You just couldn’t dream up this place! Our ancestors certainly knew how to pick a location! I’m still on the Beara Peninsula in south west Ireland but in a place that won’t feature in many travel brochures and is definitely not easily accessible to tour buses.
Located near the town of Kenmare, signposts will lead you to a 7km track into the valley. The way is narrow but the surface is ok and there are lay-bys for pulling out of the way of oncoming traffic. Traffic? Maybe the odd car, tractor or sheep!
The long valley was formed by glaciation about 70,000 years ago. A spectacular waterfall feeds into a series of lakes along the valley floor. You can just drive in and out and admire the scenery or, preferably, bring your picnic and spend the day on one or more of the trails which cater for pretty much every level of fitness.
Uragh Stone Circle.
I’m very proud of my country as you know but this must be one of the most breathtaking scenes I’ve come across. Standing strong on a hillock between beautiful Lough Inchiquin and Lough Cloonee Upper, is the stunning monument that is Uragh Stone Circle.
Etymology – the origins of ‘Uragh’ are a bit vague – iúir is yew ( crann iúir = yew tree). Alternatively, úr achadh means ‘the fresh field’.
A bit about Stone Circles…..
Axial stone circles are found in south west Ireland (and also in north east Scotland). Typically, an axial circle has 5 stones like this one, or multiple stones (up to 19). Regardless of size, they all have the same distinctive features. One stone – the Axial Stone – is set on its side. This makes it the lowest standing stone. The rest of the stones are placed symmetrically in pairs and increase in size as they curve away from the axial stone. The last 2 stones which will be opposite the axial stone are therefore the tallest. These are the Portals – the entrance to the circle. Thus there will always be an uneven number of stones in the circle.
There are dozens of these circles in this region. Interestingly, despite the best efforts of zealots down through the centuries, there is no pattern of astronomical orientation or geographical location. Some circles do align with the solstice – intentional or by chance? No one knows. Some are aligned with mountains or water sources – again – coincidental or not.
The date range is circa 1650BC – 800BC. It is thought that the 5-stone circles came later – downsizing maybe towards the end of the megalithic tradition. They were presumably built for ceremonial purposes but the exact ritual function is not clear. The circles were never constructed in settlements and were usually located well away from any dwellings or structures.
The great thing about these circles nowadays has to be the fun in finding them! The odd one might be close to the roadside but many are off the beaten track, necessitating a trudge across fields or up mountain paths. Its worth the effort – you won’t be disappointed!
So – back to Uragh
A short laneway (off the ‘main’ laneway!) brings you to a small car park. There’s an honesty box with the request of a €2 entrance fee. The pathway up the hillock can be muddy after rain – best leave the suede stilettos in the car! The circle remains out of view until you reach the top which only adds to its magnificence.
You’ll quickly identify the Axial stone and the Portals – be sure to impress any companions with your superb terminology and expertise!
One of the portals has fallen and now leans outwards.
Towering over the circle is the outlying standing stone reaching over 3 metres towards the sky
There is evidence that something has been removed from the centre of the circle.
Surrounded by 3 mountains, the views are amazing. Out in front is Lough Inchiquin. The backdrop of the waterfall definitely adds to the mystical aura and presence of the place.
In the other direction, out beyond the parking spot, is Lough Cloonee Upper with the McGillycuddy Reeks in the distance.
You may not have come seeking a spiritual experience but maybe sit and meditate for a while anyway. Watch the mountains around you change colour with shifting sunlight and cloud. You could be the only person on the planet!
On we go……
The ‘road’ continues on along the shore of Lough Inchiquin – we’re heading to the waterfall…..
The end of the road brings you to family owned Gleninchaquin park. Here you will find nature trails for a bit of a wander as well as extended walks for experienced hikers. There are picnic tables so you can plan for a full day.
There’s a little bit of scampering required…
They don’t mind…
The force of the 140m high rock face waterfall is dependent on recent rainfall.
The run off from the waterfall feeds into the nearly lakes.
The park owners have laid out six lovely walks which will take anything from 45 minutes to 7 hours to complete. They vary in terrain and bring you through farmland and woodland, along hill trails and glens, across streams and around lakes. Even if you’ve only a short time to spare, its worth walking up one of the nearest trails just to get an appreciation of the surrounding landscape.
One of the shorter pathways will bring you up to Cummenadillure Lough. The region is dotted with such corrie lakes – carved out of the land by melting glacial ice at the end of the last ice age.
You can finish off with a stroll through the Water garden.
How’s that for a nasty sky!!!! Time to go!!!
There is no public transport to the valley.
Uragh Stone Circle:
€2 (honour box)
Open: Easter – November
Adult: €6 (Students: €5 / Seniors: €5 / Children age 6-12 €4 / Family: (2 adults 2 children) €15 / Children under 6 years are free).
Dogs welcome but must be kept on a lead
There is a small cafe on site and picnic tables in the park.
There is no mobile or WiFi connection.
If you’ve been following my posts for the past few weeks, you now have the makings of a great day out – Starting in Glengarriff in the morning, hop on a boat to Garnish Island. After lunch (either on the island or back in Glengarriff) drive over the Healy Pass and on to this valley. From here, you can head to Kenmare for a choice of great restaurants and accommodation.
Before you go
If you’re thinking of visiting the south-west, have a look at these…