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The Knockbrack Court Tomb, also known as the Druid’s Altar, is an ancient burial site located on the south shore of Sellerna Bay, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the island of Inisbofin. 

The Knockbrack Court Tomb is estimated to date back to the Neolithic period, between 4000 and 2500 BC. It belongs to a type of monument known as court tombs, which are characterized by a long gallery divided into chambers and a semi-circular open area or court at the entrance. Court tombs are usually found in the northern half of Ireland, especially in Donegal, Sligo and Mayo, but there are some examples in Galway as well.

The Knockbrack Court Tomb consists of a four-metre long gallery covered by a large roof-stone measuring four by one metre. The roof-stone is supported by a number of small pointed stones, with gaps between them, giving the tomb an unusual appearance that resembles a bug or a spider. The gallery is divided into two chambers by a septal stone. The entrance to the gallery faces east and is flanked by two large portal stones. The court is not well preserved, but it may have been about six metres wide.

The tomb was probably used as a communal burial place for the local population, who practiced farming and herding in the area. The remains of human bones, pottery and stone tools have been found in similar tombs, but no excavation has been carried out at Knockbrack. The tomb may have also served as a place for religious ceremonies and rituals, as it is aligned with the rising sun at the equinoxes.

The tomb has been known as the Druid’s Altar since the 18th century, when it was marked as such on old Ordnance Survey maps. This name reflects the romantic interest in Celtic culture and mythology that emerged during the Irish literary revival, led by writers such as W.B Yeats and Lady Gregory. The druids were the priests and magicians of the ancient Celts, who practiced a form of nature worship and had knowledge of astronomy, medicine and magic. However, there is no evidence that they actually used this tomb or any other megalithic monument for their rites.

One legend associated with the tomb is that there are markings on the capstone that were made for the purpose of channelling blood from human sacrifices towards the earth. Another legend is that there is a hidden passage under the tomb that leads to a fairy fort or an underground chamber full of treasure. However, these stories are likely to be inventions of later times, influenced by folklore and superstition.

The Knockbrack Court Tomb is a fascinating example of Ireland’s prehistoric heritage, offering a glimpse into the lives and beliefs of our ancestors. It is also a beautiful spot to enjoy the views of the sea and the landscape, especially on a sunny day. There is no admission fee, but please respect the site and do not damage or litter it.


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Knockbrack Court Tomb



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