In the small village of Aughnacliffe in County Longford stand the remains of a megalithic portal tomb, where ancient stones are stacked upon each other in a precarious balancing act. Believed to be around 5,000 years old, the tomb is located in a hollow, as are most of the dolmens found in Ireland. This may give a clue as to how the dolmens were created -- one popular theory suggests that a mound of earth, now gone, was used as a ramp to roll the rocks up on top of the structure.
The Aughnacliffe tomb has two capstones, an unusual feature for dolmens of this type. The large capstone, resting on top, is a huge slap, roughly 3 metres / 9 feet across, propped up by a upright portal or "door" stone that is around 2 metres / 6 feet tall. A small cross has been inscribed on this stone -- but this would have been done at a much later date, since Christianity did not arrive in Ireland until 3,000 years after these stones were placed here.
The lower capstone is placed on two supporting stones, so that the whole structure looks like a dramatic house of cards that is about to collapse at any moment -- yet somehow it has stood here for millennia.
The village of Aughnacliffe takes its name from the Gaelic Achad na Cloiche (Ock-ad Na Clock-ah), meaning the field of stones. Aughnacliffe lies 8km / 5 miles from the nearest village of Ballinalee.
Aughnacliffe dolmen, County Longford, by Cast Architecture