Poulnabrone portal tomb at the Burren in County
Clare is one of the world's best known and most visited dolmens.
Ireland is fortunate in having almost 200 dolmens and of
course Brownshill in county Carlow is the largest. But when
the setting is taken into account, and the wildflowers of the
Burren, the isolation from a built environment, the quiet, and the
sheer magic are considered, Poulnabrone must come out on top. It is
estimated as being 4,500 years old which places it at the end of the
Neolithic and the beginning of Ireland's Bronze Age. We must not
forget however, that when the dolmen was erected here 4,500 years
ago the landscape probably looked very different. There is
evidence that they people who built the many tombs on the burren
actually farmed the area and the Burren would have had a covering of
soil with scrub, trees and grass growing there. It was this
very farming which caused the stripping away of the soil and leaves
us today with the dramatic limestone landscape for which the area is
There is some debate
among scholars as to the correct translation of the word Poulnabrone.
In Irish it is 'Poul na Brón' which can be translated as the 'hole
of sorrows' and this certainly seems apt given the sorrow which is
associated with death and the passing of loved ones. However the
beautifully designed, official Information Board says that it
means the 'Hollow of the Millstone'.