Visit the Loughcrew Megalithic Centre

With so many mysteries in Ireland’s Ancient East, visiting the Loughcrew Megalithic Centre may provide some answers – or more questions!

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


How much did the ancients know about the stars? Did they understand our solar system better than we realise? Were they connected to the universe in ways we might never understand?

More than 5000 years ago, before Stonehenge was built and before the Egyptians put up the Great Pyramids of Giza, there were people in Ireland building stone structures more advanced than we might, at first, give them credit for.

You’ll find some of the most interesting ones at the Loughcrew Megalithic Centre.

Loughcrew Megalithic Site, Ireland

These tombs – we guess they’re tombs – seem to have special properties that connect them more with the sky than the earth.

One might have a passage where the sunrise will shine straight through only on the summer solstice. Another will do the same just on the winter solstice, others on the equinox.

But what other mysteries might they contain?

Are they laid out across the landscape in patterns that replicate constellations?

Are the symbols carved into the rocks diagrams of the passage of the sun or another star?

Loughcrew Megalithic Site, Ireland

I’ve written previously about Newgrange, a similar megalithic tomb in Ireland – probably the most famous. And I certainly recommend that you visit Newgrange if you’re interested in these sites.

Today I want to tell you about another special site where you’ll find the Loughcrew Cairns.

If you’re visiting from Dublin, there’s this excellent day trip to Loughcrew that also includes places like Trim Castle and the Hill of Tara.

Loughcrew, about an hour’s drive from Dublin, actually has 32 of these mounds, or cairns, as they’re known.

Some of them are almost impossible to see, covered in grass and flattened by the weather over thousands of years. Of those that can be seen, just a few are particularly significant.

Cairn T at Loughcrew

I head to ‘Cairn T’ (they are all rather unimaginatively named with letters) because that seems to be where the crowd is. This is one of the important ones because of the way its passage lines up with the sun for the equinox twice a year. If you were to be inside at sunrise on one of those days, you would see an orange beam of light come through the entrance and hit the artwork at the back.

Loughcrew Megalithic Site, Ireland

You can go inside the cairn, scrambling over an entrance stone and ducking beneath the low ceiling of the passage. Once you’re in the middle, though, it’s possible to stand up and look around.

Loughcrew Megalithic Site, Ireland

“Don’t touch the stone,” the guide says when I’m inside. Nothing has fallen down for 5000 years, such was the ingenuity of the construction. Still, it’s not worth the risk that this could be the day a silly tourist dislodges the piece that’s holding it all together!

The cavern in the middle is quite small, compared to Newgrange. While almost twenty of us were able to fit inside there, here there is only room for about six of us.

Loughcrew Megalithic Site, Ireland

An advantage of Loughcrew, though, is that you’re able to take photos and you get to see the walls better because there are fewer people in the way and there’s more light (the passage is much shorter).

If the construction of hollow mounds that have lasted for 5000 years is not impressive enough, if the almost scientific alignment of the tombs to coincide with astronomical events doesn’t blow your mind completely, then you still have the art to marvel over. And to mull over.

Loughcrew Megalithic Site, Ireland

I say ‘mull over’ because it’s not really clear what the designs carved into the stones mean.

There’s certainly a pattern to them, they’re not random, but it’s anyone’s guess as to whether they depict scenes from daily life, observations about the sky, or are symbols of an ancient religion. Or something else.

The Hill of the Witch

Although we refer to this site as Loughcrew these days, it was once known as the ‘Hill of the Witch’. Loughcrew got this name because of an old legend dreamed up by locals many centuries (probably millennia) ago.

The story goes that a giant witch walked across the land here with enormous heavy stones in her apron. As she walked, the stones fell out and sunk into the earth, forming the shapes we still see today.

Loughcrew Megalithic Site, Ireland

On the edge of Cairn T is a shape made from rocks that looks a bit like a bench or a pagan throne. This is called the ‘Witch’s Seat’ and legend has it that this is where she once sat.

Don’t think too much about the discrepancy in size, though. It’s a bit like a Lord of the Rings movie where the hobbits seem to change their height in each scene!

Loughcrew Megalithic Site, Ireland

It’s interesting to think about this folklore from yesteryear. We can have a bit of a laugh today – of course, a giant witch didn’t walk across the earth! But people believed it then just like we believe today that these mounds are tombs created by man 5000 years ago.

Ok, we have a bit more science to back up our theory but we are not as advanced as humans will presumably be in another 1000 years.

