Megalithic tomb known locally as the ‘Giants Grave’

At the end of a short trail (at the rear of Yeats’ Tavern carpark), on privately owned land, is Coolbeg wedge tomb, a National Monument known locally as the ‘Giants Grave’. Dating from approximately 3,000-4,000 years ago, the tomb consists of an 11 metre long passageway flanked on either side by an outer wall of upright stones. These would originally have acted as a supporting wall for the now absent cairn, a man-made stack of stones. A large roofstone lies across the entrance to the passageway and a further roofstone is present at the eastern end.

Excavation has shown that wedge tombs date from the transition period between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age in Ireland. These tombs are usually wedge shaped in plan, with the tomb entrance at the wider, higher end. Who built this tomb here and why remains a mystery. However, a clue may be the adjacent bridge across the Drumcliffe River, which aligns closely with a traditional fording or crossing point for those traveling this important north-south route in ancient times.

The mid-17th century Down Survey maps of Ireland indicate three lines at the mouth of Drumcliffe River with the annotation ‘A Fishing Were’. Fish traps, or weirs, are artificial barriers of wood or stone, erected across rivers or in coastal waters to trap fish at low tide when they could be more easily caught.

A fearsat or sea causeway located nearby allowed access across Drumcliffe Estuary to the opposite Doonierin shore at low tide. In existence here for centuries, fearsat were built by overlaying bushes, stones, seaweed and wood to create a raised causeway. Coolbeg was also the site of a castle, of which nothing remains.

Description

Coolbeg (Irish: An Chúil Bheag) wedge tomb, a megalithic tomb known locally as the ‘Giants Grave’, can be found at the end of this short trail. Dating from approximately 3,000-4,000 years ago, the tomb consists of an 11 metre long passageway flanked on either side by an outer wall of upright stones. These originally acted as a supporting wall for the now absent stone cairn. A large roofstone lies across the entrance to the passageway and a further roofstone is present at the eastern end.

Excavation has shown that wedge tombs date from the transition period between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age in Ireland. These tombs are usually wedge shaped in plan, with the tomb entrance at the wider, higher end. It remains a mystery who built this tomb here and the reasons why they chose this location (However, a clue may be the adjacent bridge across the Drumcliffe River, which aligns closely with a traditional fording or crossing point for those traveling this important north-south route in ancient times).

The mid-17th century Down Survey maps of Ireland indicate three lines at the mouth of Drumcliffe River with the annotation ‘A Fishing Were’. Fish traps, or weirs, are artificial barriers of wood or stone, erected across rivers or in coastal waters to trap fish at low tide when they could be more easily caught.

A fearsat>or strand pass located nearby allowed access across Drumcliffe Estuary to the opposite Doonierin shore at low tide. In existence here for centuries, before the advent of roads and bridges,fearsats were used by armies on the march who usually sought the shortest route across Sligo Bay. A fearsats was built by overlaying bushes, stones, seaweed and wood to create a raised causeway. Coolbeg was also the site of a castle, of which nothing remains.

Location

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