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Loughcrew/Slieve na Calliagh Co. Meath

April 8, 2010

I’m getting to like driving the minor roads. I noticed on Easter Sunday as I drove home from Loughcrew with my three-year old son that once we hit the N3 we were travelling at a speed where we could no longer roll down the windows and smell the air, nor stop on a whim to check out baby hares bouncing around in a field….diversions we had enjoyed earlier as we traversed from Trim to near Oldcastle. Go slow, see more.

We had started the day at the hot air balloon festival in Trim but the breeze there suggested that there would not be any flights taking off, so we pressed on for Loughcrew / Slieve na Calliagh, the highest point in County Meath.

On the way we passed by the wonderfully named townland of Bobsville, where we noticed a tree whose branches were tied up with rags and socks.  It turns out the tree is situated beside a holy well, reputed to have curative properties. Across the road is the early christian (6th century) Clonabreany, hangout of Saint Kevin. We cast some pennies for our much missed baby girl and carried on.

Holy well at Clonabreany, Co. Meath

I must say that either the navigation on my phone was set to finding routes with potholes, or Meath has the worst roads I’ve encountered so far in Ireland. Even the locals coming in the other direction were throwing their eyes to heaven as we kluncked in and out of the soon to be famous Crossakiel Craters.

I’ve seen Loughcrew described as Ireland’s best kept archaeological secret, and it didn’t disappoint.  The highest point in county Meath is just 276 meters high and can be reached following a steep 10 -15 minute walk from the car park.

Once there the views are fantastic.  Hills can be seen in all directions, from the Sperrins in the north to the Blackstairs in the south. Meanwhile the immediate vicinity holds passage tombs and stone circles too numerous to count. (Someone else has counted…and there are 25) When we visited there was also some last patches of snow on the ground so my boy was beside himself with excitement.

I love this stuff

We met a couple of people on the hill. Firstly an older gent who coincidentally had just come from Mullaghmeen and complained about the state of the roads; and a local man who told me he’d been coming up the three hills of Loughcrew all his life and pointed out some of the mountains that could be seen in the distance. He suggested that the real gem of the area is Carbane West which is a short walk in the opposite direction from the car park. He also mentioned that the key to the main cairn, known as Cairn T, can be obtained from the nearby Loughcrew Gardens. Finally, and importantly, this man told me that cars are regularly broken into during the summer and as a result to park directly at the entrance to the path up the hill as this is the most visible part of the car park.

An ancient pagan sepulchral cairn, Loughcrew, co. Meath

Resources

Here’s a description of the site from a qualified guide.

And more on the site, from an 1891 book on rock art!

Map: Not really required as the walk is short, but for further exploration bring along sheet 42.

***

So far this exploration of Ireland’s county high points has been a brilliant experience. After just eight walks I’ve already been introduced to so many places I had never heard of, never mind visited. More than that it has begun to expand my connection with the country. Recently it has been hard to think of Ireland as anything more than a failed economy, but these hills have reminded me that this is an ancient land that was here long before the celtic tiger, and will remain long after NAMA has faded from memory. Aside from that, visiting the hills inevitably prompts curiosity about a diverse range of subjects such as history, archeology, ornithology, geology…you get the idea.

I’ve recently started reading Paul Clements’ book ‘The Height of Nonsense‘ and found the following quote in another piece of his about walking in Ireland. I think it makes sense.

“If you wish to explore Ireland’s past you should climb its hills. You will find human history around the foothills; on the lower flanks you will come across archaeological evidence for the earliest farmsteads; higher up on the crests of the low hills are the seats of the Celtic kings and on the higher summits of the big mountains are megalithic tombs, dolmens and stone forts that take you back to the myths and legends of Irish prehistory.”

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Niamh + Family permalink
    February 20, 2011 10:58 pm

    Well, what a lovely walk to the hilltop of Loughcrew/Slieve na Calliagh Co. Meath.
    It was a beautiful sunny warm day , blue skies when we set off from Co. Kildare to Loughcrew. Stopped by at St. Kevins well on route as you recommended and the kids took great enjoyment throwing the coins. The graveyard opposite was a pretty spring picture with snowdrops in full bloom.
    The walk itself was easy again for the children and they energetically tackled the climb. Again our gutsy 3 year old made it on foot ( a litle hand holding required towards the top).
    The presence of the Cairns brought a great historical element to the experience.
    There was a group also climbing with a gentleman who had the key of the cairn so we actually got a bit of a guided tour. A very similar story to Newgrange which the children had recently studied in school.
    The descent was followed by a picnic.
    The children were energised and it was the makings of a lovely Saturday afternoon of fun.
    Thanks again for the detail you outlined.
    Westmeath next!!!

    • February 21, 2011 5:09 pm

      Hi Niamh,

      Sounds like you all had a great day out. I was hiking in Wicklow and the weather was fantastic there too.

      I’m glad you enjoyed Loughcrew, I was just telling my hiking buddy on Saturday how great it is and how we should go back with the kids.

      Good luck with Mullaghmeen, with a bit of luck spring will have sprung and there’ll be fresh wild flowers laid on for you.

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