The Neolithic Portal Tomb at Brownshill, near Carlow town, Co. Carlow

You can find the tomb on the R726 Carlow to Hacketstown road, just over 2km from Carlow town and in a field opposite a Renault Dealers. Parking is provided by the road and there is a 500m walk around the field to the tomb site. The placename is actually Kernanstown townland. The Tomb is situated on the slope of a low hill in a large cornfield.

The capstone sits on two large portal stones that define an entrance, which is blocked by a central stone. There is also a door stone and a prostrate slab with the rear resting on a number of nearly flat stones. The tomb would probably have been covered by a cairn of stone or mound of earth and would have had an elaborate entrance area with facade. There is a single stone to the left of the portal stone, now leaning forward, that may have formed part of an entrance facade. The remaining side stones, and original cairn or mound have been removed. Large stones lying next to the nearby field boundary may have been from the tomb. The underside of the capstone has been smoothed and shaped through glacial activity and the great stone was probably deposited nearby by a retreating glacier during the Ice Age. However the transport, even over a short distance, and positioning of the capstone would have represented a substantial feat of engineering for a Stone Age community.

Side view of the Brownshill, Co. Carlow Portal Tomb showing how the capstone rests on the entrance stones and the flat stones at the back.

Neolithic tombs of this type were built in the period 3800-3200 BC and there are about 175 examples known in Ireland with more examples known from Wales and Cornwall. Burials in Portal tombs were both cremated and unburnt with pottery, stone artefacts and beads. There are thought to have been two more megalithic tombs close by but they don’t survive.

Further reading
Sean O’Nuallian 1983. Irish Portal Tombs: Topography, Siting and Distribution, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries 113, 75-105.

View Brownshill in a larger map
GPS coordinates 52.837617,-6.876411

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