Across the United Kingdom, Ireland, and other parts of Western Europe are
scattered mysterious remnants of ancient pagan times known as "stone
Differing from "stone henges," more complex structures involving
circles of stone, but also earthen structures, portals, and other distinctive
features, stone circles are typically understood to be any pre-Christian,
roughly circular monument of standing stones.
Stone Circles Of Ireland And The UK
Stone circles are generally thought to have served some sort of ritual purpose
in pre-Christian pagan societies. While they can be found in Armenia, France,
Malta, Poland, Portugal, Russia, parts of Scandanavia, and even in Africa,
nowhere in the world is there a greater collection of these ancient monuments
than the British Isles. There are nearly 1,000 stone circles in Ireland and the
Grange Circle Of Lough Gur
An area particularly rich in stone circles is the area surrounding Lough (Lake)
Gur in southeastern Limerick County, Ireland. A small, horseshoe-shaped lake
utilized today for non-motorized water recreation, Lough Gur is flanked by some
30 sites of archeological interest: tombs, forts, castle ruins, and a variety
of standing stone monuments.
One of the most easily accessible and impressive artifacts around Lough Gur
is the Grange Stone Circle. The largest standing stone circle in all of
Ireland, it comprises 113 stones and measures 150 feet in diameter. It lies
about 1,000 feet west of the lake on the road between Holycross and Limerick.
The Irish name for the Grange Stone Circle is Ciorcal Liag na Grainsi, or
"Stones of the Sun." Like many of the stone circles of Ireland and
the UK, this circle is aligned with celestial features -- in this case, with
the rising sun at the Summer Solstice.
Around the perimeter of the circle are 12 large stones placed at distinct
intervals, apparently functioning as axial stones for the positioning of the
rest. The largest of these is known as The Black Stone or Ronnach Croim Duibh.
It stands 13 feet tall and weighs over 40 tons. The narrow entryway remains
Nearby Points Of Interest
A well-preserved wedge tomb is located near the Grange Stone Circle. Like the
circle, the tomb is right off the main road and easy to find. Wedge tombs are
structures typical of the period around 2500 B.C. The "wedge" moniker
refers to the fact that the burial chamber narrows at one end, taking a wedge
shape, of which this particular tomb is a classic example. The tomb was
excavated in 1938. The remains of a dozen individuals, likely eight adults and
four children, were found here along with pottery typical of the Neolithic era.
Lough Gur itself is worth a visit. Birding enthusiasts will appreciate the
diversity of waterfowl that migrate through the area and/or make the lake their
home. Swans, herons, owls, and a wide variety of ducks and songbirds reside
here year-round, with an even greater assortment spending their summers on the
From Shannon or Limerick, take the N20 route toward Cork. Turn left at the
village of Croom and continue on to Bruff. Watch for signs for the Lough Gur
Heritage Center, where information on the historic sites, natural resources,
and geology of the area is provided, along with bathrooms and a coffee shop.
Sally O'Neal is a travel and outdoor writer who visited Lough Gur and the
Grange Stone Circle in May of 2009. She writes weekly for sportsmansguide.com.