Local History by Seán Beattie


The Temple of Deen Culdaff

The court tomb at Larahirrel near Culdaff is part of a great Bronze Age Triangle in east Inishowen comprising Bocan Stone Circle and Cara megalithic tomb. It dates from the period 2000 BC to 1500 BC. Is is so called because it has an outside courtyard and two  inner chambers for the remains of the dead. The courtyard is no longer evident. Prominently located on a hill overlooking Trabrega Bay and the Atlantic, it is popularly known as the Temple of Deen as Deen is a subdivision of the larger townland of Larahirrel.  It was marked on the original Ordnance Maps as a Druid’s Altar. It is a place  linked to pagan ceremonial chiefly associated with death but may have been used for other religious celebrations lead by the Druids.

Various methods have been used to dispose of dead bodies and in Early Ireland, cremation was common with the remains placed in urns. An urn has been found in the vicinity of Bocan Stone Circle nearby. Kings and chieftains were buried standing up facing the territory of their enemies. They carried their weapons even in death. The body of the dead king was like the evil eye – it was capable of inflicting disaster on his enemies as long as it remained in the standing position. Sometimes the burial mound was covered in stones which were built as a cairn. If there were no stones, clay could be used. One great Irish scholar, P.W. Joyce stated that Carndonagh may have got its name from such a mound but this is a minority view. 

With the great Celtic revival towards the end of the nineteenth century, there was a renewed interest in our ancient monuments. At this time, Grianan was restored but other forts such as Ballagh remained undisturbed. Here at the Temple of Deen, the United Irish League held meetings on Sunday afternoons to demand land reform. The meetings were attended by tenant farmers in east Inishowen and prominent speakers from Dublin addressed them. Those who attended derived inspiration from pagan spiritual sites such as this court tomb. It is interesting that they came here rather than to the monastic sites nearby. We know these sites were important even in Early Christian times as monks came to Cloncha and Carrowmore in the valley below to set up monasteries following a  visit by St. Patrick to Inishowen. 

The fact that these monuments have stood their ground for millenia is a tribute to the builders. But they survived in exposed positions on hillsides because of the reverence of our ancestors for the dead, pagan and Christian. We live in a unique archaeological and historical environment.

Access is by a path of about 300 yards from the main Culdaff-Gleneely road and there is a small car park at the end of the road. The road is not suitable for small cars. Beware of all animals grazing in the field and do not enter if in doubt. This is private land. 


  1. Would really like to check this out in the summer.The burial of warriors standing up facIng enemy lands was a practice carried out in Scotland during the same period.In fact a great chief by the name of Wullie Norrie was proported to buried sitting on his charger in full ceromonial battle dress and war paint surrounded by treasure and his great sword
    Unfortunatley he has never been found.However when as a child you where not behaving .You were told Wullie Norrie would come & get you in the night.That soon sorted you out!!!!!!

  2. Comment by post author

    Very dramatic picture of Temple of Deen. It almost looks as it it was re-set in its original form. You have done a great job in capturing the concept of the original structure. Other landscape pictures are equally superb. Sean

Leave a Reply