Achill Island's Megalithic Monuments

Megalithic Tomb Achill Island

Ireland’s Megalithic Monuments included Court Tombs, Portal Tombs, Passage Tombs, also Standing Stones & Stone Circles.  The Wedge tombs dated from the Bronze Age.  These were constructed to commemorate the deceased Notables of the Communities.  The last Megalithic Monuments may have been constructed after 2.000 B C.  Portal Tombs were numerous with possibly one hundred & eighty identified within the Country.  An early Medieval Manuscript ‘Dindsences’ survives from the 10th /11th centuries that state ‘sacred geography for the pre – Christian sites in Ireland. All the places listed in theses stories are connected to the old gods.’  Ireland’s monuments were first mentioned by Giraldus Cambrensies during 1185 in his ‘Topograhia Hibernica’.  George Petrie with John O’ Donovan & Eugune O ‘Curry) undertook an Ordnance Survey Letters from 1833 – 1844 of Ireland’s Monuments plus their folklore.  Thackeray stated that Ireland was ‘far more strange to most travelers from France or Germany can be’ in his ‘Irish Sketch Book of 1842.’  A State sponsored survey was undertaken of Megalithic Monuments during 1949.  Court Tombs consisted of a long stone cairn with semi – circular arms of a ‘court.’  It was wide at one end. Several may have had two forecourts at opposite ends whilst each court led to its burial chamber.  The entrance to the tomb ran West to East.  The opening of the burial chamber faced East.  The chambers of the Portal Tombs had taller uprights at one end, with a capstone usually sloped backwards plus rested on a lower backstone.  These monuments weighted from twenty to one hundred tons.  Wedge Tombs had a lower burial chamber that narrowed towards the closed end.  They were often constructed on sloped ground.  Several Wedge Tombs had an antechamber that was closed off from the main chamber of a ‘septal’ blocking stone. [i]

The Wedge Tombs were erected on hilly ground.  They faced Westerly or South Westerly towards the sunset.  They were a construction of side walls of upright stones arranged in order to support the large roof slabs.  One end was left open.  Several had a connecting antechamber.  The main structure would have been originally covered by a Cairn. [ii]

Remains of Megalithic Monuments on Achill Island suggest that they may date from the 3rd or 4th centuries.[iii]

Dookinelly (F655069) Court Tomb is located at Doogort (W F652072).  It is faced up the mountain side.  All that now remains is one Portal stone 2 metres in height with its accompanying side – stone lightly set outside the line of the Portal tomb.  Another slab rests against them that may have been either a portal or side stone?   On the way Slievemore Megalithic Monuments South of the R319 plus 7.5km ESE of the Portal tombs, 12.5 km West by North of Drumcollagh is an overgrown Crannog in Laoughannascaddy (F673053).  There are indications of a submerged causeway or stepping – stones.  Keel (F646074) is located on the slope of Slievemore, East of the deserted village it has a full Court – Tomb over 6 metres in height by 5 metres in width.  This leads through well marked jambs into a gallery that had two or three chambers.  The straight – sided Cairn is nearly twenty metres in length also ten metres in width. [iv]

Keel West Court Tomb is marked as ‘Cromlech’ on both Historic & OS Maps.  It is located on the South steep slope of An Sliabh Mor.  It overlooks Keel Lough to the South on the North side of Acaill.  The Tomb has an open court four metres across that leads to a gallery of 2.5 metres in length plus two metres in width.  The chamber itself measures 2.7 metres in length plus 1.8 metres in width.  It is 0. 25 metres is depth.  The orthostats on the galleries east side has fallen inside.  The Cairn that measures 7.5 metres in length has slipped down the mountainside on the South.  Co ordinates are 53 59 59 975 N, 1033751 W. [v]

Four hundred metres North  East of this tomb (F649076) is a full Court Tomb at an aligned North – South.  It has a much narrower court with entrance through a narrow passage between transverse orthostats.  There is an enormous cap – stone at the back of its gallery.  Corbelling may be viewed on its West side.  The South end of the Cairn is buried within a bog.

Slievemore (F594097) on Achill Island has several prehistoric monuments.  There is an almost complete Wedge Tomb largely covered over.  There is an arrangement of stones that possibly may be remains of a tomb – gallery.  A fine dry – stone Clochán or stone hut stands nearby.  Three hundred metres South West are three stones that form an arc: possibly a Stone Circle?  4.8 km West of the Court -Tomb (F602076), a few metres East of Annagh Strand is a roof less Portal Tomb.  Two uprights survive, possibly a portal stone 2 metres in height with a door stone.  There are two large slabs from the chamber, one of which is displaced: perhaps a roof stone?   Three hundred km South West are three stones that form an arc: these may have been a Stone – Circle.  Just further West of the deserted village is a heavily – quarried quartz outcrop that originally must have been very impressive. [vi]

Slievemore on Achill Island is rich in Archaeological monuments that span a 5,000 – year history from Neolithic to Past Medieval. [vii]


An image of a Megalithic Tomb on Achill Island may be viewed at this link:

This site has a reference to the Monuments etc on Achill Island :

This site mentions the 4,000 B C Keel East Court Tomb on Achill Island’s second highest mountain, Slievmore.  His blog has an image of same. (Pat Mc Dermott 5th November 2013) :

One may view this publication ‘The Pagan Religious of the Ancient British Isles’ at this site:

Publications that refer also to topic include the following:

‘Tourism in Ireland: A Critical Analysis’ O ‘Conner & Cronin Michael 1993 Cork University Press

‘Rude Stone Monuments of Ireland’ Wood – Maclin W. G. 1888 Hodges Figgis Dublin

‘Temple of Stone: Exploring the Megalithic Tombs of Ireland’ Archaeologist Professor Jones Carlton 2007 The Collins Press

‘Prehistory & the Romantic Movement’ Piggot Staurt 1937

‘Megalithic Monuments of Ireland’ Powel Philip 2011 Creativespace Independent Publishers [viii]


[i] The Archaeology ( [assessed 16th February 2020]

[ii] Enigmatic Structures ( [assessed 16th February 2020]

[iii] Achill Island ( [assessed 16th February 2020]

[iv] County Mayo Selected Monuments ( [assessed 16th February 2020]

[v] Keel West Court Tomb ( ) [assessed 16th February 2020]

[vi] County Mayo Selected Monuments ( [assessed 16th February 2020]

[vii] Achill Island ( [assessed 16th February 2020]

[viii] The Archaeology ( [assessed 16th February 2020]

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