Call us now to talk through your vacation options!
- USA & Canada Toll-Free
1877 298 7205
- UK FreeFone
0800 096 9438
+353 69 77686
Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery
The largest and one of the most important megalithic sites in Europe. Carrowmore (Irish: Ceathrú Mór, meaning Great Quarter) is the site of a prehistoric ritual landscape on the Knocknarea or Cúil Irra Peninsula in County Sligo in Ireland. It is one of the four major passage tomb cemeteries in Ireland.
Around 30 megalithic tombs can be seen in Carrowmore today, and the traces of more (ruined) tombs have been detected. The tombs (in their original state) were almost universally 'dolmen circles'; small dolmens with boulder circles of 12 to 15 meters around them. The tombs are distributed in a roughly oval shape surrounding the largest monument, a cairn called Listoghil. The dolmen 'entrances' - crude double rows of standing stones - usually face the area of the central tomb.
Because of the assemblage of material found within the monuments, the clustering, and the layout of the structures, Carrowmore - like Newgrange and Lough Crew - is classified as being part of the Irish Passage Tomb Tradition. There has long been debate about how the different tomb types - 'passage tombs', 'court tombs', 'portal dolmens,' and 'wedge tombs' - all of which occur in County Sligo - should be interpreted. Are they indicative of different 'cultures,' or peoples? Of different functions for a single community? Perhaps research into DNA or other techniques of the future will finally resolve these questions.
Almost all the burials at Carrowmore were cremations with inhumations being only found at Listoghil. It is apparent that the dead underwent a complex sequence of treatments, including excarnation and reburial. Grave goods include antler pins with mushroom-shaped heads and stone or clay balls, a fairly typical assemblage of the Irish element of the passage tomb tradition. Some of the tombs and pits nearby contained shells from shellfish, echoing the finds of shell middens along the coast of Cuil Irra. The Carrowmore tombs were sometimes re-used and re-shaped by the people of Bronze Age and Iron Age times. They remained focal points on the landscape for long after they were built. The role of megaliths as monuments and foci of ceremony and celebration, as well as markers on the landscape is emphasised by archaeologists such as Richard Bradley. Earlier commentaters - who called the monuments 'tombs' - saw them simply as a repository for the dead, or as markers erected over fallen warriors.
We've had a wonderful tour thanks largely to your meticulous planning and choice of accommodation. The hosts were all extremely helpful and friendly - and, by the way, they spoke highly of your organisation.
As requested, I have attached a few photos, some of my husband and me - we're becoming less photogenic as time goes by, so there aren't many! Also, something went wrong with our camera towards the end of the holiday, so I couldn't take any of Galway, which we loved.
One disappointment - not in your hands, but perhaps you communicate with them - was the information at the Kerry National Park Visitor Centre at Mucross. They don't sufficiently meet the requirements of walkers. As in our own Peak District National Park, I was expecting to see racks of maps, booklets and leaflets on suggested walks of all kinds. There was nothing of this kind and all the assistant could suggest was a limited number of low level walks. Well, we don't come to the lovely, mountainous landscape of Kerry to walk on a tarmac path round a lake! She did mention another car park higher up which we decided to go to out of curisosity and when we got there I saw a walker who seemed to know what she was doing, and she told me how to get up Torc Mountain. That turned out to be a highlight! When we went to the Visitor Centre a couple of days later, I spotted an insignificant, hand written description of how to get up Torc Mountain at the bottom of a notice board, but if it was there on our first visit, it hadn't been pointed out to me. Yes, I know, I must write to them myself!
On the last lap from Galway to Dublin, we felt that Newgrange might be a bit too much, so we called in at two places not far off route - Tullamore Heritage Centre, where a generous sample of Tullamore DEW, or Irish Mist are included in the admission price, and Trim, where we were in time for a very interesting guided tour of the castle.
Thank you again for a lovely first taste of Ireland. We hope to come back.
Hilary Whitemore, Derby, England