Kempe Stones – Dundonald, Northern Ireland - Atlas Obscura

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Kempe Stones

Dundonald, Northern Ireland

This large neolithic tomb, also known as Greengraves, is hidden off a Northern Irish road. 


County Down has an abundance of ancient standing stones, with this a rare example in the north of the county, sited not far from Strangford Lough, with views of Scrabo Tower, and close to the sprawling, modern, Ballybeen housing estate.

This particular example, known as the Kempe Stones, or occasionally Greengraves, is a portal tomb or dolmen. The name Kempe Stone may derive from the Norse word Kampesten, which means big stone or prehistoric tomb.

It features two large upright stones, along with smaller supporting stones, topped by a large rounded capstone. The whole thing is some three meters in height. Around the site are traces of a cairn, a burial chamber, which has long since been ploughed out. In the 1830s, archaeologists found bones and pottery at the site.

It isn’t signposted from the main road, unlike many similar prehistoric monuments, so this is one to hunt out.  The site itself is poorly maintained, with hedges often let grow to the point of concealing the monument. But when cut, the dolmen is impressive. 

Know Before You Go

Entrance is free and open all year round. 

The Kempe Stones can be found about half way down the Greengraves Road, which stems off the A2 between Dundonald and Newtownards. Somewhat counter-instinctively, it is not found on the Kempe Stones road!

As you come down from the main road, the field is on the right hand side, at a slight bend in the road. Parking here is in short supply, so be careful. You should be able to see a stone stile, with a metal sign above it, beside a farmer's gate. Depending on maintenance it may say "Kempe Stones". Climb the stile and stick to the hedge on the right hand side of the field - the dolmen is at the far end.

Be advised though - the farmers often keep cattle in the field, including bulls. The field also gets muddy, especially in winter. Keep your wits and boots about you. 

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September 22, 2021

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