The cairns of Loughcrew are known in Irish as Siliabh na Cailleagh, meaning ‘the Witches/ Hag’s Mountain’, and can be found in two groups spread over the hills of Carnbane West and Carnbane East, overlooking the town of Oldcastle in Co Meath. The Loughcrew cairns are estimated to be around 5200 years old.
The ‘Witches Throne/ Chair’ is located on Canbane East at the base of Cairn T, which is a short, steep climb up from the car park.
The Witches Throne is a huge kerbstone carved with armrests at the base of cairn T at the highest point of Loughcrew. It measures 3 m (10 ft) across, and 1.8 m (6 ft) high, and is estimated to weigh in the region of 10 tons. The site’s discover, Eugene Conwell, in the 1860s made a drawing of the stone which reveals that it was once covered in mystic symbols. Sadly these have been eroded by the elements and can no longer be seen. It is quite distinct from the other kerbstones, which makes you wonder, did it have some special significance to the people who placed it there?
Local folklore claims that the cairns were formed when a giant witch, known as the Cailleagh, was leaping from summit to summit carrying huge boulders in her apron. Some of the stones fell from her apron and scattered across the hilltops, thus forming the cairns.
The Cailleagh sat and surveyed her territory from her throne, and it’s not hard to see why she chose this spot as her vantage point… the views are stupendous! On a clear day, it is possible to see the Cooley mountains, Mourne mountains and Slieve Gullion to the north east, the Dublin and Wicklow mountains to the south east, Slieve Bloom mountains (Laois and Offaly) to the south, and mountains in Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo to the west.
Unfortunately for the witch, one day she slipped whilst touring the hilltops of her domain, and tumbled to her death. She was buried beneath a cairn where she fell.
Today, it is said that if you are brave enough to sit in her throne, the Cailleagh may grant you a wish. Well, it’s worth a try!
The cairns at Loughcrew are open and free to visit throughout the summer months. An OPW guide is on hand to show you around the site. There is car parking, which is also free.
You can arrange a guided tour of Loughcrew cairns here. Find out more about Loughcrew and other associated sites here.
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