Plans are under discussion to create long-term public access to one of Ireland’s finest and largest neolithic portal tombs, the Glendruid Dolmen in Cabinteely, south Dublin.
Local councillors are to be briefed on Monday night about the protected monument, which is surrounded by development land.
The dolmen, dating from about 3,500 BC and also known as the Brennanstown Dolmen, is comparable to the larger and more famous Poulnabrone dolmen in Co Clare.
However, the Glendruid Dolmen is not as widely known and is on private land, located beside the Carrickmines river, between Brennanstown Road in Cabinteely and the Cherrywood Strategic Development Zone.
The river runs west to east through a small wooded valley, but surrounding lands are either zoned residential, part of the Cherrywood Strategic Development Zone or are being offered for sale in a number of lots by the National Asset Management Agency (Nama).
Traditionally walkers and students of the neolithic period accessed the dolmen via an informal track from Glendruid House but this is one of the plots being sold by Nama.
Local councillor Barry Saul (FG) has asked Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to take steps to ensure public access to the dolmen in the context of potential tourism value while acknowledging private property rights.
Although the dolmen itself is a national monument and as such is afforded protection by the Office of Public Works, this does not guarantee public access. Local historian Liz Pilkington is worried about the ability of future generations to get up close to the dolmen or even be aware of its existence.
“It is about passing on what we have to the next generation and it is very, very important that it does not get lost,” she said.
Denis Madden of the Glendruid Dolmen Public Forum said locals fear the only access to be provided will be “a visual access” from a proposed green belt in Cherrywood on the south side of the Carrickmines stream. The forum includes local residents and Dún Laoghaire-based holistic therapist Olwen Pendred who has an interest in Celtic spirituality.
Cllr Hugh Lewis (PBP) said the dolmen was “one of the most significant and finest examples of a portal tomb in the country” and “for this reason alone, securing future public access to the monument is of the utmost importance”.
Local TD Cormac Devlin (FF) has also lent his support to the campaign for access. He said he would press the Minister for Heritage and the Office of Public Works on the issue.
The capstone of the dolmen alone weighs an estimated 50 tonnes. It rests on two, west-facing entrance/portal stones and three side stones. The ensemble creates a 3m by 1.5m inner chamber with a doorstone and a backstone.
In its report to be considered by councillors on Monday night, the council says “exploratory” discussions in relation to formalising public access to the dolmen have been held with the OPW, the National Monuments Service, the dolmen landowner, local groups and internally with the “Parks and Cherrywood Green Infrastructure Team”.
The report says a planned riparian path or greenway in the wooded area would facilitate visual access to the dolmen across the river.
The council says it would also have to consider Glendruid as an important biodiversity site which has associated EU habitat protection.
“Therefore any public access in the area needs to be very carefully designed and managed,” the report said.