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JUNE 12-23, 2015


Arrive at Derry City Airport with Transport to Hotel

Arrive at Derry City Airport with Transport to Hotel

The Maldron Tower Hotel Derry
... is in the heart of Derry City, it is the only hotel situated within the historic 17th century City Walls. This city centre hotel is ideally located only a short walk to the main shopping district and tourist attractions.

After Check in, we travel a short distance transfer to Derry City in the heart of profoundly rich historical and cultural region. We then have a walk around the 17th Century City walls. This is the only remaining completely walled city in Ireland and one of the finest and most complete examples of Walled Cities in Europe. The Walls were built during the period 1613-1618 by the honourable, the Irish Society as defences for early seventeenth century settlers from England and Scotland.

The Walls, which are approximately 1.5km in circumference, form a walkway around the inner city and provide a unique promenade to view the layout of the original town which still preserves its Renaissance Style street plan to this day.

After our walk around the historic city we can stop off at the Tower Museum to see the heritage of the Spanish Armada shipwrecks from the north Coast of Ireland. At the end of we will stop for lunch in a traditional Irish public house for lunch situated right on the walls of Derry.

After lunch we then head for sunset at Griannan of Aileach observatory/fortress, located above Derry city,two miles away on the nearest mountain. Noted in the mythologies of Ireland, it seems the fort was first constructed around 1700 BC (probably with earthen walls), by the Tuatha de Danann.

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Belfast Henge & Dolmens Day with short visit to Belfast Museum

We travel to Belfast city to see the Giant’s Ring Henge complex located in the outskirts of the city. It was originally preserved by Viscount Dungannon, and dates from the Neolithic period around 2700BC. It is the only known example of a henge with a dolmen in its centre. It is also Ireland’s largest henge at 666' in diameter, and is a perfect example of Nephilim architecture.

Most henges encompass numerology of 555' in diameter (6660") or 666' in diameter. Smaller henges are commonly measure at 216' in diameter (6' x 6' x 6').

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After the Giant’s Ring Henge and Dolmen complex we travel a short distance to the National Museum in Belfast City.

This four-story museum has some intriguing artefacts. A golden salamander with rubies from the Spanish Armada ship wrecks, an Egyptian mummy named Takabuhti, a wonderful display of Megalithic Artefacts from all the megalithic sites we will be visiting. There is a fine example of Ogham Script, the earliest form of Gaelic writing also, only 400 known examples exist.

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Before we leave the museum we have lunch; we then travel a short distance to Legananny Dolmen, a tripod dolmen with a capstone over 3m long and 1.8m from the ground. It dates to the Neolithic period, making the monument approximately 5,000 years old.

Such "portal tombs" were funerary sites for the disposal of the dead in Neolithic society. The heavy stones would have been dragged some distance before being set in place. The three supporting stones are unusually long and there are slight traces of a cairn which must have been far more extensive. Some urns were found underneath. The name Legananny is believed to be derived from Irish Liagán Áine, an Irish Goddess.

We next make our way to Ballykeel Dolmen, a Neolithic burial site, dated between 4000 and 2500 BC, it has a huge capstone, supported on upright stones, over an octagonal burial chamber. It is known as the 'Hag's Chair'. It stands dramatically at the southern end of a long stone cairn. Most of the cairn has gone, but two parallel lines of carefully-set stones defining the edges are still visible. Excavation in 1963 revealed many shards of Neolithic pottery and a few flint tools. It is located within the Ring of Gullion, an area riddled with megalithic sites.

Souterain near Finnis' Legamanny Dolman. we'll be accessing the underworldon our hands and knees through ancient tunnels.


Megalithic Sites of Donegal

Neolithic Stone Circle
from around 1400-800 BC and comprises 64 stones around a low earth platform or tumulus, situated at the summit of Tops Hill. One stone is decorated with cup marks and many of the stones stand at an angle after being disturbed around a hundred years ago. There may originally have been about 80 stones. A single stone, about 2 metres high, stands to the southeast of the circle. It probably had some function related to the rites or ceremonies in the circle. A stone head was found at Beltany, probably carved between 400 BC and 400 AD.

