Cooley Peninsula & South Down
Saturday 13 November
Heavy rain and poor visibility made it difficult to visit and record monuments. The first stop of the day was at Clontygora, Co Armagh (J098194). The court-tomb here has been greatly damaged but a very fine court survives. It is very deep with straight sides and tall stones. The first burial chamber is fairly intact and has two capstones. There are traces of a second chamber and a line of large stones extending from the rear of the tomb may be the remains of other burial chambers. Excavation finds from 1937 included cremated bone, flints and Neolithic pottery. The small cairn (J098197) in a field nearby was not closely inspected.
Rapid progress was made over the hill and down Ferry Hill. Narrow Water Castle (J127193) was viewed from across the water. The new Church of St Lawrence in Omeath was visited. It is a rectangular building with large windows on the seaward side. The Stations of the Cross are depicted in painted glass panels at the top of these windows. King John's Castle, Carlingford (J188120) was locked on this occasion. It is a large polygonal structure built in the 13th century on a rocky outcrop overlooking the harbour. About half of the interior is occupied by a large three-storey rectangular hall. Between this and the twin-towered gatehouse is a D-shaped courtyard. Only fragments of the gatehouse remain and its shape is inferred from excavation. The present entrance is through a modern gap in the wall. At the southern edge of the wall is a square projecting tower and there may have been a similar structure in the north wall. There is a blocked postern gateway on the seaward side. Carlingford has a number of fine medieval structures which were locked on
this occasion. Taaffe's Castle (J189117) is a tower-house possibly four storeys high with some traces of crenellations. It probably dates from the 16th century. It is a rectangular building aligned approximately E-W with the present entrance in the south wall. The machicolation high on the west wall possibly guarded the original entrance. The tower is vaulted above the first floor. Running north from the tower is a two-storey structure, also with crenellations. It is of slightly later date. The castle seems to be in poor condition but the interior could not be inspected. Around the corner from Taaffe's Castle is a small tower-house known as 'The Mint' (J189116). This three-storey building has very fine crenellations and a good machicolation over the doorway. The large windows have very fine hood moulds and are richly decorated. Motifs include interlacing, animals and human masks.
There is good pecked decoration at the doorway. Just beyond 'The Mint' is a fragment of a town gate called 'The Tholsel' (J189118). This is now a two-storey structure with the road running through it. It was rebuilt in the last century. Holy Trinity Church is now the Carlingford Heritage Centre. It has a substantial tower which may be medieval. The exhibition inside depicts the story of Carlingford from Viking times to the present day. The ruins of the Dominican Priory (J190114) are undergoing restoration. There is a long rectangular church with a large east window opening and a central tower. Later modifications included the addition of crenellations and two small flanking turrets. A range of buildings extends to the south. A short distance to the east is the shell of a small mill which is associated with the priory. There are fragments of a mill-wheel which was less than 1m wide and about 3m diameter.
Further rapid progress was made to Ballymascanlon where Proleek Dolmen was viewed (J082110). This is a very fine portal-tomb. The massive capstone is estimated to weigh 40 tons and is supported by two good portal-stones and a backstone which has some modern buttressing. There is no trace of a cairn. The capstone is littered with pebbles and small stones. This is part of a wishing ritual. In the field beside the dolmen is a good example of a wedge-tomb (J083110). The gallery is about 6m long and narrows from about 1.5m in the W to about 1m in the E.
There is a single capstone near the east end. There is no trace of an outer wall or cairn.
Sunday 14 November
A visit was made to the court-grave at Moyad (J288196). The nature and extent of the court at the south end of this grave could not be determined since it is buried in a field boundary. There are three clear burial chambers in the gallery. The structure is set within a thorny thicket which made investigation difficult. There is a great deal of cairn material some of which may be original.
Legananny Dolmen (J288434) was viewed. This is an excellent example of a tripod dolmen. The large coffin-shaped capstone is balanced on three tall orthostats. The portal-stones are taller than the backstone. There is a very small amount of cairn material.
A brief visit was made to the souterrain near Finnis (J273442). There is no external trace now of the small collapse which was noted on a previous visit. The souterrain was not entered on this occasion.
A large earthwork in Moybrick Upper (J271472) was examined. It is a circular platform more than 60m diameter. It is surrounded by a low bank which is broken in places. There are traces of an outer ditch particularly on the southern side. A large standing-stone (J305500) was viewed near Begny Lake. It appears to be a large boulder possibly 2m in all dimensions but it could not be examined closely on this occasion.
The chambered grave at Lappoges (J256527) was located with difficulty. The site is greatly overgrown and masked by field boundaries and rocky outcrops. It is a court-grave with a southern court. The east arm of the court is fairly intact but there is little to be seen of the west arm. There are possibly two burial chambers in the gallery. There is a large amount of cairn material but all of it may not be original.
Rathturret, in Clonallan (J155189), was visited. This rath has a high central platform about 18m diameter. It is surrounded by three banks and ditches. Near the western edge of the mound is the lintel of a souterrain.