Drombeg Stone Circle – County Cork

Drombeg Stone Circle - Co. Cork

Drombeg Stone Circle - County Cork

The area in southwest Ireland – West Cork and much of Kerry – has  over 100 prehistoric stone circles.  What was the purpose of these circles and how were they used?  One can only speculate.  Reading the seasons, sacred worship, sacrificial offerings, astronomical clocks, burial grounds … these are just some of the uses the pre-Christian people of Ireland had for these stone circles.  But there’s much more  about the circles we still don’t know.

The circles in this region all have an odd number of stones. Drombeg has 13 – but it originally had 17.  Most of the Cork / Kerry circles follow a specific astronomical orientation, having an axial stone (usually a lower, shorter stone in the circle) on the western edge opposite a set of entrance or portal stones (usually taller) on the eastern edge.  The axial stone is also called the recumbent stone.  In the photo above, the two portal stones are in the center of the photo and the lower, axial stone can be seen between them on the opposite side of the circle.

A Winter Solstice Light Show
You can barely see the little notch in the hills behind the circle, but the hills define a sort of “V” on the horizon.  On the winter solstice (Dec 21 – the shortest day of the year), the sun dips just under the ridge of that V in the hills, but as the earth moves the sun comes into the V in near perfect alignment with the axial and entrance stones – shooting its concentrated rays directly across the center of the circle.  Accounts by people who have seen this process state that it looks as if for a few moments, the circle itself is illuminated independently of the surrounding landscape.

Why would this process have been important to these ancient people?

Entrance stones to Drombeg Stone Circle

The Portal Stones - Drombeg

The Ridge is Man-Made
Excavations around the site back in the 1950s showed buried human cremated bones near the center of the circle coupled with broken pottery shards and stones.  There were other burial pits near the circle with the same combination.  Oddly, the shards of pottery and the stones seemed to be as revered in burial as the human bones.  Excavation also proved that the plateau where the circle rests (Drombeg means “small ridge”) is man made.  The people who built this circle evidently leveled the land – or ridge – to affect the perfect winter solstice drama that occurred in the circle during sunset.

Prehistoric Huts Nearby
In the same complex, near the stone circle are the remains of two prehistoric huts that were probably used for cooking – what we might call a “commercial kitchen” today.  One of the huts had a capacity to boil about 70 gallons of water.  Hot rocks from a fire were placed into a rectangular stone basin and within 20 minutes the water would come to a boil and remain hot for about 3 hours.  This was probably how the ancient people boiled their meat. Remains of what was probably an oven are in the second circular hut.  This tells us that the area wasn’t just a place to read the seasons or practice sacred ritual.  The circle would have been a place of community.

Prehistoric Hut at Drombeg Stone Circle

Prehistoric hut at Drombeg

The Drombeg complex is located between Skibbereen and Kinsale, and is easy to access with parking relatively close to the site.  My first visit to Drombeg was in February of 2007.  It was a cold, dreary, rainy day. I arrived tired. It was my last site of the day.  The time was 5:00 pm.  As I approached the site from the car park, I was unimpressed at first.  The site seemed to have no sense of place.  In fact, save for the shadows from the stone circle, the site looked like another farm field with houses nearby.

But as I walked into the complex and took in the surroundings, the place became magical.  This is a site worth visiting.  Take some time to gather your senses about you and notice everything about the surroundings – the distant hills, the views of the sea, the sounds, the light, the stones themselves.  Then when your sensitivities are peaked, enter the circle through the Portal stone entrance.

The following is from my travel journal which is mostly transcribed recordings of impressions I dictated into a digital recorder during the visit.

I take back what I said about this site being unimpressive.  The stone circle is beautiful.  It’s in a big clearing where the entire valley just unfolds as you approach the circle.  And there are views of the sea – the Celtic Sea.

There are hills and hills of green.  Expansive sky.  It’s a big wide area.  It’s a beautiful stone circle.  The stones are thick and tall.

