New cairn discovered by amateur archaeologists in Co Laois

Gerry Moloney and Shane McGrath made discovery after examining Google imagery

An overhead view of the Coolnacarrick Cairn discovered in Co Laois

A cairn has been discovered on the summit of Coolnacarrick Hill in Co Laois.

The discovery was made by Gerry Moloney and Shane McGrath, two non-professional archaeologists from Co Kildare.

The cairn – which is a man-made mound of rough stones built as a memorial or landmark, typically on a hilltop or skyline – has been reported to the National Monuments Service.

The discovery was made by the pair after examining Google Earth imagery before travelling to the site to investigate.


Mr Moloney is a lecturer in emerging technologies at Institute of Technology Carlow. Mr McGrath is a product designer and the owner of Limelight Media Group.

Mr Moloney said it was not known how old the cairn is but that they can date back thousands of years. Ascertaining an exact period would involved “extensive investigation”, he said.

The pair said they have made many other observations and potential discoveries and intend to report these to the National Monuments Service in the near future as research time permits.

Shane McGrath on top of Coolnacarrick Cairn with Portlaoise in the background

The National Monuments Service said the cairn was “situated in the centre of scrub-covered woodland on Coolnacarrick Hill”. It described it as an “irregular-shaped cairn of stones located in area covered with scrub vegetation”.

Mr Moloney said access to the site involved two to three hours “of cutting through nearly 100m of dense gorse, briars and other scrub”.

“The views from the cairn over Co Laois and surrounding counties are exceptional but somewhat interfered with by the surrounding scrub and gorse,” he said.

“However, it is unlikely that many people will be able to visit the cairn in the near future to appreciate the find due to its overwhelming inaccessibility unless Laois County Council make a pathway to the site through the thick vegetation.

“This could be done from the walking routes around Hewson Hill which adjoins Coolnacarrick. However, this would obviously take some time to complete so it is probably not advisable for the public to head to the site for a look in the immediate future as disappointment is likely to be the result.”

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter