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By Gordon Kingston, Heritage Action

- priest or shaman, surveyor or king -

- priest or shaman, surveyor or king -

“This site (like several other megaliths in the neighbourhood) is dominated by Carrigfadda Mountain, crowned with a huge and hideous white Crucifixion, not really triumphing over the sacred, ancient quartz.”
Anthony Weir, writing about Maulatanvally stone circle, with my apologies to those with religious sensiblities. The cross is also actually grey.
For the fitter of heart, a new walk has recently been opened, from Carrigfadda church up to the peak of Carrigfadda hill. The route was jointly developed by the Reanascreena Community Action Group and Coillte, the company that manages the bulk of Ireland’s forestry.

The hill is not tall by national standards; peaking just 313m above sea level. The ascent is steep, however and steps rise almost infinitely up, or so it can seem. A useful bench on which to rest, look at a fairly intermediate view and pretend that you’re ok, is set about half-way up. The payoff, once you can breath without pain, of course, lies in what you can see from the top.

Reanascreena stone circle

Reanascreena stone circle

According to Aubrey Burl, Reanascreena stone circle “is at the south of a remarkable concentration of recumbent stone circles, Five-Stone rings and Four-Posters. No fewer than nine rings are known in a circle of land no more than three miles across,..” Look southeast from the hilltop, with binoculars and you will make it out in a burnt-brown field near the horizon. Look for Reanascreena village and work your way west from there.

Both Carrigagrenane circles are hidden beneath the crown of the hill and the four stones at Maulatanvally are concealed on the opposite side of that hillock, but Maulatanvally stone circle can clearly be seen, just south of a factory and back-grounded by evergreens, to the east northeast. As can Glanbrack and its two outliers, 800m further off and in roughly the same direction. The snow white glare of the quartz boulder at Maulatanvally is mostly obscured by its axial stone from this point.

The boulder at Lettergorman circle is dazzling when you pick it up, however, a short distance south of Kippagh hill and Lough Atarriff and to the north northeast, like a headlight on the darker, sandstone body. Look further east from here, towards the forestry on the next hilltop, to see the tallest stone of Knockawaddra row, standing proud from the ground like a fin, or a horn.

Coillte provide a useful hilltop compass sign, pointing the way to physical features like the Galley Head and Nowen Hill. These landmarks may also have been significant for the monument builders, but only those indicated in the immediate vicinity must be considered with any degree of confidence. Even this can sometimes be misplaced.

When Clive Ruggles surveyed the larger Cork/Kerry circles and rows, he noted a trend in the latter towards orientation on hilltops and the moon. He found just one stone circle that indicated a hilltop directly in line with its axis; Maulatanvally and the lower, northern ridge of Carrigfadda. If you stand in what would have been the centre of Glanbrack circle, its western outlier seems to point towards the same place. This is the nearest hill, below you and to the north northeast.

It takes a disciplined mind, or an occasional wake-up call, to resist facts like these, or to purge your mind of the image of some prehistoric wanderer-above-the-mist, standing up here on the peak – priest or shaman, surveyor or king – deciding and directing. A straight line can be plotted from Garryglass circle, now mostly destroyed and buried under forestry, to the northwest, through the point at which you stand and southeast to the standing stone group at Tinneel, then on to Bohonagh circle.* How far can you stretch it before it snaps?

There must be something of the dreamer, the wish to be the wanderer, in us all. It isn’t necessary. Every one of these pieces of devotional, monumental architecture can carry as much and more possibility of blissful contemplation, as any feverish pulling of lines across your mind. We’re lucky to have them and unlucky that so many are going and gone.


The last remaining stone of Garryglass stone circle

* Coordinates for these four positions are: Garryglass stone circle: N51.65463 W-9.12373; Carrigfadda peak: N51.63624 W-9.09277; Tinneel stone group: N51.59238 W-9.01940; Bohonagh stone circle: N51.58056 W-8.99964


Carrigagrenane South stone circle


Knockawaddra West stone row

Glanbrack stone circle for my rather hand-drawn map of the area

Burl, A. [2005] A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale, 227 ISBN 0-300-11406-0

Ruggles, C. [1999] Astronomy in Prehistoric Britain and Ireland, Yale, 218 ISBN 0-300-07814-5


July 2009

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