Creevykeel Court Tomb - Atlas Obscura

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Creevykeel Court Tomb

Cliffony, Ireland

One of Ireland's best-preserved chambered cairns can be found next to a wishing tree. 


A court tomb (also known as a court cairn) is a collection of megalithic stones that form a circle or cluster of burial sites. There are nearly 400 of these tombs dotting Ireland: Another 100 can be found in the southwest of Scotland.

One court cairn, the Creevykeel Court Tomb is located just off the N15 between Donegal and Sligo. The tomb is said to date back to the Neolithic period between 4000 and 2500 B.C. Considering its age and location, it is one of the most well-maintained and easiest court tombs to get to in the country. 

The Creevykeel Court Tomb covers an area of 180 by 82 feet and runs in an easterly to westerly direction. At the far end of the tomb is a section referred to as the court which measures about 50 by 30 feet, with enough room for about 100 people.

In 1935, a joint venture between the Harvard Archeological Mission and the Irish Free State Government held an excavation, the first modern scientific dig to operate in Ireland. Several items were found, including tools, weapons, and other domestic objects.

These discoveries demonstrated that both Iron Age peoples as well as early Christians utilized the site. A large stone circle at the center of the site led archeologists to believe the tomb was also used as a smelting pit. These pits were used to make metal tools. There is also evidence that the site may have been used as an alcohol still, as well as a burial site for unbaptized infants.

The tree at the entrance to the court tomb is referred to as “Wishing Tree” or “Raggedy Tree.” Following Celtic traditions, people will tie a bit of fabric into a loose knot onto a branch and make a wish. Once the wish has been granted, the piece of cloth is untied and left hanging in gratitude. This ancient Irish tradition usually involves a Hawthorn tree and is prevalent around Halloween.

Know Before You Go

There is no entrance fee and the site is accessible at all times. The tomb is unattended and has no amenities. Remember this is a delicate and cherished site, please show respect and avoid climbing on top of the ruins. 

There is a small car park just off the N15. It comes up quickly and be aware of fast-moving cross traffic when entering and exiting. The Raggedy Tree is on the right-hand side. A small entrance to the tombs can be found through the trees. Wear sensible footwear and be aware of uneven surfaces.

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January 10, 2024

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