Craigs : Court Tomb

CountyAntrim
Grid RefC 979 176
GPSC 97934 17558 (5m)
Longitude6° 28' 10.51" W
Latitude54° 59' 45.03" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownRasharkin (4.8 Km)
OS Sheet8
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192
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Visit Notes

Sunday, 18th February 2007

Why do I always go to sites the hard way? I missed the track that leads past the field in which this impressive monument stands and ended up with quite a walk from the woods. I'll know better next time!

In a photographic way this is one of the most impressive sites in the area, but it's a bit of a sham. The wonderful large capstone that provides such a lovely profile was placed on top of the largest uprights in the mid-1800s.

At over 1.3m tall the entrance jambs are two of the most impressive I have ever seen on a court tomb . This is only the height above the remains of the cairn - the floor of the gallery is almost 1m lower. A third large stone to the rear of these helps to support the massive 'new' captone.

To the front of the entrance jambs at the north end of the monument some of the stones that form the court are in place. Underneath the capstone the gallery is in nice condition. There is a compartment about 2m x 1m. Behind this there is a jumble of stones that are (apparently) the rest of the gallery, but the very last section looks circular and I originally thought it was a subsidary chamber.

I was extremely surprised by the tomb's location. It is built in a shallow valley that runs N-S - as does the tomb's axis. This low spot severely limits the views from the site. It is hard to know if the landscape immediately to the north of the site has been altered by modern agricultural activities. If there hasn't been much change then the tomb seems to have been placed so that Knocklayd Mountain is only just visible to the north.

The large rock used to form the roof of a portal tomb or kist.

Two stones place either side of a gallery, opposite each other, but not touching so as to leave a gap, that are used to segment it into smaller chambers.

Court tombs have several distinctive characteristics that allow easy identification when in fair condition. One key feature that is a great help, no matter what the condition, is that court tombs are nearly always aligned north to south. They were all originally covered by a cairn, but in most instances this is now missing, or at best only remain to a height of one or two metres. The easiest feature to identify (when intact) is obviously the court. The rest of the tomb is occupied by a long, divided, passage-like gallery.

Galleries:
Galleries of court tombs can usually be identified by their characteristic boat-shaped plan, i.e. the gallery, when viewed from above, is flat at the entrance and tapers to a point or narrow width at the rear. The gallery may be segmented into up to five chambers by jambs, the walls normally being made of large slabs. The roofs were created by laying large slabs across the gallery, either directly on to the tops of the wall slabs or resting on corbel stones. Two large stones, with smooth forward-facing faces, usually create the entrance and it is possible to identify a court tomb when only these stones remain. The gallery would have been covered by a cairn of stones, sometimes with a kerb.

Single Gallery Variations:
Most often called a 'Single Court Tombs, usually this style has a half-court, a horseshoe-shaped arrangement of stones in front of the gallery (see Ballymacdermot (County Armagh)). This is usually, but not always, symmetrical about the centre line of the gallery, although occasionally the centre line of the court forms a slight angle with the centre line of the gallery. The other option is a full-court formed a complete circle of stones (see Creevykeel (County Sligo)). These full-courts mainly have one entrance allowing access, which is usually opposite the entrance to the gallery.

Double Gallery Variations:
Double-gallery court tombs come in three styles, the last of which is very unusual. The first is where the chambers are built facing away from each other. These are usually referred to as ŽDouble Court TombsŪ (see Cohaw (County Cavan)). The galleries sometimes share the same rear stone, but more often there is some distance between them Ů ranging from one to ten metres. This style has a half-court at each end of the monument, one facing north and the other facing south. In this style both galleries would have been covered by the same cairn.

Tuning round the two tombs and placing the two galleries so that the entrances face each other, across a full court, creates another style, known as a Centre-Court Tomb. Access to this court is gained through entrances placed (usually) in the east and west sides of the court. Here there would have been two cairns, one at each end, but they would have been joined down the sides of the court by a low cairn.

The third and very uncommon form is where the two galleries are located side-by-side facing into a full court with an entrance opposite (e.g. Malin More).


Subsidiary Chambers:
Quite often you will find other chambers built into the cairn. In single-gallery tombs and double court tombs these are invariably located to the rear of the gallery. Centre court tombs often have them placed near to the entrances.

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Random Gazetteer

A Selection of Other Court Tombs

About Coordinates Displayed

This is an explanation of (and a bit of a disclaimer for) the coordinates I provide.

Where a GPS figure is given this is the master for all other coordinates. According to my Garmin these are quite accurate.

Where there is no GPS figure the 6 figure grid reference is master for the others. This may not be very accurate as it could have come from the OS maps and could have been read by eye. Consequently, all other cordinates are going to have inaccuracies.

The calculation of Longitude and Latitude uses an algorithm that is not 100% accurate. The long/lat figures are used as a basis for calculating the UTM & ITM coordinates. Consequently, UTM & ITM coordinates are slightly out.

UTM is a global coordinate system - Universal Transverse Mercator - that is at the core of the GPS system.

ITM is the new coordinate system - Irish Transverse Mercator - that is more accurate and more GPS friendly than the Irish Grid Reference system. This will be used on the next generation of Irish OS maps.

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