Friday, February 8, 2013

Haroldstown Dolmen, County Carlow

This is Haroldstown Dolmen in County Carlow. This absolutely stunning example of a portal tomb is one of the finest examples of its type in Ireland. Portal tombs (also known as Dolmens) generally date to the Neolithic period (between 4,200 –2,400 BC), the time of the first farmers in Ireland. They are typically characterised by their huge capstones, supported by a series of large upright stones set on end to create a chamber. They are most commonly found in lowland settings, such as near rivers or streams, though the majority of portal tombs are located to the Northern half of Ireland, there is a notable amount in the south-east and in the west in Counties Clare and Galway. Carlow has two particularly fine examples with Browneshill Dolmen (which possesses the largest capstone in Europe, weighing in at around 100 tonnes) and this beautiful example at Haroldstown.

The portal tomb at Haroldstown consists of two massive and slightly tilted capstones, supported by ten vertical stones. There are suggestions that this tomb was actually used as a home for a family during the nineteenth century, with the gaps between the supporting stones plugged with turf and mud.  

You can find this stunning site located near Tullow off the R727. It is just after the bridge that crosses the Dereen River and the site is free to enter, but do take care to close gates behind you as it is part of a working farm. The dolmen is certainly one of the most striking and photogenic sites I have come across so far!

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