“Determined now her tomb to build,Her ample skirt with stones she filled,And dropped a heap on Carnmore;Then stepped one thousand yards, to Loar,And dropped another goodly heap;And then with one prodigious leap Gained Carnbeg; and on its height Displayed the wonders of her might.
And when approached death’s awful doom,Her chair was placed within the womb Of hills whose tops with heather bloom.”
On his visit to the Loughcrew hills, also called Sliabh na Caillíghe (The Hill of the Hag, or Witch) Jonathan Swift was determined to collect local folklore. With a friend acting as translator from the Irish, he heard tales of the “monster woman” who once ruled the area. The name of the ancient hag was Garavogue, the local incarnation of An Cailleach Bhéara, he Hag of Beare. As the legend goes, she was attempting a magical feat requiring her to drop an apron full of stones on three of the Loughcrew peaks, jumping from one to the next. Had she succeeded, she would have ruled over all of Ireland. She was able to drop her cairns of stones on the first two peaks, but missed her mark and fell to her death on her last leap. But as a result of her efforts the hills are crowned with a wonderful assortment of 5,000-year-old passage tombs in various states of preservation.