Moytirra : Portal Tomb

CountySligo
Grid RefG 813 145
GPSG 81262 14502 (3m)
Longitude8° 17' 10.75" W
Latitude54° 4' 45.26" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownBallyfarnon (5.4 Km)
OS Sheets25, 26
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192
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Visit Notes

Saturday, 19th June 2010

How can this be? This portal tomb is supposed to be destroyed! Well, it has collapsed, but rumours of its disappearance seem to be greatly exaggerated. It was rediscovered by Tatjana Kytmannow when she was doing fieldwork for her PhD. It was overlooked by the fieldworkers preparing the Sligo Archaeological Inventory.

There are drawings of this tomb from the 19th Century that show a proud monument similar to, but smaller than, the nearby portal tomb at The Labby Rock (County Sligo). Now there is just one stone remaining upright and a pile of other stones including the massive capstone .

Amazingly these stones are visible from the nearby road and it's extraordinary that no one has seen them for so long - including me: I once drove up here looking for it. They are next to a field boundary bank, which does hide them somewhat, but I'm still embarrassed not to have taken any notice of them.

What must have been the capstone rests on one of the collapsed chamber walls and another stone. There is a another slab lying to the rear of these and the upright stone is on the opposite side. I use the word 'rear' lightly, as which the front and which is the back isn't clear from the remains.

It is so good to know that something still remains of this monument after thinking it had been lost forever.

Portal tombs are what most people wrongly refer to as dolmens. They are, to me at least, the most strikingly designed of the megalithic tombs. They are called portal tombs because they have two large upright stones, usually very well matched, in front of the chamber that seem to form a doorway.

Resting upon the portal stones and the chamber a large capstone rests (sometimes there are two capstones - see Knockeen (County Waterford)), usually at an angle of around 22 degrees from the horizontal. Although these were originally incorporated into one end of a long cairn there are none left in this state today, although traces of the cairn can sometimes be seen upon the ground. The portal stones can be up to 3.5m tall, which combined with a thick capstone can produce an imposing monument over 5m tall. Capstones can reach in excess of 70 tonnes, with that of Browne's Hill (County Carlow) being estimated at over 120 tonnes.


Often betwen the portal stones there is a door slab, blocking the width of the entrance, but not always the full height. Door slabs are either half height, three quarter height or full height, describing the amount of the portal that they obstruct. All portal tombs would have had door slab, but this has often been removed to facilitate entry into the chamber.

Quite rarely the portal stones are the same height as the chamber and the characteristic slope of the capstone is created by the profile of the capstone (see Glendruid (County Dublin)).

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

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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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