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.

Drumena Cashel and Souterrain

Drumena cashel wall)
Within the walls of Drumena Cashel

This cashel, near Castlewellan, Co. Down, is a great example of a cashel, or ringfort. It was a common type of farmstead in early medieval times, where the farm was enclosed within a strong circular wall. Drumena Cashel is roughly circular in shape, about 40m wide and with walls up to 3m thick.
Some excavations and restoration took place in the 1920’s and the present entrance to the cashel is probably not the original entrance.

Drumena CashelFoundations of a house that had been built inside the fort at some time. The long wall behind is part of the cashel wall.

Like many cashels and raths, there is a souterrain within the enclosure and this would have been used for storage and maybe also as a refuge. This souterrain is particularly well-preserved.

Drumena souterrain (3)
Entrance to the souterrain with cashel wall behind

Both the fort and souterrain are easily accessible and the souterrain is big enough to walk around in comfortably. The souterrain is T-shaped and has 2 entrances, one with steps down into it, which were probably put in when it was restored (see title photo).

It is much easier to access than many souterrains and if these are the original entrances they weren’t built to deter invaders. So many souterrains have a low entrance that you have to crawl through, or at least crouch down to get in and then just as you get inside and start to straighten up there might be a protruding stone, deliberately placed to bang your head on!
It is certainly a more superior type of souterrain than some I have been in!
Drumena Souterrain entrance (2)

Drumena souterrain (1)

Drumena souterrain (2)

One of the passages leads to a small chamber which has an air hole in one of its walls.

 

Drumena souterrain
Spiral shapes on one of the stones inside the souterrain