The Brownshill Dolmen, Carlow

It is surmised that the first settelers to reach Ireland came around 6000 BC. They left traces of their culture in the flint weapons and other artifacts found along the Barrow valley. One very unmistakable monument dating back to pre-historic times is the great dolmen at Browne's hill to the east of Carlow town. The magnificent capstone has excited the interest of many antiquarians and tourists down through the years. The Dolmen (or Cromlech) has a granite capstone weighing about 150 tons and is in fact a megalithic tomb. It is thought that religious rites, possibly even involving human sacrifice were performed there four and a half thousand years ago (2500 B.C.) and is a testament to the fact that even our ancestors in the mist of pre-history regarded the area as somewhere special.

According to William C.Borlase, one of the greatest authorities on the dolmens of Ireland, the covering stone of the Brownshill Dolmen is not only the largest in Ireland, but the largest in Europe. Writing about the site in 1897, William Borlase describes two other dolmens on the hill, one of which was just 45m distance from this Dolmen. The massive granite capstone rests on two portal stones which flank a doorstone and slopes downwards to the West where it rests on a low boulder. The chamber structure is open to the North and there is no trace of a surrounding cairn or mould which sometimes exists. How in those primative times such an enormous mass of stone was raised still remains a mystery.

The name "Dolmen" comes from two Breton words meaning "Stone Table". The word "Cromlech" is a modern Irish term composed of two Celtic words (crom stooping, and leac, a flagstone), meaning the stooping stone . Two hundred years ago, it would have been called a Druid's alter.

Click below for some good links on dolmens and other stones :-

IT Carlow to Carlow to Carlow Tourism
Courtesy Office of public Works
AK 9th June 1998