Loughcrew (Irish: Loch Craobh) is near Oldcastle, County Meath, Ireland. (Sometimes written Lough Crew). Loughcrew is a site of considerable historical importance in Ireland. It is the site of megalithic burial grounds dating back to approximately 3500 and 3300 BC, situated near the summit of Sliabh na CaillÃ.
Lough Crew Passage Tomb Cemetery is one of the big four passage tomb sites in Ireland (the others are Bru na Boinne, Carrowkeel and Carrowmore). They are thought to date from about 3300 BC. The sites consist of cruciform chambers covered in most instances by a mound. A unique style of megalithic petroglyphs are seen there, including lozenge shapes, leaf shapes as well as circles. The site has three parts, two are on hilltops, Carnbane East and Carnbane West. The other, less well preserved cairn is at Patrickstown. The Irish name for the site is Sliabh na Calliagh, which means mountains of the witch, and legend has it that the monuments were created when a witch flying overhead dropped her cargo of large stones from her apron. The orthostats and structural stones of the monuments tend to be from local green gritstone, which was soft enough to carve, but which is also vulnerable to vandalism. There is a widespread belief that Cairn T in Carnbane East is directed to receive the beams of the sun at sunrise on the autumn Equinox - with light entering and illuminating the art on the backstone.
In more recent centuries Loughcrew became the seat of a branch of the Norman-Irish Plunkett family, whose most famous member became the martyred St Oliver Plunkett. The family church stands in the grounds of Loughcrew Gardens. With its barren isolated location Sliabh na CaillÃ became a critical meeting point throughout the Penal Laws for the dispossessed Irish. Even though the woods are now gone an excellent example of a Mass Rock can still be seen on the top of Sliabh na CaillÃ today. Following the overthrow of the Plunketts by Cromwellian forces the Plunketts were dispossessed and their estate at Loughcrew was given by Sir William Petty to the Naper Family c.1655. The Napers built an extensive estate of some 180,000 acres (730 km²) in north Meath in the subsequent centuries which mirrored that developed by their neighbouring Cromwellians, the Taylors of Headfort. Following a third and devastating fire, in 1964, the three Naper sons went to court and requested that the state allow the family trust to be broken up and the estate divided between the three sons.
More history by Chris Kirk (our local historian):
The Loughcrew estate as presently occupied by members of the Naper family since around 1660 is noted as being the former homeland of the Plunkett family. In fact Co. Meath at one time was practically owned by various branches of the Plunketts, most notably the Plunketts of Dunsany and Plunketts of Killeen castles near Dunshaughlin, with a distant relations living around Loughcrew of which St. Oliver Plunkett was descended. Plunketts from the Killeen family also owned Virginia up until around 1750 when they sold off much their estates in Meath and Cavan to pay off mounting debts.
The Plunketts of Loughcrew is more of a mystery and in spite of the fact that a Captain Naper was awarded the Loughcrew estate as payment for services during the Cromwellian period. It seems to me that Naper actually received his grant of land in the post Cromwellian period at the restoration of King Charles the second. So what happened to the Plunketts?
According to both the Killeen and Dunsany family histories that maintain their distant relationship to the Loughcrew Plunketts. St. Oliver Plunkett was born in 1625 and spent much of his adult life in Rome, returning to Ireland in 1670 as Bishop of Armagh (twelve years after the death of Cromwell) where the Catholic church was still under persecution following the wars of the Confederate period. St. Oliver Plunkett was arrested in December of 1679 and brought to Dublin Castle for later transfer to Newgate prison in London, on a charge of perjury he was found guilty of high treason and was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn, London's famous place of public execution on 1st July 1681 during the reign of King Charles II.