SELECTED MONUMENTS IN
COUNTY DERRY
(LONDONDERRY)

Place-names in italics refer to listed entries.



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Aughlish: Stone Circles
C 640 040
Sheet 7

Some 200 metres N of a by-road, 5.6 km SSW of Dungiven, in a rushy field above a ruined house and a blasted tree, stands a group of 4 circles, all of many low stones typical of the Mid-Ulster type of stone circle, and stone-rows - one of which (illustrated below) extends for 18 metres and seems to point to a cleft in the hills. This complex is comparable with the much more extensive and better-preserved group at Beaghmore, county Tyrone.

 

~ 1.7 km NNE, overlooking the Owenrigh river valley in Carnanbane (C 671 058) is a complex and curious structure which includes a two-chambered court-tomb with fine entrance stones, a large and curious grooved black erratic which would have been at the edge of the cairn, and, on the far side of the court-tomb, a jumble of stones which is the "souterrain" marked on the map.

~ 2.7 km NNE, by the entrance to the well-signposted 12th century Banagher Old Church (C 676 066 - itself very well worth a visit) is a bullaun stone with a single depression.

~ 11.2 km WSW of Aughlish is the wedge-tomb at Tireighter.



Ballybriest: Megalithic chamber, double-court tomb and wedge-tombs
H 762 885
Sheet 13

The megalithic chamber, surrounded by remains of a circular cairn, has been swallowed up since my first visit by the devastating Henderson's Quarries, which have destroyed at least one other wedge-tomb in their greedy and cancerous expansion. It was probably the remains of an imposing wedge-tomb. The court-tomb, on the other side of the road, 200 metres W, is badly ruined, but both forecourts and galleries (on different axes) can be distinguished. Excavation revealed that the tomb was built over a pre-existing ceremonial site whose wooden structures were set on fire.

About 150 metres S of the court-tomb (W of the road) are the remains of a small wedge-tomb whose chamber is about 3.5 metres long by 1.2 wide and 1 metre high.

800 metres NW of the court-tomb (H 756 889), on the edge of a wood just below the crest of a ridge, are two stone circles close together with a cairn between them, and a double alignment of low stones.

~ 3.5 km SE in Mobuy (H 783 859) commanding a fine view S over a valley to the distant Slieve Croob and Mourne Mountains of county Down, is a split-boulder standing-stone, thought to be the last survivor of what must have been an impressive stone circle.

~ About 2 km NE in Corick, 400 metres S of Corick clachan or house-cluster (C 780 896 - marked Standing Stones on the map), near an attractive stream, are some 5 circles (one with a large standing-stone in the middle) and 3 stone-rows.


Ballygroll: Stone circles, cairns and tombs
C 533 137
Sheet 7

On the slope of a hill 6.5 km N by W of Claudy, and 800 metres E of a by-road, approachable via a farm lane, are scattered at least 12 small round cairns and 6 stone circles (averaging 6 metres in diameter) which may be the remains of cairns. There are also at least 2 ruined wedge-tombs and a court-tomb with a V-shaped forecourt, next to which there is a (?roof) slab covered with cupmarks. Now under state care, there are paths to the main monuments, except for the court tomb which is disappearing under gorse. The map displayed on-site is incorrect and out of scale.


Carnalridge: Standing-stone 'The White Wife'
C 848 387
Sheet 4

Visible against the sky in a field to the left of a farm lane, 2.4 km SSW of Portrush, this standing-stone is more impressive than its height of just 120 cms would suggest. Known as The White Wife, its shape changes as you walk around it: from one side it is very phallic, while from another it looks like a hunched human figure. A small round stone (now cemented) was always on top of it (an ancient tradition). The stone below was whitewashed so that the unpainted stone looked like a head poking out of a white robe, hence its popular name. The whitewashing of stones (especially phallic stones - and of course the traditional phallic Ulster gateposts) is obviously deeply-symbolic.


Carrick East: Megalithic tomb
C 703 173
Sheets 4 and 8

In a field to the E of a by-road 6.4 km SW of Limavady, this "anomalous" and beautiful megalith resembles a small centre-court tomb, except that the central court (some 3 metres in diameter) gives no access to the chambers, which still retain their capstones.

~ 13 km WSW is Glasakeeran wedge-tomb (see below under Cregg).


Cregg: Standing-stone
C 535 078
Sheet 7

Approached by a leafy lane, this standing stone NW of Claudy (100 metres N of the road to Derry City) is a magnificent quartz boulder some 1.8 metres high, beautifully patterned by crevices, natural straining and lichens. Not surprisingly, it is known as The White Stone.

~ 8 km NNE of the Cregg stone in a forest at Glasakeeran (C 571 151) is a wedge-tomb known locally as The Giant's Grave, whose 5-metre chamber has good double-walling of large stones, and is surrounded by a horse-shoe of peristalithic slabs, over 5 metres wide at the front (SW) end. Slabs lying by the SW and W sides may be removed capstones or displaced stones of a façade.

~ 2 km SE in Cumber (C 544 063) is one of several other fine non-quartzite standing-stones in the area.

8.5 km ENE in Ballymoney (C 618 095) is a remarkable standing-stone just under 2 metres high, looking like a sculptural piece of driftwood and leaning attractively to the SW.

~ 5.6 km ESE in Clagan, 400 metres SE of Clagan Bridge, are 3 prominent standing-stones, which were overturned by treasure-seekers in 1770. Two have been re-erected (one askew) but the third and largest (3.6 metres long) remains prostrate. The field they are in is littered with white quartzite pebbles, and the site commands wide views.

~ 8.5 km ENE in Ballymoney (C 618 095) is a remarkable standing-stone just under 2 metres high, looking like a sculptural piece of driftwood and leaning attractively to the SW.

