Gortahover : Bullaun Stone

Grid RefR 892 303
GPSR 89236 30300 (3m)
Longitude8° 9' 29.69" W
Latitude52° 25' 27.07" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownTipperary (5.5 Km)
OS Sheet66
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192
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Visit Notes

Sunday, 15th February 2004

Even when you know that this is right beside the road it is very easy to drive right past it - I did. This absolutely gargantuan bullaun stone rests in a little semi-circular enclosure between a hedge and a bridge (over the innevitably close stream).

It is a disk 1m across and perhaps 40cm thick. Six huge bullauns are carved into its upper surface, sadly only three of which hold water. The road side position really does do damage to the power of this stone, but even so, it is a wonderous thing.

It is obvious that not many people bother to stop here as the three water holding stones were full of last autumns leaves, slowly mulching and rotting, probably helping to erode the stone even more.

The views over the Glen of Aherlow towards the Galty Mountains are simply delicious.

The original purpose of bullan stones is not really known, but they have an undisputable association with water and Brigid worship. A 'bullaun' is a deep hemispherical cup hollowed out of a rock. Bullaun Stone refers to the rock itself, which can have many bullauns in it, although many are single.

It is generally thought that they date from the Bronze Age, but I personally believe there is a much old provenance to them and that there is a relationship to prehistoric rock art, for a good example of this see Glassamucky Mountain (County Dublin).

Ritual use of some bullaun stones has continued well into the Christian period and many are found in association with early churches (The Deer Stone (Glendalough D) (County Wicklow) is just one of many at Glendalough (County Wicklow)) and holy wells. Their presence at so many early Christian sites, to me, places them as being of massive importance to the pre-Christian inhabitants of Ireland and something the church was very eager to assimilate.

The beautiful example at St Brigit's Stone (County Cavan) still has its 'cure' or 'curse' stones. These would be used to by a visitor turning them whilst praying for (or cursing) someboby.

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Saturday, 27th December 2008

Being on the hills over The Glen of Aherlow I had to stop by and check out this great bullaun stone again. Sadly it hasn't received much attention lately and it is looking a big neglected. At the time of my revisit there were crushed plastic bottles in the bullauns and piles of dead leaves in the enclosure. The water-retaining basins were iced over, but it looked as if they were full of dead leaves and general crap beneath the ice.

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A Selection of Other Bullaun Stones

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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