A stone head was found at Beltany, probably carved between 300BC - 400BC. It has been suggested that the name of the site is linked to the Celtic festival of fertility known as 'Beltane;' Properly known as Beltaine. Pronounced Bal-tin-neh, meaning Bal-tinne; 'Bal's fire' Bal being the sun god and the fire ceremony being a homage and source of regeneration for his power to rejuvenate the sun for the following season.

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Kilclooney 70 Ton Dolmen
dates from circa. 3500 BC, is a very fine example of a dolmen, or portal tomb and is thought to be one of the best, if not the best, in Ireland. The dolmen is almost completely intact and measures approximately 13' long, 20' across, and stands over 6' high, making it one of the largest in Ireland.

Just behind the dolmen is a second and much smaller dolmen.  This smaller one however is partly collapsed but still very identifiable. There is also a court tomb about 160 feet to the east of the dolmen. The lower end of the capstone is supported by a small stone onto the back stone whereas normally the capstone is supported at the lower end solely by a back stone.  It is thought that this extra stone was perhaps to allow extra light to shine through.

The Ardmore Equinox Stone
stands some six feet above the ground, it is quite rectangular looking and measures approximately 2' x 3'. It has an unusual alignment of 330° as you face the rock art. There is nothing depicted on the other side. The alignment is unusual in that there are breathtaking views over Lough Foyle behind you and there seems to be nothing on the horizon.

There are two constellations shown on this standing stone, namely Ursa Major and the Ursa Minor. There are many names for these famous constellations, like the Big Saucepan and the Little Saucepan, or the Big Plough and Mini Plough. They are immediately recognisable to sailors or orienteering professions that use the Ursa Major to find the North Pole Star. The most obvious difference is the size and hence the two names, but more concisely the big ‘Saucepan’ has a kick in the handle and the little ‘Saucepan’ has a continuously curved handle. There is also the fact that these two constellations are in the same region of sky but revolve around the Pole Star. Barnes Lower Rock Art is two massive standing-stones under a metre apart. The larger one, a massive slab over 1.8 metres square, has many cup-marks (some with large rings) and wide, shallow grooves on its E face. The smaller one, shaped like a spearhead, has cup marks and a cross (a relic of Penal times?) on its west face. Both faces are lit simultaneously in late morning.

Temple of Deen Court Tomb
dates from between 2500bc – 1500bc.  It is prominently located on a hill just outside the village of Culdaff overlooking Trabrega Bay towards the Atlantic. On the original ordinance survey maps of Ireland it was marked as a Druid’s altar as this site was linked to pagan ceremonies. In the early Christian period this area was also very important as monks came to Cloncha and Carrowmore (in the valley next to this monument) to set up monasteries following a visit by St. Patrick himself.

Bocan Stone Circle
has been speculated to be originally a sun temple. Many of the stones (originally numbering 30 in all) were removed, the remaining stones are up to 7ft tall, its construction have been suggested as somewhere between 1500 - 3000 BC.


North Antrim Coast - Megaliths and Majestic Sites

Dooey’s Cairn
is a Neolithic tomb dating from 4000-2000 BC. This is the best preserved court tomb in the Causeway Coast area. It is named after Andrew Dooey who owned the land. His family granted it to the government in 1975. It was excavated twice, in 1935 and 1975. It consists of a U-shaped forecourt that leads into a small chamber. Behind the chamber is a cremation passage, containing three pits, one of which held the remains of several individuals. This form of cremation passage is the only one of its type found in Ireland.

Craigs Court Tomb ‘The Broad Stone’  and Craigs Dolmen is a well preserved example of a court-tomb, at a height of 620' (190 metres) on the west side of the Long Mountain. The tomb is aligned almost exactly north-south, and is set in the remains of an oval cairn, measuring 14.5 x 11.5 metres, with traces of a stone kerb defining the perimeter.

