Stone Circles & Rows - County Fermanagh

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H 19319 69440  middle of 3 stone row (GPS spot).
Visited June 2002

With three stone circles and two three-stone rows listed for the site, Montiaghroe seemed to promise a veritable megalithic feast , but the reality was to prove a little different.

As can be gathered from the state of the sky in the above photo, we had weather problems during our visit to Montiaghroe. As well as sudden torrential rain cutting our visit short, days of previous rain had turned the surrounding fields into a nearly impassable bog. If the weather was not bad enough, we found that according to our GPS receiver the published locations for the Montiaghroe circles and rows were more than a little off. Because of the difficult conditions and dubious map references, we could not cover this potentially fascinating site in anything like our usual depth, so we only have partial GPS fixes and photos :-(

The most impressive monument at the site is the three-stone row pictured above, the stones here are all over a metre high, with the tallest standing at 1.8m. The row is close to the road, and is easily visible to passing traffic over the low field wall.  35m SSE of the row are what appeared to be the remains of a circle at H 19336 69405 (GPS), there were four smallish stones in what appeared to be a short arc of a circle. In common with most of the stones we spotted at Montiaghroe, they were low, covered in vegetation, and virtually submerged in the bog.
Burl (1) lists two three-stone rows at this location,  Montiaghroe NW and SE, the row mentioned above fits best with Montiaghroe NW, the tallest stone is 1.8m (2.5m for SE) and it is associated with the remains of a stone circle. The problem is that Burl quotes a location of H 190 692 for this row whereas our GPS measurement gave an actual fix of H 19319 69440, to put this into perspective Burl's location is over 300m away, on the other side of the road!
The second three-stone row, Montiaghroe SE is listed in Burl at H 197 690, this row should be readily visible as the two tallest stones are 2.5m and 1.8m tall but we found nothing, admittedly our search was cut short by the weather, but given the inaccuracy of his map reference for Montiaghroe NW we may have been misdirected in this case as well. We do know that this row exists in good condition as we have seen modern photos of it, unfortunately these were not accompanied by an accurate map reference.

Burl (2) lists three stone circles at the site, two of these (SE and SW) are listed as "ruined or unrecognisable", it is likely that we found the remains of one of these associated with the stone row shown above. Given the contradictory nature of the stated map references and descriptions for the rows and circles, we were not able to identify which of the two circles this was.
A third circle, Montiaghroe Centre, is listed as being in a recognisable state and we think that we did mange to spot this, a large diameter circle of small stones laid out at the foot of a rise. Nearly all of the surviving circle stones here were very low and hidden in the grass, they were not visible from more than a couple of metres away, so it was impossible to get an overview of the circle remains. On the higher ground to the NE of the circle are the remains of what looked like two or more stone rows, but there was such a jumble here that it was hard to make out the original structures. The weather broke just as we reached Montiaghroe Centre, so we did not have time to take measurements or good photos, or indeed, search for the second "ruined" circle.

There are obvious contradictions in the published locations for the Montiaghroe rows and circles, and our own limited GPS readings confirm these discrepancies. If you are planning a visit to anything other than the obvious three stone row, be prepared for some extensive searching - and bring your wellies.

1. Burl A. From Carnac to Callanish: the prehistoric stone rows and avenues of Britian, Ireland and Brittany, p.251, Yale University Press, 1993, Newhaven & London.
2. Burl A. The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, p.416, Yale University Press, 2000, Newhaven & London.

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