Loughcrew, Oldcastle. County Meath     3300 b.c

Loughcrew has been described as ‘Ireland’s greatest archaeological secret’ and is one of the big 4 megalithic sites in Ireland (the others being Carrowkeel and Carrowmore in county Sligo and Bru Na Boinne in county Meath). This site is actually 500 years older than Newgrange and is located on a hill 800 feet above sea level. The surrounding area is relatively flat and so half of Ireland can be seen from here. There are 24 remaining cairns in this area but it is believed that there may have originally been up to 100. These hills were once known as ‘Sliabh na Caillighe’ or ‘The Mountains of the Witch’. Cairn T is the most striking and is one of the earliest examples of architecture in Ireland. It is 38 yards in diameter and has 37 large kerb stones, the largest of which is known as the ‘Hag’s Chair’. Inside this tomb lies a cruciform chamber, a corbelled roof and some of the most beautiful examples of Neolithic art in Ireland, including concentric circles and cup marks. During the equinox people still gather at dawn in this cairn to watch sunlight enter the chamber and illuminate the ‘inside of the tomb’. The cairn is known locally as “The Witch’s Cave” so called after Garavogue who is said to have dropped these large heaps of stones from her apron as she hopped across the hills, before dropping dead at Patrickstown. What a lady!