Sliabh na Cailli
(Located off the R195, not too far from Old Castle in County Meath)
This site is also referred to Sliabh na Cailli or Slieve na Callaigh (Hill of the Witch/Hag) and is dedicated to the Crone Goddess. Eugene Conwell was the first person to seriously study Loughcrew in 1863. He gave all the Cairns (over 30) letter names, which are still used today. This is one of the largest prehistoric cemeteries in Ireland next to Carrowmore, and is over 5000 years old. The Cairns are megalithic structures containing symbolic engravings. Like other passage graves in Ireland, they have clear astrological alignments. These structures are not as known as places such as Newgrange, so this area is one of the best kept secrets in Ireland.
The Cairns are in two groups; Carnbane East, which includes Cairn T. Across the street (less than 1 1⁄2 miles from parking lot), we have Carnbane West (about 15 Cairns), including Cairn L, which is roofed with carvings that are in good condition. The main features of Loughcrew Cairns are the atmosphere, the serenity and the exceptional views (on clear days one can see many counties). Let’s hope this little treasure remains unknown so we can continue to enjoy its beauty.
This is located at Carnbane East and was believed to have been built between 3,500BC and 3,300BC. There are guided tours during the summer months but off season, you can obtain the key for Cairn T from the Loughcrew Gardens down the street. However, check with them on their opening times/days and make sure you reserve the key ahead of time.
Inside of Cairn T
The artwork is closely associated with the movement of the sun about the time of the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes. It’s speculated that the stone carvings were designed for sun worship because so many of the cairns face Eastward which could indicate that the rising sun was very important. Some of the carvings are interpreted to be a flowing river, land, sky, etc., as if to tell a story of what life was like in this area thousands of years ago. No one's really sure, everything is up for interpretation.
This is located right outside of Cairn T and it’s believed to bring good luck if you sit upon it. It’s also believed to make you fertile. There are many legends about this chair, one is that Queen Tailte or Queen Maeve would sit upon it, giving out the laws of the land. Christians held Catholic Mass here in secret because holding outdoor Mass during the 18th century, was forbidden. This was during the time of the religious persecutions stemming from England (Protestant) against the Irish (Catholic). Obviously the Irish Catholics were drawn to this spot because it is a place of power. Notice the cross carved in it.
There is a very large hill you need to walk up and the walk seems to go on forever until you finally reach the summit and standing right in front of you is Cairn L.
It's aligned with the Samhain and Imbolc sunrise. Human remains were found inside. At one time the key to Carin L was obtainable and inside there is some amazing megalithic art work.
Is the largest Cairn and it could have been used as a place of public assembly. Only animal bones were found inside. It’s impossible to determine what type of ceremonies were conducted at these sites, but it is evident that the dead were closely tied to the cycles of the sun which suggests a strong belief in the concept of an after-life.
You can no longer freely visit Carnbane West. An area farmer who owns the land will not allow access to the sites. However, Irish law states that if you are more than half-way to a sacred site, the owner of the land has to let you pass and cannot stop you. Getting back is another story.
Over the past few years I've noticed that farmers are not as open to allowing people to visit sacred structures that are located on their land. They've blocked access and even put up electric fences to prevent people from walking on their land. Reasons for this have been due to law suits against land owners because of peope getting hurt on their land, and destruction to property. Ireland's tourism is on the rise more so than ever before and more people are discovering these various sites, which has caused many problems for the local farmers.