Walking through the entrance of the Drombeg portal stones is pretty powerful.  You walk in through the center and you can feel it.  There’s just something sacred about the center of the circle.. I noticed the axial stone had two notches.  There is energy here.  Old energy.  Ancient energy.

Drombeg Stone Circle is a very thin place. It is one of the stops on the Thin Places Mystical Tour of Ireland – May 15 – 24, 2011.   Full Tour Itinerary.    Make your reservations today.

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About Mindie

Mindie Burgoyne is a travel writer, blogger and tour guide and tour operatior living on Maryland's Eastern Shore - a worthy destination and thin place in its own right. Mindie and husband Dan own Thin Places Mystical Tours and offer tours, itineraries and advice on visiting Ireland's Thin Places.
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6 Responses to Drombeg Stone Circle – County Cork

  1. Pingback: Thin Places Mystical Tour of Ireland travel Special: $250 off Tenon Tours

  2. Nick Bramhill says:

    Hi there,
    I’m a freelance journalist & looking to have a brief chat to someone about the tour.
    Could you forward me contact details please.
    I contribute to the national media on a daily basis, so hopefully should be able to get you some publicity.

    • Mindie says:

      hey nick.
      happy to chat with you about the tour. I’ll email you with my phone numbers. I’ll be in ireland by Wednesday morning (westoport, mayo) and will have an Irish cell phone. Thanks for your interest. I look forward to talking with you.

  3. Pingback: Ireland Friday Freebie: Drombeg Stone Circle « IrelandYes! Ireland Dream Trip Blog

  4. A CHARA,
    BO MAITH LIOM RUD, TA ME E AITH A BFUL CLOCH CLOG, CHOISTELABH AINM ORM.

    HELLO
    I HAVE IN ONE OF OUR FIELDS A CENTER STONE , SHAPED LIKE THE LETTER A OR ^ AT THE TOP. THERE ARE LARGE STONES ABOUT IN MAY DIRECTIONS , SOME HAVE BEEN DUG AND REMOVED. ITS NEXT TO A SMALL RIVER IN A VALLEY.
    THE JUNE 21 MARKER STONE DOES NOT ALIGN , A NUMBER OF METERS OFF .
    MEANS THAT THE SUN USED TO COME FURTHER NORTH FROM WHAT I CAN SPECULATE.
    THE LONG SIDE OF THE STONE POINTS TO NOON , THE NOON STONE WAS REMOVED BUT I HAVE THE LOCATION.
    THE CIRCLE STONES ARE PERHAPS 50 TO 100 METERS FROM THE CENTER STONE.
    CAN YOU HELP OR CAN YOU PUT ME IN CONTACT WITH SOME THAT HAS KNOWLEDGE OF THIS TYPE OF STONE CLOCK CIRCLE.
    DUE TO JCB AGE THESE VERY LARGE STONE HAS BEEN REMOVED OR BURIED.
    THANKS FOR POSTING THIS WEB PAGE , THE ANCIENTS WENT TO GREAT TROUBLE TO POINT OUT SOME THING IN THE FUTURE.
    MY STONE SAYS “DISASTER” WHAT EVER THAT MEANS.
    THE CENTER STONE SAID “EARTH SHIFTED ON IS AXIS”.
    ALSO IS SAYS THE “POWER OF THE ANCIENTS”

    I DID STUDY THE AZTEC CLOCK GLIP”S A LITTLE AND EGYPT WRITING ETC..

    THOMAIS

    • Mindie says:

      So sorry to be late in responding. Somehow I missed catching your comment when you posted it. Tell me … where is the circle / stone cluster located? What geographic region? I’ll try to dig up some contacts who may be able to help you. Also, do you have any photos you can post to a public site – perhaps facebook or Flickr? That would also be helpful. Thanks for taking the time to visit this blog and post your comment. Hope to hear more from you.

Comments are closed.