Audleystown: see under Slievenagriddle.
Passage tomb and henge
J 327 677
on the thumbnail for more pictures and text
6.5 km S of the centre of Belfast via the Malone Road and Minnowburn
Beeches, The Giant's Ring is an impressive and atmospheric
monument, consisting of a circular bank some 3.5 metres high
enclosing a large space some 180 metres in diameter and 2.8
hectares in area. It is unclear which, if any, of the 5 irregularly-spaced
gaps in the henge are original. The henge may have been one
of those monuments erected by the late-Neolithic "Beaker People"
of N Britain who were responsible also for the large free-standing
stone circles at Ballynoe and Newgrange, as well
as the stone circle backed by a henge at Lough Gur. Recent
excavations (outside the bank) revealed similarities with the
phased construction of Stonehenge, and the existence of a 'megalithic
landscape' of great ceremonial and ritual importance.
E of the centre of the enclosure is a small passage-tomb whose
vestigial passage faces W. It may have been erected (with a
tumulus) a little before or a little after the henge.
In the field to the E of the henge is a massive (but broken)
~ 13 km ENE (via the
Outer Ring road) is Greengraves portal-tomb (below).
J 481 404
S of Downpatrick, approached by an old sunken
lane, a very large circle of over 50 stones up to 1.8
metres high (though many smaller) encloses a space about 35
metres across. It was modelled on the circle at Swinside in
Cumbria - which is at exactly the same latitude. In the E half
of the circle is a long low mound which contained large kists
at the E and W ends. This mound obliterated two shortlived cairns
built after the circle was constructed, in what Aubrey Burl
describes as "prehistoric bigotry and vandalism [which] ruined
this magnificent monument."
This might have occurred around the same time as the deliberate
overturning of all the stones at the recently-discovered Sittaford
Tor circle on North Dartmoor in SW England.
Three pairs of stones stand outside the circle at varying distances,
the nearest pair (of low stones, one overturned) at the W side
forming a kind of entrance or portal 2.1 metres wide, originally
aligned on the equinoctial setting sun (around March 21st).
Behind it is an off-centre axial stone, of distinctive prow-like
shape, whose top is a bevelled horizontal. Opposite this portal,
facing due E, is another horizontal-edged, prow-shaped stone
which may be part of another portal.
Mountains of Mourne to the SW form a fine backdrop to the circle,
but do not seem to align significantly either at the autumn
equinox nor the winter solstice, though at some point between
these days the sun must set in the cunnic gap between the two
contiguous highest of the rounded peaks.
Many of the stones in this circle were originally shoulder to
shoulder, as at Lough Gur, at Swinside in Cumbria and La Menec
in Brittany. They are almost all of silurian shale, but similarly-shaped
granite orthostats don't quite mark the cardinal points, and
there is one of sandstone at the NE side of the circle.
Various outlying stones have unknown function or significance.
on the picture for high-resolution photographs
~ About 850 metres
ENE in the same townland, in a field to the N of the Grangecam
road (J 489 406) is a quartzite
block about 1.3 metres high, with elliptical solution-pits(?)
similar to many at the stone circle, and on stones at circles
in county Wicklow.
~ 7 km
NNE is the megalithic kist at Slievenagriddle.
km NW at The Buck's Head in Annadorn (J 429 459) is a
collapsed portal-tomb, whose capstone has many small solution
pits on the upper surface, two of which appear to have been
J 172 330
on the thumbnail for a larger picture
Behind a hedge to the
S of a by-road, this massive stone is 3.6 metres high and has
a distinctive concavity or 'shoulder', presumed artificial,
on the N side. This is a feature of other megaliths in the area,
such as Tamnaharry and Wateresk, below.
