Tara and Loughcrew aligned for Lughnasadh sunset?

Back in February of this year, at Imbolc, myself, Ken Williams and Lar Dooley witnessed the sunrise shining into the ancient passageway of Cairn U at Carnbane East, Loughcrew. That day, I noticed that when I was crouched in the chamber of Cairn U, the Hill of Tara was visible through the entrance of the passage. Based on that observation, I figured that a viewer on the Hill of Tara might see the sun setting over the hills of Loughcrew at Bealtaine (May) and Lughnasadh (August).

The Loughcrew Hills viewed from Duma na nGiall, Hill of Tara, with labels.

I was unable to get to Tara at Bealtaine, so I was determined to go there for Lughnasadh to see if I was right. This evening, standing on top of Duma na nGiall (Mound of the Hostages) at the Hill of Tara, I watched the sun get lower and lower in the western sky with my son, Finn. Above is a photo showing the hills as they appear from atop the Mound of the Hostages. It looked like it was heading for Loughcrew, but I couldn't be sure. So I watched and waited.And sure enough, as the sun set, it did so over Carnbane West and Carrigbrack, which appear almost as one hill as viewed from Tara. It was a beautiful sunset, and as the sun went down there was a lovely sun pillar (a vertical shaft of light extending upwards from the sun) reaching into the sky.

The sun setting over Cairn D, Carnbane West, and Carrigbrack, as viewed from Duma na nGiall.

So it appears that Duma na nGiall, the oldest monument on the Hill of Tara which is thought to date to the late Neolithic, around 5,000 years ago, is aligned with Loughcrew for (a) sunrise on Samhain/Imbolc viewed from Cairn U Loughcrew towards Tara; and (b) Bealtine/Lughnasadh sunset viewed from Tara towards Loughcrew.The sun pillar visible in the sky as the sun sets behind the hills of Loughcrew viewed from Tara.

The sun pillar visible in the sky as the sun sets behind the hills of Loughcrew viewed from Tara.

The actual date of Lughnasadh this year was (I believe) August 7th, so the sun has moved a little bit to the south (left) since then. And I'm not sure how much the sun's position has changed at Lughnasadh from where it was 5,000 years ago. But it's would certainly appear that there is an alignment. Whether it was intended is another question entirely. But this is just one of many examples of alignments of sites over long distances. Seeing Tara framed by the ancient stones of Cairn U at Loughcrew in the cold dawn of Imbolc six months ago certainly was very fascinating to me. "This is hardly all coincidental," I said to myself. Indeed it might not be, but we may never know whether it was intended by the builders. All we can do now is watch and wonder.

The author atop Duma na nGiall watching the sunset over Loughcrew tonight. Picture: Finn Murphy.

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This page was last updated on 25th November 2020 @ 9:25 PM