Slieve na Calliagh and Calliagh Birra's House

Saturday 11 April

A rath was inspected (N880745). There is no trace of an outer bank or ditch. There is a good inner bank and the total height may be 4m on the north side. The estimated diameter is 60m. There is some disturbed earth which may be an indication of recent excavation but there is no sign of a house platform or souterrain. It is overgrown with grass and bramble and there are some trees planted on the bank. An overgrown motte was noted near Donaghpatrick (N820727) but it was not closely inspected.

Martry Mill (N806722) is in working order and is still used to grind wheaten meal. There are three pairs of stones: French burr, flintstone and sandstone. An electric motor can be used to drive the French burr stones when the river is too high to allow the wheel to work. Recent dredging of the river has changed the level of the water. The millrace has been rebuilt to take account of this and the wheel is now some distance from the mill building. The kiln is no longer in use although the ventilator is still in place.

St Oliver Plunkett's Family Church (N566762), near Loughcrew House, has a large residential tower at the west end. It is four storeys high including the attic. There is good pecked decoration at the doorway. A broad stairway rises to first floor level and a narrow mural stairway in the east wall rises to the second floor. At the south-east corner a spiral stairway rises to roof level where there is a bell-cote. There are a number of large windows as well as small slits, some of which are blocked. There is a blocked fireplace in the south wall at the first floor. The church is rectangular about 20m long with a south transept. There are large round-headed windows in the north and south walls. In the east wall is a large round-headed window flanked by two small square-headed windows. The transept has a two-light south window outside of which is a fine coat-of-arms. There are a number of 18th century memorials in the churchyard and a good burial vault to the south of the church.

About 100m west of the church is a very fine motte with a single tree on top. There is some slight damage on the north-east edge but otherwise it is in good condition. It stands at one edge of a low terrace which stretches towards the church.

An investigation was made of some of the passage tombs on Sliabh na Caillighe. The first cairn (Cairn K) on Carnbane West (N571774) has a missing top and the inside is greatly disturbed. There is possibly a cruciform chamber but the back recess is much smaller than the side recesses. There are no decorated stones. Many of the kerbstones are in place particularly in the north and west and the diameter is about 17m. Some of the damage seems to be recent, particularly on the north side where one of the kerbstones has been displaced.

A short distance to the west is a very large cairn which is now locked (Cairn L). It is very complete. Through the gate can be seen a short passage leading to a large chamber. At the right, near the back, is a free-standing stone. There appears to be a back recess and possibly two recesses on the left-hand side. The right side of the chamber is not visible from the gateway. Some of the stones inside are decorated. There is at least one spiral on one of the left passage stones and one of the stones of the side recesses has at least two spirals. The kerb is almost intact and the diameter of the cairn is about 40m.

A short distance to the north-west and almost touching the large cairn is a much smaller cairn (Cairn J). It may have a cruciform chamber but it is greatly ruined and jumbled. About half the cairn survives and there are no decorated stones. To the south is another small cairn (Cairn H). It is very low but has been partially restored. There is a good kerb with orthostats and drystone walling. There is a sillstone at the entrance and one lintel in place. The passage leads to a cruciform chamber and there are some decorated stones. One of the passage stones on the right has a spiral. The sillstone of the right-hand niche has three good spirals and one of the stones here has decoration on one short edge. This looks like a figure eight with a curving tail. One of the stones of the left- hand niche has at least one spiral. Further south is a higher and larger cairn (Cairn I). A short passage leads to a polygonal chamber divided into seven segments. The second stone on the right-hand side of the passage has at least three sunbursts; in the first niche are some zigzags; in the second niche are some circles and a sunburst; in the seventh niche are some spirals.

Further west is another collection of cairns. The first (Cairn F) is roofless and most of the kerb is missing. About half the passage is lintelled and there is a cruciform chamber. The second passage stone on the right-hand side has chevron decoration and some snakelike curves. Just to the north-west is another cairn with no features visible, just a deep depression in the middle.

