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Photographer's Note

Pictured here is a view of the lands around Loughcrew Cairns, North County Meath. The shot is taken from the top of Cairn T on Carnbane East. Visible in the center of the shot is one of the many stone circles that dot the land here.

This area is dotted with clusters of megalithic cairns around the Slieve na Caillaigh hills at Loughcrew. The centrepiece of this area is Carnbane east, and in this shot I am standing on top of Cairn T to take a shot of one of the circles of stones in the area.

While a lot less well known than Newgrange with its famous interior illumination at the solstice, Loughcrew is equally beautiful for its illumination at the equinoxes. The backstone of the chamber is lit up by a strong beam of sunlight on the equinox of spring and autumn. As the light enters the chamber of this passage tomb, it is shaped by the many stones along the entrance of the passage and as it moves towards the centre backstone, it lights up from left to right revealing the many ancient solar symbols carved here.

This site was first discovered to feature this amazing feat of solar engineering in 1980 when Irish American scholar Martin Brennan realized how the light illuminated the central chamner on the equinox. in total, there are 23 tombs in the complex here at Lough Crew and they date to approx 3500 BC, making them over 5500 years old.

One of the most obvious stones aside from those carved with these ancient symbols is at the rear of Cairn T, and is known as the witches chair. This alludes to the legend that these monuments were created by a giant witch who strode across the land here, and dropped these huge piles of stones from her apron. Legends also tell that she challenged a local queen here to a gamble, if she were able to jump across all of the hills in one leap, she would gain control of all of the lands visible from the top of the hill (and that is a lot of land, the view here is very extensive). In trying to make her leap, she fell and broke her neck when landing on her head at what we now know as Cairn T. The Irish name for this place is Sliabh na Caillí, which means the Mountain of the Hag.

The ancient tombs of Newgrange and the Bru na Boinne complex are not too far from here and have become in recent times one of the sites of Ireland that many many people feel they must see on visting the country. This has led to it becoming very commercial with access only by guided tour, and with visitors being rushed in and rushed out to fit as many groups as possible in one day. In comparison, here at Loughcrew there are very few visitors. It is a little more off the beaten path, but it is possible to visit this truly ancient place and be the only person there. On the day I visited, I met one other guy there from London who was amazed that a place so magical could be so empty on such a beautiful sunny day. I think though that this is one of the reasons I love this place so much, you can take as much time as you want to study the ancient art, to wonder at why these places were built, and to stop and take a break in the middle of a stone circle which has been there for so many thousands of years.

Please take a look at the workshop where you can see the entrance to the tomb (this is the tomb I was standing on top of to take the main post). If you look at the stone to the left, you can make out some of the stone carvings. Sadly, being out of season and very early in the morning, the entrance was locked so this was as close as I could get.

Thanks for looking.

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Additional Photos by Noel Byrne (Noel_Byrne) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2701 W: 15 N: 6474] (22691)
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