What will they think of Loughcrew then? What will they think of us then? The mysteries of Ireland’s Ancient East endure.

Visiting Loughcrew Megalithic Centre

If you’ve already been to Newgrange, you may be a bit surprised at how different the Loughcrew Cairns are.

There’s no entrance fee, no timed visits, nothing like that. Basically, you can just turn up and wander around and look at the cairns and the other landmarks around the site.

But… having said that, I recommend one of the tours that are run by the Loughcrew Megalithic Centre. This will give you a much more rewarding experience and really paint the picture of what you’re seeing.

There are two tours that are run here:

  • Guided Tour: Covers all the main sights and tells the story of Loughcrew’s history and archaeology. It’s about 90 minutes long and costs €60 for 1 or 2 people, with €6 per extra person.
  • Spiritual Tour: You’ll approach the site in the same way that people would’ve millennia ago, treating the site as sacred and looking for meaning in the artwork. It’s about 2.5 hours long and costs €60 for 1 or 2 people and €6 per extra person.

To book one of the tours, contact the Loughcrew Megalithic Centre.

Loughcrew Megalithic Site, Ireland

To get to Loughcrew, the easiest option is to drive. It’s actually quite hard to do it by public transport, and I would probably say it’s not worth the time and effort to do it that way.

If you don’t have a car, or you prefer not to arrange the logistics yourself, I would recommend this excellent day trip from Dublin that includes Loughcrew as well as Trim Castle and the Hill of Tara. It’s a great way to explore this side of Ireland.

Or you might prefer this private tour from Dublin if there’s a group of you.

A few other bits of useful visitor information:

  • The climb to Cairn T is very steep so make sure you’ve got good shoes and are prepared for that.
  • There isn’t wheelchair access to many parts of the site.
  • The approach road to the site is very narrow so caution is recommended.
  • Sometimes there’s conservation work to the cairns which means you might not be able to always go inside.

Another idea: You can also stay here at the Loughcrew Megalithic Centre, which is a fun way to see the site as the light changes during the day.

There are three options for accommodation. You can bring your own campervan, bring your own tent, or go for some glamping in one of the cozy yurts.

Where is the Loughcrew Megalithic Centre?

The Loughcrew Megalithic Centre is about 70 kilometres northwest of Dublin.
The address is Loughcrew, Drumsawry Or Summerbank, Oldcastle, Co. Meath, Ireland. You can find it on a map here.

How do you get to Loughcrew Megalithic Centre?

You can travel by car via M3 and then L2800 from Dublin and you will reach the Centre. The travel takes about an hour. There’s a small car park at the Cairns.
It’s tricky to get to the Loughcrew Megalithic Centre by public transport. Your best option is to get a bus from Dublin to Virginia, then another to Oldcastle. From there, it’s about six kilometres so you could walk or take a taxi.

When is the Loughcrew Megalithic Centre open?

The Loughcrew Megalithic Centre is open every day from 10:00 – 17:00.

What is the Loughcrew Megalithic Centre entrance fee?

The cairns are free to visit but a donation is encouraged.
Both the Guided Tour and the Spiritual Tour cost €60 for 1 or 2 people and €6 per extra person.

Are there tours to the Loughcrew Megalithic Centre?

Yes, there are small group tours on the premises, either the Guided Tour or the Spiritual Tour.
For a guided tour that includes transport and some other sites, I recommend this great day trip from Dublin.

For more information, see the official website of the Loughcrew Megalithic Centre.

If you’re looking for somewhere to eat or drink, there isn’t much around. The closest is the coffee shop at Loughcrew Estate, which is a charming historic house and gardens that you may also be interested in.

Otherwise, you can head into the small town of Oldcastle, about six kilometres away, where you’ll find a few other options.

Also, a reminder that if you find the Loughcrew Cairns interesting, I suggest you also visit Newgrange, which is the best example of these ancient tombs and one of Ireland’s World Heritage Sites.

Other ancient historic sites in the region that are worth seeing on a day trip include the Hill of Tara, Trim Castle, and Fore Abbey.

Time Travel Turtle was supported by Tourism Ireland in partnership with iambassador but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.

2 thoughts on “Visit the Loughcrew Megalithic Centre”

    • I’m so glad to hear this is your favourite place. I found it really interesting. It wasn’t as ‘spectacular’ as Newgrange but I thought it was a much more authentic experience and I enjoyed the freedom of being able to wander around the area without the need for a guided tour.


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