~ 10.5 km NE are the
pair of standing-stones at Moneyslane (see under Legananny,
~ 5.2 km WSW in Saval
More (J 122 312), in a private (disused) burial-ground to
the E of a by-road are a pair of standing-stones 2 metres apart
and 1.9 metres high. Both are of granite, and the larger is
pointed while the smaller is flat-topped (male and female ?),
metres SW, in the field on the other side of the road (J 120
310) is another standing-stone 1.8 metres high, and also of
~ 10.5 km NW of Barnmeen
(J 101 411 on sheet 20) in Greenan, just behind and between
two bungalows, are "The Three Sisters" - an alignment
of three block-like stones aligned NW-SE and barely-visible
in a field-boundary. The south-easterly one has fallen, and
measures over two metres in its entire length. The other two
stand 1.6 and 1.5 metres above ground-level. The taller one
is beautifully squared at the top and on its E face.
km NE of "The Three Sisters" in Drumnahare
(J 111 415 on sheet 20) on
the NE shore of Lough Brickland and visible from the dual-carriageway
is a small, knobbly, leaning standing-stone. In the lake (visible
to the right in the photograph below) is a crannóg.
click for another photo
~ 7.3 km SW of Barnmeen
is the phallic monolith at Crobane (see below under Tamnaharry).
Stone Fort or Cashel, Souterrain and Kist
J 311 340
Lough Island Reavy, this stone fort with a wall averaging 2.75
metres high and 3.3 thick, has been somewhat restored.
for an aerial view
entrance may not be original, nor the present main entrance
to the souterrain or stone hiding-place which leads from ruins
of buildings which seem to be of recent date - though perhaps
built over earlier flimsier ones. The souterrain
is 15 metres long, 2.1 metres high, and has a rectangular chamber
facing the original narrow entrance which is at the opposite
end to the modern widened one. (For another, more complex,
souterrain see Ballyhackett under Ballygilbert,
metres SW on a ridge at a height of 200 metres (J
305 336) is
a small round cairn (bounded by modern field-walls on 2 sides)
with a kist 60 cms deep whose capstone has been slid to one
side allowing a view inside.
J 244 310
or Pat Kearney's Big Stone, is beside a lane running
SE from the Hilltown-Castlewellan road. An enormous 50-tonne
granite capstone has slipped, exposing a chamber closed by a
slender door-slab over 1.5 metres high. As at Tirnony
(Derry) and Ticloy (Antrim) a flanking, free-standing
orthostat suggests a derivation from the court-type of tomb.
km SSW in the same townland (J 237 297) on the S slope of
Goward Hill is the first Irish court-tomb to be excavated
in modern times (1932). Previously it had been thought to
be a stone circle, because of the impressively semicircular
court of eleven stones some 11 metres across. The gallery
is 9 metres long, and the first of the three chambers has
double walling for better support of the (missing) roof. The
entrance to the gallery was sealed by a dyke of cairn material
2 metres wide crossing the forecourt, in the centre of which
was a rough pavement of slabs set in a layer of charcoal containing
many Neolithic potsherds.
J 445 736
Across a field to the
N of a by-road leading S from the dual-carriageway from Belfast
to Newtownards, this small dolmen is quite impressive with its
oversailing roofstone at a significant angle common to many
portal-tombs, supported on two orthostats and another smaller
roofstone. It has a fine half-doorslab. The name "Greengraves"
is particularly interesting, since the "Green" part of it comes
from the Irish for "sun". The name of the tomb, The Kempe
Stone[s], derives from Norse "Kampesten": big stone or prehistoric
~ 2 km
WSW of Greengraves, in Ballybeen housing-estate (J 426 731)
is a chunky standing-stone, 2.2 metres high by 1.2 metres wide
and 1.1 metre thick.
for high-resolution pictures
~ 7 km
SE of Greengraves, in Ballygraffan (J 473 672) is the
fine surviving capstone of a portal-tomb surrounded and possibly
supported by the stones of a wall in which the tomb was incorporated
J 232 154
Off a lane leading
N from the Newry-Kilkeel road, this granite dolmen looks like
a giant tortoise, with a big capstone 2 metres long and 1 metre
thick, and orthostats half buried in field stones and cairn
material. An early account states that the cairn (now mostly
disappeared) extended for over 7 metres in front of the N-facing
chamber, so that there might once have been a façade similar
to that of the court-tombs.
miles E by S, in Dunnaman just to the E of a churchyard
behind the hamlet of Massfort are the sizeable remains of a
court-tomb with a 4-chambered gallery but no surviving forecourt
or cairn. Some of its side-stones are massive, and seem to have
been split from a larger boulder.
from the air
for a larger picture
km E by S is another granite dolmen at Kilkeel.
