Saturday, 3 March 2012

Breeny More and The Mealagh Valley

Inchireagh Stone Circle
Breeny More and The Mealagh Valley

March 1st 2012
Well it's St Davids Day today, the sun is shining and the sky is blue. Looks like a good day to hit the backroads of West Cork to see what we can find !
I've been wanting to get to Breeny More Stone Circle for a while now, so that will be a good place to start. It's easy to get to. From Bantry direction, head out on the N71 to Ballylicky, then take the R584 to Kealkil.Take the right turn by the garage/shop then turn right by Browns Bar and follow the signs for Kealkil Circle up the steep hill. Just past the sharp right bend where Kealkil circle is, you'll see a track on your right. Well I say, a track. But when you get there it looks like a pull in where the farmer dumps all his unwanted bits and pieces. There's room to park here, you shouldn't be in anyones way.
We were just pulling up the lane slowly, looking out the window at the stones, when I checked my rear view mirror to see a very unamused gentleman sitting behind us. A quick hand up of apology, but he had a face like a smacked arse (as my Mum used to say !) and drives past us as we pull in. Getting out of the car, Skylarks are singing all around.... a great sound of Spring. We  get our boots on and head off. There's only a couple of fields beteen us and the circle and it's fairly easy going. A little wet and sinky in places, but by West Cork standards it's pretty good.
Breeny More

Boulder Burials at Breeny More
 The first thing that you notice from a distance about Breeny More, are the two large portal stones. When you get on site, you realise that these are in fact, the only two stones out of the whole circle still standing. They are each flanked on thier outer side by a fallen stone and there is a stone between them. Two other stones are on the Southern Side, one of which may be the axial stone.
The amazing thing about this circle however, is the grouping of four boulder burials in the centre. They are set in a square, all roughly the same size and all orientated  NE-SW.
The views from here are truly amazing. Bantry Bay glistens in the distance. Hungry Hill and Sugar Loaf poke out from the Beara Peninsula. Barraboy and Knockboy are side on, and The shehy Mountains loom large to the North.
We spend quite a bit of time here, soaking up the suns rays as well as the atmosphere of the place. A pair of Ravens call overhead and Chaffinches sing from the Hawthorn bushes.
Eventually it's time to head off back across the fields, from this wonderful site.
Not sure where to head next, but we continue down the lane and turn left at the T junction.This takes us along the Northern side of the Mealagh Valley. I know that Adrah Stone Row is above us to the left, but I'm not fancying wading about in bog today, so we drive slowly. Joanie is on "Stone watch".
We get to the point where the Sheeps Head Way turns off the road nd heads down through the woods to cross the Mealagh River. There's a small parking space here and I know that there's a wedge tomb on the path below, just across the river.
Sheeps Head Way

Bridge over the Mealagh River
It's a lovely walk, first through the rows of planted Ash trees, the yellow dots on the trees leading us on, then over a few boards to..... a dead end !. There's a walkway heading to the river but ending abruptly, suspended there, rather like a diving board. I can see the new metal bridge upstream and we retrace our steps a little, flushing a Woodcock on the way, before finding an alternative route through rows of pine trees. Faint yellow dots every now and then take us to the bridge. Once over its not far as we come to a small clearing and Barnagowlane West Wedge Tomb. What a lovely little wedge tomb it is as well. Open at the South Western End, The large capstone is shaped like Mullaghmesha to the South. Another little gem in the West Cork countryside.
Barnowgowlane West Wedge Tomb

Brnagowlane West Wedge Tomb
We carry on along the lane, passing a couple of stones in the Coomleigh East area, before finding a large Stone at the Northern foot of Nowen Hill. This is Goulacullin standing stone. Standing in an area of clearfell, bordered to the West by a tumbling stream.
The archaeological Inventory of County Cork vol 1 (1992) states that it couldn't be found "due to afforestation". Well it's here now. It's a pain to get to, I'm scrambling across slippery old pine stumps and rotting tree debris from where the trees were felled. Long wet grass adding to the fun ! But it's well worth it. This stone is a massive 8 or so feet tall. Great views down the Mealagh Valley. You can make out Bantry Bay way in the distance. Yes well worth the effort !
Goulacullin Standing Stone

Goulacullin Standing Stone
We carry on down this mountain road. It was worth coming this way just for the scenery alone. A couple of Farmers working on a ditch, shout hello and wave as we pass by.
Round the corner, we spot another stone. Another large one too. I jump out of the car, but there's a few too many big Cows in the field for my liking, this time. So I have to be happy with few photo's over the ditch. That was Fanahy Stone by the way !
Fanahy Standing Stone

Fanahy Standing Stone
We're only just outside of Derrycaheragh, which makes me think of Inchireagh Stone Circle. We were up this way a week or so ago and hadn't realised it was there. So after driving up and down the main road three or four times, we actually find the lane that leads there. It's a small turning (Right if coming from Dunmanway direction) just South of the School. The lane divides - go left and look out for it in a field to the left. Luckily the Farmer passes by as we pulled up and is only too happy for us to go in and have a look.
Inchireagh Stone Circle

Inchireagh Stone Circle
This five stone circle has got to be the smallest that I've come across yet ! Only 3 metres internal diameter. All five stones are here, though one of the portals is leaning heavily inwards. The axial stone is miniscule. It's alligned NE-SW and (according to Jack Roberts) has an orientation of 240 degrees - Cross Quarter.
Back out to the main road and up to the R585 to head back to Kealkil.
A quick (well as it turns out.... not so quick) diversion up the Cousane "road" and we find a stone pair right near the end, in the delightfully named Townland of Cahermuckee.
Cahermuckee Stone Pair

Cahermuckee Stone Pair

Two large stones, one prostrate. They are just North of the Owngar River A Hawthorn tree has grown between them, and the farmer has dumped an old tree trunk across them. It's a muddy track and a muddy field that I have to traverse to get to them. This would have been an impressive pair when both were standing. The Hawthorn gives it a nice touch for photographs !
As usual, time is getting on, so we head back through Kealkil and Bantry towards home.Covered in mud... another great day out !
Cahermuckee Stone Pair

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