~ Almost 9 km SE of the Cregg stone are Loughash wedge-tomb and stone circle, county Tyrone.

~ 14.8 km WSW of the Cregg stone, in county Tyrone, is a pair of standing-stones at Sandville (C 388 048),to the S of a by-road and less than 400 metres NNW of Milltown Burndennet. One is 2.1 metres high and pointed - and visible- while the other (invisible in gorse) is a little lower and has a grooved flat top. These stones, only 75 cms apart on either side of a dense boundary fence, seem more likely to represent male and female, like other pairs in Ireland (notably Boherboy, county Dublin; Ballymakane under Buncarrick, county Wexford; and Tulnacross under Beaghmore, county Tyrone), than to be the portals of a vanished tomb. In this case it is likely than heifers and cows were driven between them, one by one, to ensure their fertility. Some authorities opine, however, that they are the two entrance-stones of a vanished portal-tomb.

3.8 km S of the Sandville pair (and back in county Derry) is a ruined portal-tomb at Killynaght (C 391 011). A large capstone, about a metre thick and 2 metres square, rests on a squashed chamber, and is known as 'The Rocking Stone'.


Knockoneill: Court-tomb
C 819 086
Sheet 8

To the N of a by-road, signposted across a field, 4 km WNW of Swatragh, this well-preserved tomb has a forecourt 7 metres in diameter, leading into a 2-chambered gallery with a small antechamber formed by doubling the entrance-orthostats (door-jambs). The backstone of the gallery is also a wall-stone of a small subsidiary chamber which is entered from the SE kerb via a passage almost 1 metre wide. The forecourt is closed by a line of orthostats opposite the entrance, giving it the appearance of a full-court tomb. But excavation showed these to be a later feature, for the forecourt was used for Bronze Age burials, and the whole tomb was re-covered with a circular Bronze Age round cairn.

~ 2.4 km NE, in Tamnyrankin (C 834 102 - now immediately accessible via an asphalted track) is an even better-preserved tomb whose 12-metre long cairn survives to a height of 2.4 metres. Behind the 2-chambered gallery a subsidiary chamber stretches across the width of the cairn. It is divided in two by a sill-stone. Some of the corbels of the gallery are still in place.

~ 3.5 km NNE, in Cuilbane (C 830 122) is "Tamny Cromlech" - a circle roughly 12 metres in diameter which, before 1984, was of 15 low stones, the tallest being 1.2 metres high. It was badly damaged during poetically-pointless and subsidised land-reclamation, then largely restored in 1985, when a cache of 65 flint implements of various kinds was found in the vacant socket of one of the larger stones. As with most stone circles, there are good views all round.

~ 8.8 km W by S, on a hillside overlooking the Roe river valley at Boviel (C 730 078), is Cloghnagalla ("The Hag's Stone"), a typical double-walled wedge-tomb whose regular, straight façade has two fine corner-stones. An antechamber 1.8 metres deep leads through a lintelled portal to a chamber 4.5 metres long on which one roofstone still rests on corbels.


Moneydig: Passage-tomb
C 889 165
Sheets 4 and 8

In a field to the W of Moneydig crossroads, this small, "degenerate", passageless passage-tomb known as The Daff (=black) Stone is still covered with small cairn-stones and soil to a height of 1.5 metres. The chamber is covered with a single large capstone and is walled by tall slabs fitting very neatly together. A low slab on the NE side marks the entrance.

~ 8 km NNW in Crevolea (C 847 233), on the summit of a low hill is "The Grey Stone": the sad remains of a portal-tomb with a massive capstone estimated to weigh over 50 tonnes. In 1837 the tomb stood over 4 metres high, but, since the removal of the two portal-stones it is now little more than the thickness of the capstone high: 2.8 metres.


Tamlaght: Standing-stone and portal-tomb
H 888 785
Sheet 14

Just over the county boundary from Coagh is "The Honeymug Stone" a fine menhir 2.2 metres high.
About 800 metres NNW by the roadside is one of the most shamefully-obscured dolmens in Ireland, some 4 metres high with a fine and large quartzite capstone on 6 supporting-stones. It is almost entirely invisible from the road because it is buried in a hedge. Right behind it, on the other side of the hedge, is a huge concrete cistern which prevents any view from that side.


Tireighter: Wedge-tomb
C 592 021
Sheet 7

Across a stretch of golf-course, about 800 metres S of the hamlet of Park, this fine tomb (The Chieftain's Grave) was saved from demolition some 40 years ago: only the back end was damaged. It has an imposing façade (5 metres wide) of well-matched orthostats, the two outside ones just 1.5 metres tall. Some typical double-walling survives. The entrance has a typical sill-stone and leads into an antechamber or portico and on, across a septal slab (a high sill-stone) into the large main chamber, in the back of which lies a massive displaced roofstone. Both chamber and portico are partly-filled with cairn material including some white quartzite pebbles associated with many Irish prehistoric tombs.

~ 3.6 km NNW, 400 metres SE of Clagan Bridge, are 3 prominent standing-stones, which were overturned by treasure-seekers in 1770. Two have been re-erected (one askew) but the third and largest (3.6 metres long) remains prostrate. The field they are in is littered with white quartzite pebbles, and the site commands wide views.

~ Some 13 km W by S are Loughash wedge-tomb and stone circle, county Tyrone.


Tirnony or Tirnoney: Portal-tomb
C 840 017
Sheet 8

By the side of a road leading NE from Maghera to Killelagh Lough and Carntogher hill, this charming dolmen is remarkable for the free-standing orthostat, 1.8 metres high, which is beside one of the portal-stones. This suggests a derivation from the much longer court-tombs. The picturesque capstone has slipped a little, and behind it is a well-defined square chamber.