J 307 149
In a hidden tarred
lane in the fishing-port of Kilkeel, approached through a garage
on the N side of the main street, or via Cromlech Park to the
E of the road to Hilltown, this little dolmen is quaint and
impressive, though incorporated into a hedge and fence. Known
as The Crawtree (=Elder-tree) Stone it is over
2 metres high, with a capstone nearly 2.5 metres long, resembling
the shell of a tortoise (like Kilfeaghan 7.6 km W by
N). Facing south, the low morning and afternoon sun shines on
the underneath of its capstone, making one speculate that its
cairn did not reach very high.
over 6 km NE, in Moneydorragh More (J 355 199) near the
road is The Long Stone, a granite monolith 3 metres high.
J 289 434
By the side of a lane
leading from a by-road on the flanks of Slieve Croob, this "tripod-dolmen"
is one of the most striking in Ireland, commanding superb views
of the Mountains of Mourne to the S. The capstone (at the typical
angle) is over 3 metres long supported on fine portal-stones
1.5 metres high, one of which has a distinctive L-shaped bite
in it, significant if not artificial. The early-morning sun
beautifully illuminates the entire underside of the capstone
and tip of the backstone, and, later, parts of both the underside
and top of the capstone are lit.
In the same townland, commanding superb views on the summit
of Cratlieve or Legananny Mountain (J 296 446), are the remains
of a circular cairn with a small arc of kerb surviving on the
E side. The interior of the cairn is flat, with a small group
of recumbent stones which may be vestiges of a kist.
for high-resolution pictures
km WNW in Finnis (J 272 442) is a simple souterrain
recently opened to the public and known locally as "Binder's
Cove". (The word cove, sometimes used in local,
unofficial names, is a conflation of the English cave and
the Irish uamh.) The main passage is about 30 metres
long and the two side-passages on the right-hand side are 6
metres long. All are lintel-roofed.
description, with good photographs, can be read on the Voices
from the Dawn website.
~ Just under 5 km SW
at Moneyslane (J 254 399 at the top edge of sheet 29)
is a fine pair of standing-stones, visible to the E of the road.
One is flat-topped and female, while the other, a little taller
at 1.7 metres, is remarkably phallic from the E side, with a
mend of cement delineating a scrotum. For many years these stones
(in the middle of a field) have been curiously and separately
wrapped with barbed wire, still present in 2003.
J 572 820
Because it is crammed
between a juniper tree and a suburban stone-clad wall, on the
W side of the Donaghadee-Groomsport road opposite a jetty, this
veined sandstone pillar, though 2.5 metres high, is not really
worth a detour. It was excavated in 1968 and found to be the
survivor of a pair half a metre apart. To the N in the same
townland are two more stones, both just over a metre high, and
one standing below the present high-tide mark. The other is
in the little valley of the little Portavo river, on the N side
of the stream, some six metres above the high-tide mark, and
might be the remains of a portal-tomb.
excellent history of the townland over the centuries has been
written by Peter Carr.
is published by White
Some 28 km SE, down the same peninsular coast, close to an Anglo-Norman
motte, and marked on the wrong side of the road on sheet 21
is another standing-stone close to the shore at Ballyhalbert
(J 647 636). It is is a sandstone erratic, two metres high and
only 50 metres S of a housing development.
Several kms south is Millin Bay (J 628 495), a remarkable
and unique neolithic site in the townland of Keentagh, which
was so fragile that it had to be filled in again after excavation.
Only the tops of the dozen stones of the cairn's peristalith
can be seen today, overlooking the little bay. One
of them has fairly sketchy Neolithic engravings.
S of Millin Bay is another remarkable (but not megalithic) site:
"St Coey's Wells", in Templecowey (J 627
475), which like the better-known stone-housed Struell
Wells and mediæval baths just E of Downpatrick, are pools
in a single stream (Srúthail is Irish for 'stream').
