'Altoir Ultach' : Wedge Tomb

TownlandBallycroum
CountyClare
Grid RefR 543 885
Longitude8° 40' 47.67" W
Latitude52° 56' 43.43" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownTulla (10.1 Km)
OS Sheet58
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192
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Visit Notes

Sunday, 12th October 2003

Now, this is an odd one. Only half of this structure still exists in any recognisable form. One large stone, reminiscent of a portal stone stands in front of the gallery remains. These are confusing.

An element of double walling is visible, but this one just doesn't feel like a wedge tomb to me. The gallery actually tapers to a fine point and the width of the front slab seems far too wide for the monument to have had proportions that would fall into the range normally associated with wedge tombs.

The walk up to these three monuments is extreme! As the crow flies they are about 1km from the nearest road (to the north). However, the route itself is devilishly hard going. It starts off with a simple stroll across two fields at a gentle climb. This then turns into a winding track that rises nearly 200m vertically in just 300m horizontally. It took me 45 minutes to reach the top - coming down was a lot quicker though!

The effort is well rewarded though with great scenery and the best tomb here, Tober Grania (County Clare) is splendid! This one, on the other hand, is most odd.

Wedge tombs are most easily catagorised by their main characteristic - they are taller and wider at the entrance than they are at the rear. Like court tombs they have a gallery which is split either by septal slabs or sill stones into smaller chambers. Galleries can be anything up to 8m in length.

The side walls are, uniquely, made of two rows of stones (three in some cases), which is refered to as double or triple walling. This double walling is perhaps the best feature to identify a wedge tomb by.

The roofs are constructed by laying large blocks or slabs across the gallery, resting on the tops of the walls.

They are often quite small, an amazing exception being Labbacallee (County Cork), one of the largest in Ireland. It is very rare to find a wedge tomb with its roof still in situ, although, occasionally, one or two of the roof slabs are present (see Proleek (County Louth)).

In some examples the roof would have extended beyond the front closing slab forming a portico at the front, which in a few specimens was split by a vertical stone place centrally in the entrance.

Like court tombs, portal tombs and passage tombs they were covered by a cairn, which, at many sites, it is still often possible to determine. A few, such as Burren SW (County Cavan), still retain a large proportion of the cairn.

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A Selection of Other Wedge Tombs

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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