Why The 3,000+ Year Old Drombeg Stone Circle In Cork Is Worth A Gander

Drombeg Stone Circle
Photo left: CA Irene Lorenz. Photo right: Michael Mantke (Shutterstock)

The ancient Drombeg Stone Circle is one of the more iconic of the many Cork attractions.

Located 4.5km southwest of Rosscarbery in West Cork, the Drombeg stone circle is a remarkable 9m diameter circle consisting of 17 standing stones.

It is one of 40 similar stone circles in West Cork which were used as ceremonial sites for rituals.

In the guide below you’ll discover everything you need to know before visiting Drombeg Stone Circle, from where to park to the history of the area.

Some quick need-to-knows about Drombeg Stone Circle

Drombeg Stone Circle is one of the best-known archaeological sites in Ireland and is easy to reach just a short walk from the car park. Visiting it raises many questions! 

Who lived here? How and why did they build the stone circle, and what was it like to be part of a seasonal gathering at this sacred site? Here are some quick need-to-knows

1. Location

You’ll find Drombeg Stone Circle a short spin for the gorgeous little village of Glandore (one of the most beautiful towns in Cork) in West Cork where its been for thousands of years.

3. Parking

Drombeg stone circle is accessed via a quiet narrow lane. Fortunately, there is a small car park for visitors, however, tall vehicles, trucks and buses are unable to access it.

4. The walk to the stone circle

From the car park, access to Drombeg Stone Circle is along a short level walk that shouldn’t prove too difficult for most.

5. Drive slow!

It’s important to drive slowly and with care along these lanes leading to Drombeg car park. There are often other vehicles or pedestrians using the road and may be hidden from view by the walls and bends in the road. 

The story behind Drombeg Stone Circle

Drombeg Stone Circle
Photo left: CA Irene Lorenz. Photo right: Michael Mantke (Shutterstock)

The history of Drombeg Stone Circle is one that spans over 3,000 years, which is incredible when you think about it.

Below, you’ll find a speedy insight into the story behind of one of Ireland’s most in-tact stone circles and arguably one of the most history-rich places to visit in West Cork.

History

The word ‘Drombeg’ means ‘small ridge’. Erected on a rocky terrace, the site of the Drombeg stone circle is surrounded by countryside with sea views.

Dating back to the Bronze Age, this 3,000 year-old site consists of 17 standing stones and the majority of them are local sandstone.

Fourteen standing stones formed a clear 9.3 metre diameter circle and during excavations a further three fallen stones were uncovered.

These huge stones were erected on a gravel floor of pebbles and slate. Radiocarbon dating suggests the site was in active use around 1100-800BC.

Features

One of the main features of Drombeg stone circle are two portal stones, the tallest over 2m high. Facing the entrance is a flat axial stone laid horizontally as was possibly an altar stone.

Set at the most westerly point, this is the largest stone and has two carved cup marks, one surrounding by a circle. 

The stone circle is orientated so that the imaginary axial line drawn between the entrance portal stones and the axial stone are aligned northeast/southwest allowing the axial stone to be lit by the sun’s rays at the Winter Solstice.

Excavations

Prior to excavations by Professor Edward Fahy in 1957, locals named the site the Druid’s Altar. Underneath the gravel site archaeologists discovered fire pits, one with a broken pot of cremated human remains. 

Excavations of the site also revealed a Stone Age cooking pit near the stream. Visitors can see the remains of two round huts about 40m away and a causeway leading to a cooking area (fulacht fiadh) with a hearth, well and a trough.

The trough was used to heat around 70 gallons of water by dropping red-hot stones into it from the fire. The stone huts and cooking place led historians to believe that this was a sacred place where seasonal gatherings were held, probably around the 5th century AD.  

Places to visit near Drombeg Stone Circle

One of the beauties of Drombeg is that it’s a short spin away from a clatter of other attractions, both man-made and natural.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Drombeg Stone Circle (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. Glandore

glandore in cork
Photo by Marcela Mul (Shutterstock)

Glandore is known in Irish as Cuan Daire meaning “harbour of gold”. Said to be the most beautiful harbour village in southwest Ireland, it has a good number of fine hostelries, inns and restaurants.

On a sunny day, grab a seat outside and marvel at the views. Nearby Union Hall is another village well worth a visit.

2. Owenahincha Beach

 

Owenahincha Beach is just east of Rosscarbery Lagoon and it’s arguably one of the best beaches in West Cork. Backed by natural wind-sculpted dunes, the sandy crescent-shaped beach is divided by a rocky outcrop.

With Blue Flag awarded waters, it is popular with families for sandcastle-building, swimming and watersports. It’s a great place for windsurfing, body-boarding and kite-surfing so bring your wetsuit!  

3. Inchydoney Beach

parking at Drombeg Stone Circle
Photo left: TyronRoss (Shutterstock). Photo right: © The Irish Road Trip

Located on Inchydoney Island and accessed by causeway, the extensive Inchydoney Beach is a real gem. Stretching along the coastline and backed by dunes and rolling hills, it is divided in half by the Virgin Mary headland.

There’s a surf school, lifeguards, rock pools and Blue Flag waters with good facilities in the nearby town of Clonakilty. Have a look at our guide on things to do in Clonakilty for more to do nearby.

4. Rosscarbery

Rosscarbery village
Photos via Google Maps

Pretty as a picture, Rosscarbery is a historic village with a sandy cove. It grew up around the 6th century monastery established by St Fachtna.

It offers visitors plenty of amenities with traditional shops, pubs, live music, farmer’s markets and pastel painted buildings around the square. There are plenty of other things to do in Rosscarbery while your there (like Warren Beach).

5. Mizen Head

things to see nearby
Photo left: Dimitris Panas. Photo right: Timaldo (Shutterstock)

Finally, Mizen Head marks the end of the road and Ireland’s most southwesterly point. Famous for its ancient heritage and rugged landscape it has plenty to make your visit memorable. The old signal station with its Marconi radio room, coastal viewing platforms and lighthouse are a must-see.  

FAQs about visiting Drombeg Stone Circle near Glandore

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from whether Drombeg Stone Circle is worth visiting to what there is to see nearby.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

Is Drombeg Stone Circle worth visiting?

Yes – Drombeg Stone Circle is a staggering 3,000+ years old and it’s very easy accessible. Even if you only visit for 20 minutes, it’s worth dropping by to appreciate the areas’ history.

Why was Drombeg Stone Circle built?

As is the case with many ancient sites in Ireland, there’s a lot of speculation over why Drombeg Stone Circle was built. One common theory is that it was constructed for ritualistic purposes.

What is there to see near the stone circle?

Drombeg is close to some of the best things to do in West Cork – from beaches, coastal walks, more beaches and the mighty Mizen Head, there’s plenty to do nearby.

Gillian Birch is a travel writer and published author. She has travelled the world and uses her personal journals and memories to write about her many travel experiences, particularly those that involved adventures in Ireland.

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