Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Mystery Resolved Over Cork Harbour Dolmen

21st October 2022
The Rostellan dolmen in Cork Harbour, where a previously undiscovered cairn extending from it has been discovered
The Rostellan dolmen in Cork Harbour, where a previously undiscovered cairn extending from it has been discovered Credit: Michael Gibbons

A long-running question over the authenticity of a coastal dolmen in Cork harbour has been resolved by archaeologist Michael Gibbons.

As the Irish Examiner reports, experts had been split over whether a tomb-like monument in the harbour’s inter-tidal zone was prehistoric or a more recent 19th-century “folly”.

Gibbons now says there is conclusive evidence that the Carraig á Mhaistin stone structure at Rostellan in Cork harbour is a megalithic dolmen.

Gibbons has also discovered a previously unrecognised cairn close to the dolmen, which would have been concealed by rising sea levels, and which he is reporting to the National Monuments Service.

The Carraig á Mhaistin dolmen at Rostellan is listed by some guides as Ireland’s only inter-tidal portal tomb.

In fact, there are two such inter-tidal tombs, Gibbons says.

The Rostellan dolmen with a 25-metre cairn extending from it below the estuary surface Photo: Michael GibbonsThe Rostellan dolmen with a 25-metre cairn extending from it below the estuary surface Photo: Michael Gibbons

He says that doubt about Carraig á Mhaistin’s age meant that it was not included in the State’s survey of megalithic tombs of Ireland conducted by Prof Ruaidhrí De Valera and Seán Ó Nualláin over 40 years ago.

“At that time, it was suggested that it could have a folly or type of ornamental structure commissioned by local gentry at the nearby Rostellan Castle estate, and dating from the 19th century,” Gibbons says.

A recent field trip by him to Rostellan has thrown up additional details, including discovery that the small chamber at the tomb stands at the western end of the cairn, which is 25 metres long and 4.5 metres wide.

This is significant as portal and court tombs “occasionally have intact long cairns which are both intended to provide structural support to the chamber itself, and to enhance visual presence in the landscape,”he says.

The cairn is “partially entombed in estuarine mud”, and it is probable that a great deal more of the structure is concealed below the surface, Gibbons says in a report he has written on the monument.

He notes it is not known for certain when the area was inundated by rising sea levels, but levels at this part of the Cork harbour shoreline are believed to have been stable for 2,000 years.

Gibbons says that the island's only other known inter-tidal portal tomb is at “the Lag” on the river Ilen, between Skibbereen and Baltimore in west Cork.

Portal tombs or dolmens were often known as “Diarmuid and Gráinne’s bed”, being associated in folklore as resting places for the fugitive couple who were pursued by Fionn MacCumhaill, Gráinne’s husband.

Gibbons also says that recent extreme weather has destroyed Sherkin island’s sole megalithic tomb on Slievemore townland, just three to four metres above the high water mark.

Read more in The Irish Examiner here

Published in Cork Harbour
Afloat.ie Team

About The Author

Afloat.ie Team

Email The Author

Afloat.ie is Ireland's dedicated marine journalism team.

Have you got a story for our reporters? Email us here.

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading Afloat.ie than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open.

Afloat.ie is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

Cork Harbour Information

It’s one of the largest natural harbours in the world – and those living near Cork Harbour insist that it’s also one of the most interesting.

This was the last port of call for the most famous liner in history, the Titanic, but it has been transformed into a centre for the chemical and pharmaceutical industry.

The harbour has been a working port and a strategic defensive hub for centuries, and it has been one of Ireland's major employment hubs since the early 1900s. Traditional heavy industries have waned since the late 20th century, with the likes of the closure of Irish Steel in Haulbowline and shipbuilding at Verolme. It still has major and strategic significance in energy generation, shipping and refining.

Giraffe wander along its shores, from which tens of thousands of men and women left Ireland, most of them never to return. The harbour is home to the oldest yacht club in the world, and to the Irish Navy. 

This deep waterway has also become a vital cog in the Irish economy.

‘Afloat.ie's Cork Harbour page’ is not a history page, nor is it a news focus. It’s simply an exploration of this famous waterway, its colour and its characters.

