3rd July 2023

Slieve Gullion’s Passage Tomb and Cairn Need Your Help

Slieve Gullion Cairn needs your help! The ancient cairn on the summit of Slieve Gullion needs repairs due to the accidental damage caused by the thousands of visitors to the site each year. We have carried out repairs twice since 2012. We are again looking for volunteers to help restore the Passage Tomb on the summit of Slieve Gullion. The event will take place on Saturday, 26th August.

solstice sunset

At around 5000 years old, the Passage Tomb on the summit of Slieve Gullion is one of the oldest in Britain and Ireland. It was built by Neolithic (New Stone Age) people, possibly to honour their ancestors and be closer to their gods. The passage aligns with the setting sun of the Winter Solstice (shortest day) so that as the sun sets, the light shines down the passage and lights up the back of the chamber.

Over the last few years, the cairn has begun to show signs of damage due to its increased popularity. The passage into the cairn slowly becomes blocked with loose stones as visitors walk from the summit markers down the steep slope to the entrance.

The work on the day will also include some minor works on the bronze age northern cairn, where people have been removing stones to create their own mini-cairns, an activity we would like to discourage in future.

Abby McSherry, AONB and Geopark Officer said: “In the last 20 years, the summit of Slieve Gullion has become an increasingly popular site with visitors keen to experience the climb, the spectacular views and the opportunity to explore the Passage Tomb. People climbing the popular route from the summit marker down the steep slope of the cairn to the passage entrance is causing loose rocks to fall down the cairn slope and into the passage. If we do nothing, the passage will become impassable.”

Under the guidance and supervision of Martin Keery and Guillermo Santamaria, Inspectors of Historical Monuments for NIEA, volunteers will help protect the cairn by removing and redistributing the stones from the passage.

Valerie Harte, Chairperson of Newry Mourne and Down District Council, said: “This heritage asset deserves a good dose of TLC to reverse the accidental damage caused by its popularity. We hope lots of people will volunteer to be part of this unique opportunity to get involved in preserving this ancient cairn and help secure its future.”

The conservation work will take place on Saturday 16th May from 10.30 am to 4 pm. Volunteers should meet at 9.30 am at the main forest park carpark for a safety briefing and to organise car-sharing to the upper carpark. This project will only go ahead if the weather forecast is good. Therefore, registration is essential so that we have the contact details of all volunteers. If you would like to get involved, please register your interest on the Eventbrite page here

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