To the west is a very large cairn (Cairn D) with a well-defined kerb. However it is greatly ruined. A great deal of cairn material has been removed from the middle and excavation has shown has shown that there is no burial chamber inside. Much of the cairn material on the west side is missing and the kerb is now almost free-standing in this area. Further west is a small hillock which may be a cairn but it is not clear. Just to the south of this is a small cairn with some orthostats visible indicating a possible cruciform chamber.

At the other side of the field boundary to the south may be three ruined cairns with possibly one carved stone. Part of the most southerly cairn may be recent field clearance but there is one orthostat more than 1m square by 20cm thick.

Near the roadway is a large slab about 1m by 1.25m with at least two spirals and some lozenges. There are other smaller marks. There is another large stone built into the field boundary. These stones may come from a low cairn a short distance to the south.

There are a number of structures on Carnbane East (N588776). At the west end of the ridge are the remains of two cairns which were not closely inspected at this time. There is also a good standing stone.

On top of the hill is a large cairn and some smaller cairns. The most westerly small cairn is very low and grass-covered with no visible features. Just to the south of this is a similar cairn (Cairn R) with some kerb but no other features except a depression in the middle. To the north-west of the large cairn is a very low cairn with an almost intact kerb (Cairn S). It is about 15m diameter and most of the cairn material is missing. The entrance is in the west; all the other cairns have the entrance in the east. There are two dividing stones in the passage which leads to a chamber with one niche at the left-hand back corner. There is a sunburst carving on the innermost stone at the left-hand side of the passage.

The large cairn (Cairn T) is more complete than the two large cairns on Carnbane West in that the cairn material fills the area inside the kerb. The reconstructed entrance in the east leads to a large chamber which may have multiple side chambers. However the cairn is locked. Through the gate it can be seen that there are a number of decorated stones in the passage and in the chamber. A large kerbstone on the north side has a flat top and an inscribed stone. It may have been used as a penal altar.

A small cairn to the north (Cairn U) has a good kerb. The narrow passage leads to a chamber with two niches on either side and a back niche. The innermost niche on the left has multiple spirals on one of its stones and there is some decoration on one of the stones of the back niche. There is possible decoration on the backstone of one of the right-hand niches.

The structure to the east of the large cairn (Cairn V) has a well-defined kerb but most of the cairn material is missing. Some of the orthostats remain but not enough to indicate if the entrance was to the east or to the west. However it would appear that there were two niches on either side of the chamber. At least three of the orthostats have decoration. A large stone stands just clear of the kerb on the west side.

At least three raths may be seen to the north of the hills and a standing stone stands close to the bottom of Carnbane East. These structures were not closely inspected.

Oldcastle Railway Station (N555805) was noted in passing. The Stationmaster's House is still in use. The station building seems to be intact including the canopy over the doorway and the roof over the platform. It was not closely inspected.

Sunday 12 April

Slieve Gullion South Cairn (J025204) contains a fine passage tomb. The method of construction is unlike other passage tombs in that the large stones are laid flat rather than upright. A passage about 5m long leads to a polygonal chamber with a small back recess. It is about 3m diameter with a corbelled roof now partly reconstructed using concrete beams. There are two crude basin stones. The entrance passage is more than 1m high and wide and it is partly blocked by fallen cairn material. The cairn has a small bulge on the north side.

Slieve Gullion North Cairn (J021211) is smaller and lower. Portions of a kerb may be seen but there are no other visible features. It apparently covers two small cists.

Aughadanove Chambered Tomb (H999207) is a single-chambered structure with no capstone. The chamber is made from two large slabs about 1.25m high by 2m long and a backstone about 1m square. There are two portal stones about 1m high with a small doorstone between them. The chamber is about 1m in all dimensions.

Carrickcroppan Mass Rock (J034282) is a boulder set into a field boundary. It is about 1m square by 70cm thick. On the north face is a deeply incised cross about 80cm high by 60cm wide. It has a small unpierced ring about 20cm diameter. Scattered on top of the rock are a number of coins and the bush beside it was formerly used as a rag-tree. A souterrain is known to exist along the western field boundary and close to this, in the next field, is a small standing stone.