Leitrim : Bullaun Stone

Grid RefS 982 941
GPSS 98241 94131 (5m)
Longitude6° 32' 12.84" W
Latitude52° 59' 20.2" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownDonard (6.2 Km)
OS Sheet56
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192
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Visit Notes

Sunday, 24th December 2006

Finding this stone took me a long time! I had walked right past it at least five times when I decided to ring a friend and ask for help. Eventually I found it and could relax and take in the site and location fully. Wow! What a place!

The bullaun stone has a single bullaun that is about 20cm across. The top of the stone is flush with the ground and surrounded by scrubby grass - hence the difficulty in finding it. It is situated to the east of the graveyard that occupies the top of the knoll upon which the stone lies. Inside the graveyard there is a group of stones that I think could be the remains of a stone circle.

As mentioned above, the whole site occupies the top of a piece of high ground that falls away to the east and offers great views of the Glen and the surrounding mountains. If ever a site was prime for an ancient monument then this is it. More investigation is needed here, especially of the possible stone circle in the graveyard.

A word of caution - the graveyard is 400m inside the military firing range, so I can't recommend that anyone else visits this monument. The graveyard is clearly still used today and frequented often by people who look after the graves, but I don't know the official story.

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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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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