Early one rainy morning I trudged outside to meet up with my “Celtic Boyne Valley” tour group. As soon as I walked up to the tour guide he said, “Oh you poor thing, going on this tour on a day like this.” I did not think much of the comment then, as it rains so often, but I definitely remembered it later that day while we were standing at the highest point of the Hill of Tara in the pouring rain and fierce winds.
We visited to Loughcrew, Trim Castle, the Hill of Tara, the Jumping Church, Monasterboice, and Drogheda. Each stop was quite different from each other, which kept the tour interesting. Monasterboice had beautiful Celtic crosses, the Jumping Church had interesting stories surrounding it, the Hill of Tara was important to the high kings of Ireland, the cathedral in Drogheda was stunning, and the tour at Trim Castle was hands-on and funny. My favorite was Loughcrew, however. Originally we were not sure if we would be able to climb to the top due to the weather, but just as we drove up the rain stopped.
The hike to the top was a slippery one. A few people in my tour group fell, but we all made it to the top eventually. The view was stunning. While at the top, you are able to see a good portion of the Irish countryside. Had it not been cloudy, we would have been able to see even more.
While the view alone would draw me to climb to the top, the reason Loughcrew is important is because of the passage tombs. It is possibly the world’s oldest cemetery. It serves the same purpose as Egypt’s pyramids: passage of the dead from this world to the next. However, it predates the pyramids by 2,000 years.
Loughcrew is also called Sliabh na Caillíghe (The Hill of the Hag, or Witch) due to one legend of its creation. In this legend, an ancient hag called Garavogue attempted a magical feat in which she dropped an apronful of stones on each of the three Loughcrew peaks. She was successful on the first two peaks, which created the burial mounds, but missed her mark on the third and fell to her death. Had she succeeded, she would have ruled over all of Ireland.
Today there is evidence of at least thirty tombs, but it is unclear how many had been destroyed in the past leaving no trace behind. Landowners would often take the stones to build barriers between their land and their neighbors’ lands. There are many that have been preserved, and it is possible to enter the largest of these. On the Autumnal Equinox the chamber becomes illuminated with sunlight. There are three chambers within the tomb and the stones inside are decorated with symbols carrying unknown meaning. Perhaps one day the secrets of Loughcrew will be discovered, but for now they full of mystery and myth.
“Loughcrew Cairns.” Meath Heritage. Meath Tourism, n.d. Web. 5 Feb. 2014.
“Loughcrew Passage Tomb Complex (Sliabh Na Caillíghe).” Passage Tombs. Voices from the Dawn, n.d. Web. 5 Feb. 2014.