West Cork has many megaliths (stone monuments) and the Skibbereen area is no exception. These stone monuments- from stone circles and forts to funeral stones, served diverse functions from the defensive to the calendrical, and would be well worth a wander to anyone interested in ancient Irish history.
Please note that parking is not available at all megalithic sites. Some may be situated on private land, so please ask appropriate permissions. As always, leave no trace and treat the monuments with respect.
Knockdrum Stone Fort (N 51° 31′ 35.5″, W 009° 11′ 37.5″)
Located approximately a kilometre east of Castletownshend, Knockdrum stone fort sits on a ridge, from which the Gurranes standing stones (the Five Fingers) can be seen. This impressive stone fort contains within its grounds a souterrain, an underground tunnel used for storage and as an escape route in case of attack.
Gurranes Stone Row (Five Fingers) (N 51° 31′ 50.9″, W 009° 11′ 25.9″)
Known as the Fingers, this stone row is within view of Knockdrum stone fort. Despite only three of the stones currently still standing upright, this stone row is impressive and well worth a visit.
Drombeg Stone Circle (N 51° 33′ 52.4″, W 009° 05′ 13.3″)
Perhaps Ireland’s most famous stone circle, Drombeg is located twenty minutes from Skibbereen town on the N71 and R597. There is a small car park for visitors only a short walk away. The stone circle consists of seventeen impressive sandstone standing stones encircling an altar stone. Within 35 metres there is a fulacht fiadh and the remains of stone huts. Drombeg and two smaller stone circle sites (Bohonagh and Reenascreena) form an equilateral triangle, and are thought by some to be somehow connected or part of a larger complex.
Knockanoulty Ring Fort (51°29’47.9″N 9°18’57.2″W)
Knockanoulty Ring Fort is located just over a mile from Lough Hyne and other nearby sites (such as the Lough Hyne Funeral Stone, the ruins of St Brigid’s Church, and a ruined holy well). The townland of Knockanoulty is bordered by the townlands of Barnabah, Ballinard, and Ballymacrown.
Lough Hyne Funeral Stone
Found throughout West Cork, coffin stones were used to rest the coffin while family, neighbours and friends said their final goodbyes to their deceased loved one within their own townland, before the burial took place. This stone can be found a short walk away from Lough Hyne, in a cleared area of undergrowth.
Reenascreena Stone Circle (51 37′ 4.155″N, 9 3′ 48.129″W)
Located less than a mile from Reenascreena village (birthplace of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa), the stone circle consists of thirteen stones and is surrounded by a shallow ditch. There are two pits within the circle, one of which was found to contain fragments of cremated bone, suggesting that this was a site of ritual importance and perhaps served as a burial ground at some point.
Bohonagh Stone Circle (51° 34′ 48.37″ N, 8° 59′ 56.35″ W)
Bohonagh stone circle is located just over a mile from Rosscarbery town. The circle has thirteen stones, and there is also a boulder burial 25 metres to the southwest. Similarly to Reenascreena stone circle, cremated bone fragments have been found at the site, suggesting that it was of ritualistic importance.
By Emma O’Donoghue