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A recent visit to the Bronze Age complex at Kealkil, Co. Cork, was enhanced by the discovery of fresh improvements to access.  

Access to the monuments at Kealkil, Co.Cork.

Access to the monuments at Kealkil, Co.Cork.

Situated on private land, it already had a separate pedestrian gate and was signposted, a real rarity in West Cork, but over the course of the last year or two an extra stile has been installed beside the second, inner gate and the hedge that was growing close to the southwest of the monument has been removed. This is a ‘high place‘, where one can observe the world; still part of it, but separate. The view, always spectacular to the modern eye, is now even more open.  

The complex viewed from the northeast.

The complex viewed from the northeast.

This complex, of a stone-circle, stone pair and radial-stone cairn, was excavated by Sean O’Riordáin in 1938. The stone pair, tall as reconstituted after excavation, must originally have been sublime; its south-westerly stone standing to 5.3m, a height well in excess of the Sarsen Ring at Stonehenge. Curiously, neither stone was raised from the ground, but rather lowered into their sockets, from above.
Two trenches were found beneath the ‘floor’ of the stone circle, spanning its inner extent, at right angles and the contents of the fill indicated that they had once contained two beams. O’Riordáin deduced that these would have acted as supports for an upright post at their junction point. If viewed along the axis of the circle and from the northeast, this upright would have appeared to stand at the right hand extremity of the axial-stone and could theoretically have been used to mark the disappearance point of a setting sun, or moon, when the circle was being constructed and oriented.
No human remains were found anywhere on site, although Borlase had reported “… the remains of two long stone graves or cists which had been apparently covered by a cairn.“ During excavation, the shape of this cairn was found to have been crudely delineated, in its interior, by a series of upright, radially-set, stones and stone sockets. Three, notably larger, sockets were found on the western side of the ‘ring’, set in a line roughly parallel to the adjacent stone pair.

“They erected hill-shrines, sacred pillars, and sacred poles, on every high hill and under every spreading tree” – 1 Kings 14: 23 
Sketch by Borlase (1897). The tallest stone is prostrate.


Borlase, W.C. [1897] The Dolmens of Ireland, London, Chapman & Hall, 420

O’Riordáin, S.P. [1939] Excavation of a stone circle and cairn at Kealkil, Co.Cork, JCHAS 44, 46-49



June 2009

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