Cairn T for Two

My now-husband used to say his proposal would be a simple “Will you be buried with my people?” The answer was no, but also yes and so like any good honeymoon, ours included a walk in a graveyard, starting — as they say — as we meant to continue.

Often places of beauty and with hundreds of stories to tell, cemeteries can be wonderful places for a quiet walk. In October we spent a day in two of them, spanning five centuries. That’s a lot of grass growing.

I loved the textures in the graveyard and St Oliver Plunkett’s church: all that stone, lichen, engraving, and green growth everywhere. But, the walk didn’t end there.

Loughcrew — both the estate and nearby cairns — encapsulates the history of this island from megalithic times, through the medieval period, a 17th century saint, the 1964 fire which devastated Lough Crew House, and right up to the 21st century’s wedding venue and fairy trail.

With a medieval motte and paths along garden walls that had me watching for the robin that showed Mary Lennox the key in The Secret Garden, the estate is a gorgeous place for a stroll.

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When this is all that’s left of your house, you must have had some house.

Down the road, the hills and tombs of Loughcrew are known as Sliabh na Caillíghe, the Hill of the Hag. Situated on the highest point in Meath, this is the largest complex of passage tombs in Ireland and from 4,000 BC pre-dates even Newgrange. At each spring and autumn equinox, the rays of the rising sun light up the back stone of Cairn T, which is decorated with bursting sun motifs.

Up until recently you were able to get the key for Cairn T, the centrepiece tomb on Carnbane East, from the tearooms in Loughcrew Estate but “due to ongoing conservation works” access is currently not available. There is still lots to see: standing stones, henges, stone circles and on a clear day the Cooley and Mourne mountains, Slieve Gullion, Dublin and Wicklow mountains, the Slieveblooms to the south, and mountains of Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo to the west. DSC_2062

For more information on the gardens, see the Loughcrew website, with information on the cairns here.

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