Irish grid reference approx N1046 9305. In the wooded grounds of Lough Rynn Castle, a 19th century building that is now a luxury hotel in 10,000 acres of land, stands a prehistoric monument. At the place called Druid’s Hill in the far south of the castle grounds between Lough Errew and Lough Rynn, south County Leitrim, there is a curious prehistoric antiquity shaped like a chair or a table, locally called the Druid’s Altar (Cloch an Draoi) or Clooncoe Cist. Unfortunately, this megalithic monument, sometimes referred to as a cist-grave, cromlech or dolmen, has been hidden away and perhaps rather forgotten due to it’s location on private land. It is situated beside a pathway beneath trees not far from the south-western shore of the small round-shaped Lough Errew (Erril) and close to the eastern shoreline of the much larger Lough Rynn and, the elongated Lough Clooncoe is just to the south, while the village of Mohill is two and a half miles to the north on the R202 road.
This solitary megalithic tomb known as The Druid’s Altar or Clooncoe Cist is an odd-shaped antiquity, dating from the Bronze-Age, roughly 2,000 to 3,000 BC; and certainly it does resemble a ‘table and chair’. The very large ‘recumbant’ capstone, if that is what it is, is 1.8 metres (5 feet 9 inches) in width and may originally have stood upright, although we don’t know this for certain. Beneath this horizontal slab there are some smaller, low stones which support the structure and, beneath these there is a small stone chamber (cist) also spelt as ‘kist’, which would have perhaps held the remains of a tribal chieftain from prehistory. At the east side another massive slab stands almost up-right though it leans slightly outwards. This stone measures 2.2 metres (7 foot 2 inches) high, 1.3 metres (3 feet 8 inches) across and about 0.30 metres (nearly 1 foot) in depth; the top of the stone is curved or rounded and could well be a “grave marker”, according to author Paul Swift in his work The Lakes of Ireland, now being published in the famous Ireland’s Own magazine. Or could the standing stone be the doorway to the tomb?
There is no real evidence to say that the druids ever used this megalithic structure as an altar for their religious rituals – that is merely myth and legend that has no substance in reality. Or does it? The Celtic term for this monument is “cromlech” meaning “crooked stone” usually a single chambered megalithic structure, whereas Dolmen (Dolmain) is the term for a portal tomb, grave or quoit – also a single chambered tomb; this name tends to be more prevelent in France, Spain and in other countries, even as far away as India. The term “dolmen” could be the same as “tolmen”, a hole stone or holed-entrance stone.
Swift, Paul., The Lakes of Ireland, Ireland’s Own no. 5,421 November 29th, 2013, Ireland’s Own, Rowe Street, Wexford, Ireland.
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