A guide to the best and sometimes off the beaten track historical ruins around Ireland and how to get there.
Sunday, 1 October 2017
Fourknocks Co Meath
viewed from the inside
This is a great place to visit. Considering it is only 10 miles from the great tomb of Newgrange which attracts thousands and thousands of visitors each year this remarkable tomb doesn't get the same amount of patronage but in this case this is a good thing. Chances are when you visit you'll be the only one there.
Fourknocks named after the townland "Fuair Cnocs" meaning Cold Hills is a passage tomb which was probably constructed approx. 5000 years ago. It is surrounded by two other passage tombs which are overgrown and inaccessible. Although smaller in size on its exterior to Newgrange, it strangely has a chamber twice the size of its more famous cousin,
What you need to do before you arrive at the site is to obtain a key from the White family who live about 1 mile away on the Kilmoon road. Without this you cannot access the interior.I will give you details at the end of the post.
The site is accessible via a roadside stile which I should mention is not wheelchair friendly. You need to climb over some steps as there is no gateway. A short lane way leads you directly to the tomb. Unlocking the steel door at the entrance is a great thrill and stepping into the darkness with only a shaft of daylight behind you is amazing. The doorway initially is quite low with a couple of steel supports that you should avoid by stooping. Once into the main chamber you can stand tall again. Like all underground chambers and caves there is a steady temperature inside of around 10 degrees Celsius/50 degrees Fahrenheit and it takes a couple of minutes for your eyes to adjust to the littleness of light inside. This site was excavated in 1950-1952 and afterwards a concrete domed roof was put in place as the original roof which would have been constructed of wood had long since disappeared. Within the dome several small apertures were created to allow light to filter through from the outside.Even so I recommend bringing a good torch with you anyway.
Within the main chamber there are three recesses with many ancient flat stones standing between them Each of these recesses were burial chambers. Even in the faint light you can see that visitors have left scores of small trinkets such as coins and coloured pebbles in the same way that people do with rag trees around certain holy wells. The long horizontal lintel stones above the recesses are all carved with diamond shaped or spiral patterns. The tomb itself is supposedly aligned with the winter solstice sunrise as in Newgrange but it's orientation aims it more towards North where it would not capture a sun or moonrise. So we would have to wonder what thought went into its design.
When you have finished exploring the inside take a few steps up onto the crest of the mound for some excellent views.
Fourknocks is a really interesting historical site and should be visited if you get a chance. I will certainly be returning. When we paid a visit we had the place to ourselves to explore but the keyholder mentioned that earlier that day a bus arrived with 15 people. That would have been a bit less atmospheric an experience.
Okay lets get to the directions. Its a bit off the beaten track so this is the route I chose.
Head North on the N2 from the M2/N2 roundabout towards Slane. After approx 2.5KM you will pass a Topaz Fuel station on your right. Once past the Topaz take the third right hand turn onto the R152 signposted for Drogheda. Drive up this road (you will pass a TOP fuel station on your right) and you will reach two right hand turns close together. take the second right signposted for Garristown. Drive for approx 2.6KM and you will reach a kind of T-junction with a smaller road, keep to the left and continue for approx. 4KM until you see Donnelly's pub on your right. 200m further is a gateway sign on your left for Clogherstown United. Take the next left turn after this.and 450m along this narrow road you will see a white bungalow with a red shed to the right of it. The name White is placed in the stone wall at the roadside. Here you obtain the key. You will be required to leave a €20 deposit which is refundable once the key is returned by 6PM.
Now to find Fourknocks tomb just continue along the road you are on passing through a junction with a stop sign you will then reach a fork in the road with a cottage in the centre. keep to the right lane and you will find the entrance stile to the tomb approx 130m further on your left. There is room to park opposite the stile. Don't forget to lock up when you leave and return the key. Enjoy!
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