Amongst the various megaliths we’d plan to see on our trip in 2016, Fourknocks was probably one of the most remote. Since its tucked away in the Boyne Valley region like Loughcrew, it made sense to see both at the same time. However, with GPS difficulties rearing its ugly head again, our plans were quickly dashed and we gave up, ready to reach our bed and breakfast in Kells.
Dating back around 5,000 years, Fourknocks (from Fuair Cnocs, or “”Cold Hills”) is another example of a cruciform passage tomb with its short entry passage, big central chamber, and three smaller side chambers. At 42 square meters (around 452 square feet), its central chamber is more than double the one found at Newgrange, and it’s probably for this reason the original tomb lacked the roof seen today. Its believed that, if anything, Fourknocks had a wooden roof supported by a central pole.
The National Museum excavated the site from 1950-1952 and found numerous human remains of all ages and sexes. Grave offerings were also found, and are now in the side chambers, and are now on display at the National Museum. After the excavation was complete, the dig team created the current roof from concrete. Some holes were left to allow sunlight to filter through, illuminating the different carved designs.
Fourknocks is only 10 miles southeast of Newgrange, and the two sites are actually in alignment with each other. But unlike Newgrange, Fourknocks is not illuminated during the winter solstice; though in line with the sun’s path, it’s too far north for any light to enter its chamber. The site did once align with an astrological feature however. Astronomers know that, when Fourknocks was built, Cassiopeia’s “W” shape would have been in perfect alignment with the four mounds. It’s been suggested this is why a “W” motif commonly appears in the site’s carved stones, and that perhaps the roofless design was intentional for stargazing.
Directions to the site can be very complicated, especially since signs telling you where you are aren’t very common. But if you can find it, Fourknocks is said to be a wonderful, secluded site. The mound is on private property, so visitors need to stop by Mr. Fintan White’s house roughly 800 meters away from the tomb to get a key. He asks for a 20 euro deposit, to ensure you’ll bring the key back before 6pm, and his phone number is easily found across various websites. Perhaps I’d written the number down while preparing for our trip, but I was unable to reach him. If you do try calling him, I wish you better luck! The number is 353 (0) 1 8354722.
I definitely still would love to see Fourknocks someday, though I’m a bit wary of trying to find it on my own after our experience. Since coming back to the States, I have found private tours of the site, including other Boyne highlights, exist. But the price is steep – €380 after a direct booking discount, for 1-3 people through Boyne Valley Tours. Mythical Ireland offers tours as well, though they do not quote a price on their website.
Still, it might be worth considering, depending on what other sites could be combined with Fourknocks for this personalized tour. Avoiding the nerve-wracking hunt for the site would definitely be a nice refresher!
Have you been to Fourknocks? If so, what do you think, and do you have any tips for someone like myself who had difficulty finding the site?
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