Slieve Gullion South Cairn




N 54° 07' 18.06"   W 006° 26' 01.14"

Nearest town


Grid Ref.

J 02393 20316

Map No.


Elevation a.s.l. (m)


Date of visit

Monday 27 May 2019

GPS Accuracy (m)

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The first part of the path up the mountain is easy.

This might well be the highest site I have visited so far. The climbing to the top of Slieve Gullion was quite a hard one, but every step was worth the result. I took about 35 minutes to reach the top of the hill from the car park, and the reward was a breathtaking view over several Irish counties and a magnificent passage tomb.

It's the highest surviving passage tomb in Ireland. It has a diameter of about 30 metres.

The lintelled entrance to the tomb is on the southwest (240°) side of the cairn, the passage is 4.60 metres long, and it leads to a central area that has a diameter of about 3.50 metres on the northeast-southwest axis. Three burial chambers are set in a cruciform arrangement.
The chamber looking towards the entrance has two side jambs and a modern lintel. Between the two jambs, a little outside the chamber, is a stone basin.
The other two chambers are just recesses in the wall. The chamber to the northwest has another stone basin right outside of it.
The passage and the main chamber are aligned with the sunset on the winter solstice, and they're also aligned to Loughcrew Cemetery.

During the excavations of the tombs, fragments of human bones, flints and an arrowhead were found. The radiocarbon analysis dated the tomb between 3500 and 2900 BC.
The ground is covered with lots of scattered stones of all sizes.
The ceiling has been restored with concrete beams with a grid in the middle through which some lights flows in, along with fresh air and rain.
The cairn, which is about 6 metres high, is disturbed by the many people who have climbed it. On the top of the cairn is an OS Map trig point and a pillar with a bronze plaque with the indication of what mountains or hills can be seen from up there.

Looking towards north (345°), the Slieve Gullion Lake and the North Cairn are visible.

Slieve Gullion plays a key role in some folk tales about the legendary hero Finn McCool. It is said that Áine and her sister Milucra were both after him, so, in order to avoid that Áine would marry Finn, Milucra cast a spell on the lake on the top of the hill that anyone who would swim or dive in the lake would turn very old. Then she tricked Finn by asking him to retrieve a golden ring she had dropped in the lake, and when he emerged he was an old man. Forced by Finn's men, Milucra restored Finn's youth, but his hair stayed grey. It is still said that whoever swims in the lake is turned into an old man.
Milucra is also known as the Cailleach Bhéara, an ancient goddess.

This passage tomb is also known with the name Callaigh Berra's House, and the lake with the name of Callaigh Berra Lough.

Slieve Gullion is also mentioned in the mythology of Cú Chulainn, and it is said this is the place where he spent his childhood and he received his name.

A great feeling of accomplishment filled me after visiting this place, I didn't think I was ever able to go up here.
It started raining shortly after I reached the top, the passage of the tomb was a very convenient shelter. It was also very windy and cold on that day.

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