Cork Harbour Festival

Ocean to City – An Rás Mór and Cork Harbour Open Day formerly existed as two popular one-day events located at different points on Cork’s annual maritime calendar. Both event committees recognised the synergy between the two events and began to work together and share resources. In 2015, Cork Harbour Festival was launched. The festival was shaped on the open day principle, with Ocean to City – An Ras Mór as the flagship event.

Now in its sixth year, the festival has grown from strength to strength. Although the physical 2020 festival was cancelled due to Covid-19, the event normally features nine festival days starting on the first week of June. It is packed full of events; all made possible through collaboration with over 50 different event partners in Cork City, as well as 15 towns and villages along Cork Harbour. The programme grows year by year and highlights Ireland’s rich maritime heritage and culture as well as water and shore-based activities, with Ocean to City – An Rás Mór at the heart of the festival.

Taking place at the centre of Ireland’s maritime paradise, and at the gateway to Ireland’s Ancient East and the Wild Atlantic Way, Cork is perfectly positioned to deliver the largest and most engaging harbour festival in Ireland.

The Cork Harbour Festival Committee includes representatives from Cork City Council, Cork County Council, Port of Cork, UCC MaREI, RCYC, Cobh & Harbour Chamber and Meitheal Mara.

Marinas in Cork Harbour

There are six marinas in Cork Harbour. Three in Crosshaven, one in East Ferry, one in Monkstown Bay and a new facility is opening in 2020 at Cobh. Details below

Port of Cork City Marina

Location – Cork City
Contact – Harbour Masters Dept., Port of Cork Tel: +353 (0)21 4273125 or +353 (0)21 4530466 (out of office hours)

Royal Cork Yacht Club Marina

Location: Crosshaven, Co. Cork
Contact: +353 (0) 21 4831023

Crosshaven Boatyard Marina

Location: Crosshaven, Co. Cork
Contact: +353 (0)21 4831161

Salve Marina Ltd

Location: Crosshaven, Co. Cork
Contact: +353 (0) 21 4831145

Cork Harbour Marina

Location: Monkstown, Co. Cork
Contact: +353 (0)87 3669009

East Ferry Marina

Location: East Ferry, Co. Cork
Contact: +353 (0)21 4813390

New Cove Sailing Club Marina

(to be opened in 2020)

Location: Cobh, Co. Cork
Contact: 087 1178363

Cork Harbour pontoons, slipways and ramps

Cork City Boardwalk Existing pontoon

Port of Cork 100m. pontoon

Cork city – End of Cornmarket St. steps and slip;

Cork city - Proby’s Qy. Existing limited access slip

Quays Bar & Restaurant, Private pontoon and ramp for patrons, suitable for yachts, small craft town and amenities

Cobh harbour [camber] Slip and steps inside quay wall pontoon

Fota (zoo, house, gardens) Derelict pontoon and steps

Haulbowline naval basin; restricted space Naval base; restricted access;

Spike Island pier, steps; slip, pontoon and ramp

Monkstown wooden pier and steps;

Crosshaven town pier, with pontoon & steps

East Ferry Marlogue marina, Slip (Great Island side) visitors’ berths

East Ferry Existing pier and slip; restricted space East Ferry Inn (pub)
(Mainland side)

Blackrock pier and slips

Ballinacurra Quay walls (private)

Aghada pier and slip, pontoon & steps public transport links

Whitegate Slip

Passage West Pontoon

Glenbrook Cross-river ferry

Ringaskiddy Parking with slip and pontoon Ferry terminal; village 1km.

Carrigaloe pier and slip; restricted space; Cross-river ferry;

Fountainstown Slip

White’s Bay beach

Ringabella beach

Glanmire Bridge and tide restrictions

Old Glanmire - Quay

Cork Harbour Festival & Ocean to City Race

Following the cancellation of the 2020 event, Cork Harbour Festival will now take place 5 – 13 June 2021, with the Flagship Ocean to City An Rás Mór on 5 June.

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Associations

ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Events 2022

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
https://afloat.ie/resources/marine-industry-news/viking-marine

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton
quantum sidebutton
watson sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
wavelengths sidebutton
 

Please show your support for Afloat by donating