Rath Gael : Stone Fort

CountyWicklow
Grid RefS 902 732
Longitude6° 39' 44.71" W
Latitude52° 48' 8.31" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownTullow (5 Km)
OS Sheet61
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192
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Visit Notes

Sunday, 26th August 2001

I really didn't know what to expect here. I have only been to one stone fort before this and that was a sad affair. How different two place can be! As you cross the field towards the fort all you can see is the tree covered outer ditch and bank. As you get nearer you begin to see that it is actually an outer bank around a ditch, which is in turn around an inner stone wall some 6 ft high. A small opening in the ditches leads you into the inner sanctum ... prepare yourselves for what you see inside. As you enter the inner courtyard there is the fort itself sitting amongst the heather and knee high weeds. A round enclosure, possibly 50 m in diameter, with a single entrance. This wall reaches thickness' of up to 6 meters. Climbing on top of this is the only way to appreciate the immensity of the structures involved.

I noticed that the outer field is also round. This appears to be a further enclosure around the main site. I think this may even have been a stone circle . The hedgerow itself is dotted with standing stones , just visible through the uncut grass. In a neighbouring field is a solitary standing stone.

Stones circles, put quite simply, are rings of standing stones, although not all of them are cicular, many being eliptical. Many have definite layout plans and often stone circles in one region share a similar style, e.g. Cork features many axial stones circles, where a recumbent stones faces an apparent entrance into the circle (see Drombeg (County Cork)).

They are the most well known of megalithic monuments and the ones most likely to capture anyone's imagination. Many theories exist about the original purpose of these enigmatic structures, the most popular (and at times most controversial) one is that they were built as astronomical observatories, many having apparent solar alignments with the sunrise and sunsets at the solstices and equinoxes. Lunar and star alignments have also ben noted.

No matter what the exact purpose it is certain that they played a significant role in the ritual or religious lives of the builders. One thing that nearly everyone has in common is that they are located in the most dramatic of places, usually offering unrivalled views.

Quite often other monuments, such as alignments, cairns, boulder burials or outliers, are to be found in close proximity to stone circles.

Standing stones, also called menhirs or monoliths, are the most simple of megalithic monuments. They are exactly what they say, a stone that stands with one end set into the ground. Being simple in form does not make them simple to understand, for they have served several purposes over time. Some were placed to mark burials, others were probably erected to mark boundaries or travel routes, the purpose of others is uncertain, but it may well have been ritual.

Standing stones can vary enormously in size from a under 1m tall to over 4m. Some have been purposely shaped (see Stone Of Destiny (County Meath)) and some must have been chosen purely for their shape (see Ballyvatheen (County Kilkenny)). Most standing stones are dated to be from the Bronze Age, but some are clearly older, especially those associated with passage tombs such as at Knowth (County Meath) and Loughcrew - Corstown (County Meath).

Others have been re-used in later times (see Kilnasaggart (County Armagh) and Breastagh (County Mayo)), perhaps to try and capture some of the powers of the old gods or to legitamise a claim to land.

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Sunday, 14th April 2002

We saw so much this day that I'd actually forgotten that we'd been here until I got the photographs back. This site always makes me want to visit some of the more substantial cashels on the west coast.

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Like this monument

Marked Sites

Directions

Follow the R725 from Tullow and take the first left turn after about 2 km The fort is signed about 2 km on the right. Look out for the stone circle 400m further along and the hill fort to the left [Now visited and disappointed].

Random Gazetteer

A Selection of Other Stone Forts

About Coordinates Displayed

This is an explanation of (and a bit of a disclaimer for) the coordinates I provide.

Where a GPS figure is given this is the master for all other coordinates. According to my Garmin these are quite accurate.

Where there is no GPS figure the 6 figure grid reference is master for the others. This may not be very accurate as it could have come from the OS maps and could have been read by eye. Consequently, all other cordinates are going to have inaccuracies.

The calculation of Longitude and Latitude uses an algorithm that is not 100% accurate. The long/lat figures are used as a basis for calculating the UTM & ITM coordinates. Consequently, UTM & ITM coordinates are slightly out.

UTM is a global coordinate system - Universal Transverse Mercator - that is at the core of the GPS system.

ITM is the new coordinate system - Irish Transverse Mercator - that is more accurate and more GPS friendly than the Irish Grid Reference system. This will be used on the next generation of Irish OS maps.

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