At the south end is the semicircular forecourt. From here the burial gallery opens, between two large portal stones, partly blocked by another stone. The capstone on the tomb was shattered in 1976 by lightning. It was repaired in 1985 and excavation at the time showed that the chamber was the remains of a Passage Tomb not a dolmen. It was probably built before 2000 BC, but re-used for burial in the Bronze Age. There are seven small standing stones which support the capstone.

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Dunluce Castle
In the 13th century Richard Óg de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster, built the first castle at Dunluce. It is first documented in the hands of the McQuillan family in 1513. The earliest features of the castle are two large drum towers about 9 metres (30 ft) in diameter on the eastern side, both relics of a stronghold built here by the McQuillans after they became lords of the Route. The McQuillans were the Lords of Route from the late 13th century until they were displaced by the MacDonalds after losing two major battles against them during the mid and late-16th century.

The Giant’s Causeway - The Birthplace of Geological Science. Flanked by the wild North Atlantic Ocean and a landscape of dramatic cliffs, for centuries the Giant’s Causeway has inspired artists, stirred scientific debate and captured the imagination of all who see it.

Bushmill’s Irish Whiskey is made at the World’s oldest working distillery in County Antrim, Northern Ireland on the beautiful North Coast.

The grant to distil was signed in 1608 by King James 1st and there has been distillation on this site since then, using the unique fresh water from their own stream and Irish barley. The Bushkill’s Brand Experience encompasses guided tours around a working distillery with all the associated sights and smells, tutored whiskey tastings, a specialist whiskey shop and a well stocked gift shop with exclusive Bushmill’s merchandise.

At the conclusion of the tour you will be offered a whiskey or a soft drink in their 1608 Bar. There is also a restaurant serving lunches and Bushmill’s inspired treats.


Court Tombs and their Astronomy


Knockoneill  & Tamnyrankin Court Tombs 3000BC
This megalithic tomb is known locally as the "Giant's Grave" a common name applied to such monuments. This court tomb is unusual in that it has a subsidiary chamber at the back of the gallery, which is entered via a passage in the side of the tomb. More unusual is the fact that the back stone of the main gallery is used as a side stone of the subsidiary chamber. Excavations at the site in 1948, 1977, and more recently in 1984 produced charred bones and an urn dating to the Bronze Age located to the south of the tomb and in the forecourt respectively. The majority of court tombs are found in the north of Ireland with the majority of subsidiary chambers found in County Derry.

 Creggandevesky Court Tomb 3500BC
This very impressive court tomb was a peat- covered, largely featureless mound and was threatened with removal in an agricultural reclamation scheme. When excavated between 1979 and 1982, it proved to be in an almost perfect state of preservation. A semi-circular forecourt leads to three burial chambers. Cremated bone representing the remains of at least 21 people, flint implements and Neolithic pottery were found during the excavation, some of the material in the court area. Radiocarbon determinations suggest a date of about 3500BC.

Ballymacdermot Court Tomb
This monument, lying on the southern slopes of Ballymacdermot Mountain is an extremely well preserved Neolithic burial site with three chambers. It can be dated between 4000 and 2500 BC.  Situated within the Ring of Gullion Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the site offers excellent views of Slieve Gullion and the smaller hills of the ring dyke as well as the Mourne and Cooley mountain ranges. Neighbouring Bernish viewpoint offers excellent views over Newry and further afield. Other nearby megalithic sites include Clontygora Court Cairn and Ballykeel Dolmen.

Annaghmare Court Tomb
The court tomb at Annaghmare is one of the best preserved examples of its type, with many of its features preserved in situ after they were first revealed during excavation in 1963-64. The horsehoe-shaped forecourt is defined by several large stones up to 1.9m high, with the spaces between filled with drystone-walling. The most unusual feature of the forecourt, however, is a small standing stone to the south-east of the centre.

Clontygora Court Tomb
Known locally as the ‘King’s Ring’, this court tomb has a prominent position in the southeast part of the rugged Slieve Gullion ring-dyke. It was built for collective burial by an early farming community who cultivated the land as long ago as 3500 BC. Despite damage to the structure it is a most impressive monument and more extensive than it first appears. Along with the nearby Ballymacdermot Cairn, it is one of the best examples of a court tomb in the North of Ireland.


