The Allure of The Stone Circles


Photo by Simon Hattinga Verschure 

Stone circles and monolith sites have taken on a fever in the last 7 years, thanks to a little show called Outlander. Many historical sites have taken an actual beating due to the very high attendance this series and other series, such as The Last Kingdom, have brought fans flocking to these ancient ruins.

I have made it my mission to see some circles this next trip. I was thwarted by a funeral on the Isle of Skye that had half the island involved and no way to get around it. It’s very rare for a native islander to live on the island and when one passes, the whole island gets involved. Which is really a beautiful thing, but when one gets half their tour cut off for the day and not time in the schedule to stay an extra day, you have to bump that to the next trip.

If you are lucky enough to be in the UK and Ireland and COVID-19 restrictions ease, heading to the ancient sites will be a great place to stay distanced, yet close to history. For the rest of us, start saving up.

Stone Circles

Stone circles are found across the UK Isles, Ireland, and norther Europe. They were constructed between the years including the late Neolithic through Bronze Ages (3000 BCE). It’s not just the Northern Hemisphere, there are even a variation in the South of Africa.

What was the purpose of a stone circle? Ceremony for ancient peoples, usually centered around the seasons. Many of the circles feature at a particular movement of the sun, much like monoliths and other structures. The larger circles were though to have ben erected in places where there had been a larger settlement as the stones required a huge undertaking with ancient technology to transport and erect.


Image by Paul Bates 

Not all circles are full circles, come are spiral or concentric, others are recumbent and axial. A single large stone placed on its side is recumbent or lying down. These are usually intentional, and similar to a placement of a stone for a Viking burial site. Indeed some of the circles and variants are part of a tomb or chambered site. Some systems have evidence of a cobble pavement, as these were places of worship and expected to be used over time. Some may contain a ring cairn used as a burial marker.

NOTE: While some countries have land passage laws, it is very important that you check out the official sites for information on access. Some of these are on private property and a fee may be charged. Check for public right of way spaces.

Note: as with all boggy moor conditions, check with local conditions for safe parking areas. Cars will sink.


Avon: Stanton Drew Circles and Cove

Cornwall: Boscawen-un stone circle, Nine Maidens of Boskednan, Hurlers, Men an tol, Merry Maidens, Stannon Circle.

Cumbria: Blakerly Raise, Castlehowe Scar, Castlerigg Circle, Druid’s Circle, Giants Grave, Greycroft Circle, Long Meg and her Daughters, Sewborrans, Shap Circles, Sunkenkirk

Derbyshire: Arbor Low Henge, Bamford Moor Circle, Hordron Edge Circle, Nine Stone Close, Park Gate Circle, Smelting Hill, Big Moor, Eyam Moor, Gardom’s Edge, Gibbet Moor, Stanton Moor.

Devon: Brisworthy Circle, Fernworthy Circle and Row, Grey Wethers Circle (Double), Ringsmoor Row and Circle, Scorhill Circle -Dartmoor. Darmoor has several Neolithic sites.

Dorset: Winterbourne Abbas Circle

Durham: Barningham /How Tallon Circle

Norfolk: Holme-Next-theSea (Seahenge) Bronze Age Wooden Circle

Northumberland: Doddington Moor Circle, Duddo, Goatstones

Somerset: Glastonbury

Wiltshire: Avebury, Long Stones, The Sanctuary

STONEHENGE and surrounding area. Yes, the big stone circle has a bit of company.

Yorkshire North: Appletreewick, Commondale, Devil’s Arrows, Harwood Dale, and a great many other Neolithic sites.

Brittany: Carnac Stones, Le Grand Menhir Brisé

Ireland: Ballynoe, Athgreany, Uragh, Beltany, Drombeg


Aberdeenshire: East Aquhorthies, Loanhead of Daviot, Raich, Sheldon, Tomnaverie

Angus: Balgarthno, Balkemback

Dumfriesshire: Twelve Apostles

Fife: Balfarg, Lundin Links

Inverness-shire: Aviemore, Balnuaran of Clava, Center-North-East-South-West

Peeblesshire: Cloyhouse Burn, Harestanes, Stobo Mill

Perthshire: Abbots Deuglie, Abernethy Den, Ardblair, Bachilton, Balhomais, Balmuick, Bandirran (east and west circles), Carse Fam I, II, Clach na Croiche, Clach na Tiompan, Clachan an Diridh, Graighall, Craigiedun, Croftmoraig, Dalginross, Diarmid’s Grave, East Cult, Easthill, Faire na Paitig, Falls of Acharn, Faskally Cottages, Ferntower, Fortingall NE, S, SW, Fowlis Wester, Gleann Beag, Kerrowmore, Kinnell, Licher-Stanes, Machuim, Moneydie, Muirheadstone, Na Clachan Aoraidh, River Almond, Tigh na Ruaich, Tom na Chessaig, Upper Gaskan, Wester Tullybannocher, Woodside. Map