Each is used for a different complaint: a washing-well (for
skin conditions), an eye-well, and a drinking-well. The eye-well
has a magic hawthorn beside it, festooned with rags which now,
typically and deplorably, include paper tissues. Between the
stream and the modern outdoor altar is an ancient Killeen (Irish
cillín = little church or little churchyard),
rare in the Northeast of Ireland but common in the West and
South. These were the burial grounds of the rural Catholic poor
in times when Ireland was poorer than, for example, northern
Albania. The graves are marked by small and uncarved, un-dressed
pieces of shale set upright in the ground.
J 528 453
is a rare of example of an intact, unexamined hilltop tomb of
which only the large capstone can be seen. It is not a collapsed
portal-tomb as suggested by the published Archæological
Survey of 1966, and its commanding position above a lake, offering
vistas across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man and Cumbria,
and westwards towards the Mountains of Mourne suggests a hilltop
megalithic kist typical to Leinster rather than Ulster, with
an untypically huge roofing-slab.
The NE slope
overlooking the car-park at Lough Money and the Ballyculter
road is littered with boulders, amongst which a large, handsome
and quartz-striated boulder might be significant.
~ 1.3 km NE in Carrownacaw
(J 544 464) is "The Long Stone" a tall thin standing-stone of
schist, 3.3 metres tall - and the only Irish menhir to be supported
by a hawser wrapped around a tree. This is reached by a road
which passes picturesque Loughmoney "Dolmen":
just two sidestones and a roofstone of a destroyed court-tomb
in a field.
for high-resolution pictures
~ 6.3 km NE in Audleystown
(J 561 505), close to Strangford Lough, is a well-preserved,
small double-court tomb built of low stones and comprising shallow
forecourts, two galleries of four chambers each, a cairn some
27 metres long, and a kerb made of orthostats instead of dry-stone
km ENE, in the front garden of 109 Ballyculter Road in Ballyculter
Upper, 40 metres from the road-junction, is part of a natural
rock-outcrop decorated with two worn sets of concentric circles
- best seen when wet. One of the sets has a remarkable 10 rings,
while the other has 6. This is an example of the overlap of
passage-tomb art with Bronze Age rock-scribings or petroglyphs.
under 5 km WSW of the Ballyculter rings, 1 km NW of Slievenagriddle
at Ballystokes (J 5263 4577), in a field a few metres
to the NW of St Patrick's Way, is a small group of typical (but
very worn) Bronze Age petroglyphs featuring cupmarks and penannular
rings. The Archæological Record states: 'This outcropping
slab of shale is known to bear cup & ring marks, but is
now largely covered with loose soil & vegetation & the
ornament is barely visible. Nearby is the find spot of axes
& a possible kist grave'. In
fact, it is fairly clear from vegetation, but water should be
brought for pouring over the rock to make the petroglyphs visible.
From the site the sun sets behind Slieve Croob at the summer
equinox, and behind the Mourne Mountains at the winter equinox.
the other end (and immediately E) of the Ballyculter Road, below
Slievenagriddle, in a dense thicket in Ballyalton (J
532 448) is a court-tomb hardly worth visiting because of the
thorny impenetrability of access, but which features in the
literature because it was excavated in 1933 and gave its name
to a kind of Neolithic pottery first found there. Six stones
of a court remain, two of which are portals leading to a two-chambered
gallery, many of whose stones survive. None is more than a metre
high. Click here
for an early drawing - transposed to the top of Slievenagriddle!
over 10 km ENE of Slievenagriddle (by expensive ferry across
the strait from Strangford) is Millin Bay (see under
km W by S of Slievenagriddle, at the NW edge of Downpatrick,
approached via the cathedral and Down County Museum, is The
Mound of Down, a fine Iron Age defensive earthwork in the
middle of which a Norman motte-and-bailey was built. It has
recently been damaged by 'conservation' work. The cathedral
stands in the middle of another defensive site or Dún, which
gave its name to the citadel before the spurious 'Patrick' was
added by a Norman war-lord in the 13th century. Signs similarly
motivated proclaim Downpatrick as "Ancient City of Down"
when they really mean "Ancient Citadel of
to see an interactive panorama on a fraternal site
~ Just under 7 km SW in front of the church door in Chapeltown
(J 572 400) is a fine triple-bullaun
with one large depression almost 30 cms in diameter and two
smaller ones carved out of a massive block. On the other side
of the path is another boulder with a single bullaun and the
remains of another. Above the door is a good example of a 'Clonmacnois-type'
early grave (pillow-) slab. These remains probably came from
the early church at Ardtole, 2 km SSW.