Tyrone and Derry Megalithic Sites


Ballybriest / Carnanbane Court Tomb

Ballybriest, or Carnanbane, is a dual court-tomb with a forecourt at either end leading to burial galleries placed back-to-back but not quite on the same axis. Land clearance in the 18th and 19th centuries removed the northern half of the monument and the tomb is now stripped of its cairn. To the west is an oval court but the north side of this is not original. It leads to a two-chambered gallery. The depth of the court is about 4.5m and the gallery is about 6m long.

Beaghmore Stone Circle Complex - Tyrone
Discovered during peat cutting in the 1940s the site at Beaghmore consists of 7 stone circles. All of the rings are associated with cairns and a stone row runs towards these cairns. It is possible that Neolithic occupation and cultivation preceded the erection of burial cairns and ceremonial circles and alignments: some irregular lines and heaps of boulders resembling field-fences or field-clearance may predate the ritual structures.

St. Patrick’s Chair
Barry fitzgerald will guide us to the middle of an enchanted forest, far off the maps, there is deep spiritual connection to the land; one of the "thin" places and site of a UFO abduction in 1996.

Knockmany Passage Tomb and Rock Art – Queen Annia’s Cove - Tyrone
The covering cairn in its present form is modern, added to protect the stones from weathering and vandalism. Excavation showed that a stone cairn capped with earth within a stone revetment originally covered the burial chamber. The passage of the ‘classic’ passage tomb is absent but several of the stones forming the chamber are decorated with characteristic passage tomb art, including circles, spirals and zigzags. One of the best examples of this art in the north.

The feminine connected to this tomb is also connected to the worshipping deity of the Fae.

Armagh Court tombs and Proleek Dolmen
The court tomb at Annaghmare is one of the best preserved examples of its type, with many of its features preserved in situ after they were first revealed during excavation in 1963-64. The horsehoe-shaped forecourt is defined by several large stones up to 1.9m high, with the spaces between filled with drystone-walling. The most unusual feature of the forecourt, however, is a small standing stone to the south-east of the centre.

Known locally as the ‘King’s Ring’, this court tomb at Clontygora has a prominent position in the southeast part of the rugged Slieve Gullion ring-dyke. It was built for collective burial by an early farming community who cultivated the land as long ago as 3500 BC. Despite damage to the structure it is a most impressive monument and more extensive than it first appears. Along with the nearby Ballymacdermot Cairn, it is one of the best examples of a court tomb in the North of Ireland.

The magnificent Proleek Portal Tomb, is situated in the grounds of Ballymascanlon Hotel on the legendary Cooley Peninsula in County Louth. It is one of the finest examples of its kind in Ireland. Portal tombs have two tall stones at the front (portal stones) and a smaller stone at the back supporting a large capstone. A portal tomb resembles a giant’s table and is sometimes called a dolmen, which comes from the Breton word Dolmen meaning stone table.

Newgrange Lodge
is uniquely located within the historical world famous heritage UNESCO parkland of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. Formerly an old farmhouse, the Lodge was lovingly restored to provide the perfect base for you to venture out and explore the rich & historical attractions of the stunning Boyne Valley region, also known as Ireland's Heritage capital.


Boyne Valley Sites, Evening Lecture by James Swagger


is the best known Irish passage tomb and dates to c.3, 200BC. The large mound is approximately 80m in diameter and is surrounded at its base by a kerb of 97 stones. The most impressive of these stones is the highly decorated Entrance Stone.


Knowth consists of one large mound containing two passage tombs surrounded by eighteen smaller mounds. The largest of the mounds is known as Site 1. This great monument covers about half a hectare (approx. 1.5acre) and is 95m across at its widest point. Around the entrances to the tombs are settings of unusual stones such as quartz, granite and banded stones. Smaller tombs, some of which are connected to the large tomb, cluster around the great mound.


