'Carnfadrig' : Portal Tomb

TownlandBallywholan
CountyTyrone
Grid RefH 556 491
Longitude7° 8' 38.64" W
Latitude54° 23' 14.64" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownClogher (3.2 Km)
OS Sheets18, 28A
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192
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Visit Notes

Sunday, 8th June 2003

This really is an odd structure. Not just odd, but Weird! Very weird! Take the time to look at the excavators plan of the monument before heading up to it. You will see that it is a very unique and complex monument. On entering the clearing with the tomb in you find a long cairn. This is grass and tree covered, but on the day of my visit the grass was freshly cut, making it easier to see what is what. At the east end of the cairn is what appears to be the remains of a portal tomb . One of the portal stones now leans against the other. and the chamber is slightly ruined too.

At the west end of the cairn you can see the remains of a large subsidary chamber, running across the width of the cairn, very similar to those found in some court tombs . Be very careful if you decide to walk up the centre of the cairn, because, as you will have seen on the plan of the site, there are lots of chambers set in between these two features.

I didn't really get any feeling for this site. The freshly cut grass and the overbearing pine trees gave an all too evident impress of modern interference. As a unique site it is very worth a visit though. What I would like to know is this - This site and Carnagat (County Tyrone) are very accessible (this one even has its own car park), but why aren't they signposted from anywhere? There is not a single sign pointing to these sites that I saw!

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)).

In wedge tombs and court tombs the burial compartment is known as a gallery and collectively wedge and court tombs are called classified as 'gallery graves'. This is because the inner area is long and narrow, i.e. bascially rectangular, in plan.

In court tombs the gallery is usually divided into two or more chambers by jambs. Wedge tombs are segmented by sill stones, as are a few court tombs.

Click Thumbnail to View Full Size Image

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Saturday, 4th June 2005

I didn't actually mean to come here today, but we missed the turning for Carnagat (County Tyrone). Not to worry, because it did show me that the grass cutting prior to my last visit wasn't a one off. The small area around the cairn is kept cut back, but I really do wish that they'd clean the top of the cairn up. Without all the trees and shrubs this could be a very interesting site to visit. As it stands now it is very difficult to see what's going on.

Click Thumbnail to View Full Size Image

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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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