J 154 244
on the thumbnail for more pictures
S of a rocky track leading E off the Burren-Mayobridge road,
commanding fine views to the Carlingford Mountains and Slieve
Gullion, this Cloghadda is a fine granite standing-stone
some 2.8 metres high with a concave and probably artificial
'shoulder' on the N side, to be compared with the stone at Barnmeen
(8.5 km NNE). Beside it are traces of a prehistoric enclosure.
~ 2.2 km NNE (J 161
266) in the townland of Mayo, is "The Long Stone",
an impressive and sculptural granite monolith 3 metres high.
km NE of Tamnaharry in the same townland of Mayo (J 164
252) is a less impressive but more accessible standing-stone,
some 1.6 metres high and commanding extensive views. The N side
of it is sheer and rectangular, suggesting that it might be
the remnant of a portal-tomb, as indeed, many standing-stones
of similar height could be.
for another view
~ Just under 5 km NW
of Tamnaharry, in Crobane (J 121 279) immediately W of
a by-road is a fine phallic
menhir offering extensive views to the W.
km SW in Burren (J 134 226) are the remains of a court-tomb
- the only one to form part of a bungalow rockery! - comprising
a granite roofstone resting on 2 parallel slabs of gritstone.
The former cottage next-door is advertised
as the birthplace of the great Irish Socialist, Jim
for another photo
~ 2.2 km W by N in
Milltown (J 133 247), immediately W of a by-road are
the remains of a double-court tomb whose cairn survives to a
height of 2.5 metres, and one of whose forecourts and possibly
4 chambers of one of the two galleries can be distinguished
from the cairn material and dumped field stones.
2 and 3 km NNW in different townlands are cashels and standing-stones
marked on the map. One of the cashels (in Edenmore, J
145 267) is better-preserved than most in Northern Ireland,
with walls approaching 4 metres high in places and constructed
of massive stones, but, typically, is littered with refuse and
200 metres S, in the same townland is a curious standing-stone
(J 145 265) incised with a cross and the letters IHS JC - a
good example of 19th century Christianisation of a menhir. More
curious still is the little teat-like cap cemented on the top.
Like several phallic
stones, this pillar was whitewashed until the 1970s.
~ 4.5 km NE in Mullaghmore
(J 193 272 - not marked on Sheet 29), immediately E of a lane
leading to house N° 46, is what Aubrey Burl considers to be
one of the few "four-poster" stone circles in Ireland,
measuring 2.7 by 2.7 metres diagonally between the low stones,
the tallest of which has broken, with more than half of it lying
nearby. A large pot and two cremations were found within it.
Beside the circle is
a saucer-shaped depression: a Ring Barrow which was constructed
over a pit which contained Late Bronze Age potsherds, a very
small blue glass bead & the cremated bones of at least 4 individuals.
The site is known locally as "Murphy's Fort".
J 394 344
In a field to the W
of a by-road running parallel with the new Dundrum-Newcastle
road, this sculptural tomb looks very different from different
angles. Known also as The Slidderyford Dolmen its granite
capstone is 3 metres long by 1 thick, resting on three support-stones,
the tallest being 1.8 metres high. The capstone fits very neatly
into a concavity in the smaller portal-stone, echoing other
megaliths in South Down. The chamber is no longer definable.
metres SW to the E of a by-road, in Ballyloughlin, are
the remains of another megalithic tomb with a portal-stone 2.7
metres high and carved with the name of Jeremiah Atkins. There
is another stone just under half as high at the other side of
the hedge and bank.