Dowth is the least well known of the three great tombs of Brú na Bóinne. Although as large as Newgrange and Knowth it has not been excavated in recent times. Like the other monuments it was built over 5,000 years ago. Visitors wishing to visit Dowth can drive directly to the site whereas all access to Newgrange and Knowth is through Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre. 

The mound of Dowth appears quite overgrown and neglected in comparison to the well-tended appearance of the other monuments. At present the mound is approx 85m in diameter and there are an estimated 115 kerbstones, only about half of which are visible.


The Hill of Tara
located near the River Boyne, is an archaeological complex that runs between Navan and Dunshaughlin in County Meath, Leinster, Ireland. It contains a number of ancient monuments, and, according to tradition, was the seat of Árd Rí na hÉireann, or the High King of Ireland. Recent scholarship claims that despite the rich narratives derived from mythologies, Tara was not so much a true seat of kingship, but a sacral site associated with kingship rituals.


Loughcrew hills and Fourknocks Passage Tomb and Art


Transfer to Sligo

Loughcrew also known as Witch Mountain, anWe must ne ris still presently used as a former Pagan worship site. Respectfu of the Old Ways.

Clusters of Megalithic Cairns
are dotted around the Slieve na Caillaigh hills at Loughcrew, the main concentrations are on Carnbane East where Cairn T is the centrepiece andCarnbane West where Cairn L is located. The illumination of the passage and chamber at the Winter solstice sunrise in Newgrange is world famous. Less well known is the Equinox illumination at sunrise in Cairn T at Loughcrew. The backstone of the chamber is illuminated by a beam of light at sunrise on the Spring and Autumnal Equinoxes.


is a Passage Chamber Tomb built about 5000 years ago. It is located 10 miles southeast of Newgrange between Ardcath in County Meath and the Naul in County Dublin. The name Fourknocks may be from the Irish Fuair Cnocs meaning Cold Hills or maybe Four Cnocs is a reference to the Four Tombs (Four Hills). Only the main tomb pictured above has been excavated and is open to the public.


We transfer to the Sligo Hotel which is ideally located in the Sligo City Centre, next to O'Connell Street, which offers extensive shopping, riverside restaurants and cosy bars, and is a 5 minute walk from the bus and train station.


Carrowmore Complex and Carrowkeel complex for Solstice Sunset alignment


Carrowmore & Carrowkeel
This is the largest cemetery of megalithic tombs in Ireland and is also among the country's oldest, with monuments ranging from five thousand to five thousand eight hundred years old.

Archaeologists have recorded over 60 tombs of which 30 are visible. A restored cottage houses an exhibition relating to the site. Access to the tombs may be difficult for people with disabilities. Visitors are advised to wear shoes suitable for walking on uneven terrain.


is a beautifully situated neolithic hilltop passage tomb complex consisting of 14 passage cairns identified with letters. The passage cairns are spread across a number of hills that form part of the Bricklieve Mountain range (the Irish name Breac sliabh means speckled mountain). Carrowkeel is one of a series of limestone plateaus aligned towards Knocknarea.

The plateau to the east is Doonaveeragh and to the west there are the Carn Mor and Treanscrabbagh plateaus. There is a small car park between the two hills in the top image. Although Carrowkeel is the highest point, it is also the easiest hill to access. Most visitors to the complex will visit the four main cairns on this plateau.


Carrowkeel also has a passageway to the mythical Tuatha de Danaan… a secret chamber we can descend into. Not many know about this.

Another of the thin places...


DAY 10
Creevykeel Court Tomb and transfer back to Derry City


Without doubt the court tomb at Creevykeel is amongst the finest examples of a full-court tomb in Ireland. Dating from the Neolithic Period, 4000-2500 BCE, the tomb was excavated in 1935 and shortly afterwards restored. The excavations uncovered four cremation burials, decorated and undecorated Neolithic pottery, flint arrow heads, polished stone axes and other artifacts, including a chalk ball. The cairn is trapezoidal in shape and about 50 metres in length. The front of the cairn is about twenty metres across.







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