Saturday, 15 October 2016

A marvellous vision of Tír na nÓg at Sliabh na Caillighe

When you climb Sliabh na Caillighe (the hill known today as Carnbane East, Loughcrew), it's difficult not to think of what motives and forces inspired a community of people in the far distant past to create great monuments of stone on the peaks of these hills.

Sunset over Carrickbrack and Carnbane West viewed from Sliabh na Caillighe, Loughcrew.

How did they do it? Why did they do it? How did they stay warm up here, on autumnal days like today, when the wind is blowing and bringing water to the eyes? How many people laboured here, in honour of what gods, and at what cost to their physical and spiritual beings? You wonder about what could have driven them to such fabulous exploits, to create these permanent memorials of stone in honour of ideals and aims that we can only feign to understand.

Ambient light streams into the chamber of Cairn T.
But, in the fading light of day, you catch sight of a marvellous vision. The clouds and the sun create a powerful drama, a play on the stage of the western horizon, causing sudden and thrilling changes in colour and light that bring a sense of rapture. You are witness to another dazzling moment in nature's constant dance.

The haze causes the landscape to fade into ever-dissipating layers of mistiness, and the scattered beams of the sun create the impression of a golden opening to something wondrous beyond the cairn-topped hills. Perhaps this is as close as you can get to actually seeing Tír na nÓg. The eye beholds; the mind tinkers with possibilities; and the heart is greatly warmed by the glory of the scene.

And here, at this sanctified spot where the ancestors gathered in the ancient yesterday, you feel like you have made a connection with them, across time and space and landscape. You grasp with the notion of an otherworld in the here and now, one that transcends time and place, so that you can call out to them and they will answer.

And you wish and hope that the landscape will stay like this forever. Forever ancient.

The evening sun over Cairn T (the Hag's Cairn) at Loughcrew.


  1. My husband, sister and I were honored to share the climb up Sliabh na Caillighe with Anthony on the day he took these photos. We ascended the steep hill as late afternoon sunlight played with clouds. We stooped low to enter Cairn T, stepping over a sill stone that marked our movement from one state of being to another. We studied the markings in the cairn: symbols that seemed to be the sun and stars; spirals, crescents, linear marks, and small, round indentations. Who inscribed these? Who envisioned the construction of this cairn and similar ones in Ireland and Europe? How did the creators of these monuments achieve the level of collaboration necessary to work together year after year, generation after generation, for surely the larger monuments required many more years of work than the human lifespan so long ago? These were the questions I asked as we emerged from the cairn to the magnificent light of the sun setting through the hazy mist. As Anthony wrote, it was a dazzling moment. I have never felt more fully alive.

  2. Of all the ancient places my husband and I visited on our several trips to Ireland, the most memorable, the most beautiful, the most moving, was Sliabh na Caillighe. And you're right, it provides a glimpse of Tir na nOg.

  3. Simply beautiful! Am hoping I will get the chance to see this in person!