burial chambers are made from huge split granite boulders. One of the chambers is still covered by a 3m long capstone.

A cairn of some considerable length would have covered the 3 burial chambers and the U-shaped forecourt in front of the entrance would have extended the length even further.

The U-shaped forecourt

It is still one of the most impressive court tombs, despite the fact that it was pillaged in the 1730’s to provide stone for the nearby Newry Canal and again in the 19th century for building the quay at Narrow Water. One can only wonder what it must have looked like before it was plundered, when it was a giant cairn sitting prominently up on the hillside above the plain of Meigh.

Clontygora – from Chluainte Gabhra – the meadow of the goats. The tomb is also known locally as The King’s Ring.

Some of the other megalithic tombs in the Ring of Gullion that are well worth seeing are Ballymacdermot Court Tomb, Ballykeel Dolmen and on the summit of Slieve Gullion itself, is the wonderful Sleive Gullion Passage Tomb.

Annaghmare Court Tomb

annaghmare-court-tomb

Annaghmare is one of the best preserved court tombs and is situated on a small knoll in a forestry plantation close to the Armagh – Monaghan border.
It’s secluded location in a clearing in the forest gives it an ambience that is often missing from other neolithic sites in the area and this is probably the best tomb to visit to feel a connection to the neolithic.

This long, trapezoidal-shaped cairn consists of a well-built court area which leads through two impressive portal stones to a gallery of three chambers.

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Towards the rear of the cairn are two more chambers (added at a later date), which lie at right angles to the axis of the cairn and are entered from the side. Excavations showed that these two chambers had never actually been used for burial.

The two rear chambers

The court is particularly well-preserved and contains some very large orthostats. Some of them are sure to have been chosen for their size and shape and probably placed in significant positions within the courtyard wall. Dry stone walling fills the gaps between the orthostats.
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When the cairn ceased to be used it was ritually sealed up by blocking the entrance with stones and then filling in the whole of the court area. It was filled with stones right up to the height of the tall orthostats, thus blocking the entrance and hiding all the large court stones from view until it was excavated about 5000 years later.

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