|Dooncarton - Court Tomb|
The stone circle itself is quite ruined. I was surprised to find that it is not visible from the roads that pass below - I was expecting it to sit, crown-like, on its little drumlin.
The site was built to be dominated by two features. One: The cliffs that rise dramtically to the south and Two: The sea to the north. The views over the bay where the Atlantic thunders into shore are fantastic. Sadly modern man has chosen to dominate the site with two other features. The first is not too bad, as this is an observatory high on the cliff above. This, given the solar possibilities of the stone circle, is quite acceptable and does not look too bad. The other is a different story ... houses! just 50m down the slope to the east several new houses are being constructed right now.
The circle is, as mentioned, not complete and just 6m in diameter. The remaining stones are all pointed, except for one very tall square sectioned stone to the east. None of the stones exceed 1.4m in height.
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.
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.