The Altar Wedge Tomb of Toormore Bay

Aug 7, 2014 by

On our second day in County Cork, we drove down to Mizen Head, and stopped along the way to see the Altar wedge tomb. This late Stone Age tomb is easily accessible from R592, about seven km west of Schull–just pull off into the well-marked parking area, walk a few feet and there it sits, facing out towards Ireland’s lovely Toormore Bay.

Altar wedge tomb

Altar Wedge Tomb on the Mizen Peninsula

The location of the tomb, facing southwest towards Mizen Peak, seems a bit like a Disney exhibit to some visitors because of the tomb’s carefully mown verge, its close proximity to a busy road and its endless stream of visitors. It is very much an ancient sacred site, however, with evidence showing it was used by Stone Age, Bronze Age and early Celtic peoples as a ritual site. Archaeological work in the mid-1990’s found burnt human remains dating back 2000-3000 years ago. Between 1250 and 500 BC, shallow pits were dug inside, probably to hold food offerings, and ancient Iron Age Celts filled a pit inside the tomb with seashells and whale bones, some time between 124 and 224 AD.

 

Altar Wedge tomb

Entrance to Altar Wedge Tomb, on Ireland’s Mizen Peninsula

The rise of Christianity in Ireland brought an end to the ritual use of the Altar wedge tomb site. In the 18th century, the tomb was used as a Mass altar by local priests who had been forbidden by English authorities from conducting Mass in a church, giving rise to the stone structure being called the Altar Tomb.

Altar Wedge Tomb view

View to Mizen Peak and Toormore Bay from the Altar Wedge Tomb in Ireland

If you’re in west Cork, you should consider a trip down to Mizen Head to see the Altar wedge tomb. It’s easy to find, easy to access and the views out to the bay are phenomenal– a marvelously megalithic moment in Irish history, preserved in stone for the ages.

 

For more info on the Altar wedge tomb and other ancient sites in Ireland, try Megalithic Ireland’s website HERE.

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