Ross and Cromarty: Archmore, Airidh nam Bidearan, Applecross, Ballan Trushal, Beinn Fuathabhal, Callanish, Carriblair, Clach an Trushal, Cnac Ceann a’ Gharraidh, Cnoc Gearraidh Nighaen Choinnich outliers, Glen Shader, Na Dromannan, Shader Riverside, Strath

Roxburghshire: Ninestane Rig


Bryn Cader Faner, Gorsedd Stone Circle, Druids Circle, Harold’s Stones, The Rocking Stones

Maps at Stone-Circles.ORG

Scotlands Stone Circles

Megalith Map


Photo by Jasmin Gorsuch 

The Castle Inside and out, Rathfarnham Castle – south county Dublin — Nigel Borrington

Rathfarnham Castle is located in south county Dublin. It was built in 1585 by Adam Loftus, Archbishop of Armagh. This is one of the finest examples of what is described as a ‘fortified manor house’ in Ireland. It’s 4 flanker towers, instead of being square are angular (angle bastions). This site is steeped in history […]

via The Castle Inside and out, Rathfarnham Castle – south county Dublin — Nigel Borrington

EPIC Ireland: Immigrants Made America


The Irish have been one of the largest contributors to American emigration in history. My ancestors came from this formidable force of people who came out of an amazing native land to our shores to find a better life. Countless Americans feel the pull to get in touch with their Irish ancestors and find out about their stories. Not everything was kept in parish records, making it hard on these shores to often find the truth of your family. There are family stories, and yes the Irish love their stories, and well, a grandiose telling is what’s needed, right? Don’t be surprised if the story you grew up on was not what really happened. Things get handed down and changed up in the telling, the story of your Great Great Gran may have had a harsh reality that was either embellished or downplayed, you never know.

Tracing your family roots can be fun, and yes when you actually get to the ancestral country, the native nod and go, “another seeker of the family soil”. That’s right, you are spotted coming in with that glazed over, “on the hunt for the ancestral home turf” look. You don’t need to start the convo you have with anyone with the, “ I researching my ancestors…”, they knew that before you walked up, saw you getting off the bus or out of the rail station. Depending on the country, and how you go about it and say it, they may embrace the fact you have come home, or not. The Irish always being a patient and loving people for the most part will be quite friendly, and if you just stand back and actually talk to people first, the easy conversation begins and is so much more enjoyable. Then you can make that connection you have been seeking for so long.


Of course if you really want to get the story of the massive immigrations over the last 150 years or so, I can think of no better place to start than EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin, Ireland. This museum is fully immersive and interactive, filled with themed galleries on the history of immigration from Ireland. Just think, over 10 million Irish have ventured into the world to help change it. Find out how all of it started. Check out our interview below to get some insight to this marvelous venue.

Opening Times

EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum

10:00 am – 6.45 pm
Last entry is 5.00 pm
Open 7 days a week

Check out some of the stories of Ireland’s Immigrants

When you are done with your EPIC journey, check out these nearby attractions:

Science Gallery Dublin

National Gallery of Dublin

Below is an interview with Nathan Mannion, Museum Curator

How did your museum get its start, and how have you seen it grow in the last five years?

The need for an Irish diaspora museum was confirmed following a state sponsored feasibility study conducted in 2013. However state funding for the project was axed in 2015 so the resultant museum would have to be a privately funded initiative. Neville Isdell, the former CEO of Coca Cola, himself a member of the Irish diaspora then stepped in and funded the project. The result was EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum which first opened on May 7th 2016. Since the time the museum has grown steadily both in terms of profile and visitor numbers.

Has there been anything surprising that happened that you just ran with in an opportunity to create an exhibit?

Yes, while attending the launch of a temporary exhibition on the Grey Nuns of Toronto and the Famine Irish at the Canadian embassy I began discussing the poignancy of the exhibit with its curators and the connections between parts of our own exhibition. They mentioned they were looking for a venue to exhibit in next and after a discussion with the museum’s board we agreed to host it. It is due to go on display in the next two months to commemorate the 170th anniversary of 1847.

What do you consider the most challenging part of running a museum of your kind?

EPIC isn’t your typical museum. Firstly we’re based entirely underground in a nearly 200 year old historic structure which presents its own challenges. Secondly we are a state-of-the-art digital museum, which means our narrative focuses on the stories of people rather than objects. The majority of our content is interactive so our visitors experience is very different than that of a traditional museum.  Getting people to reimagine what a museum is or can be is definitely one of our greatest challenges.

What is the planning process for creating new exhibits? Do you have any behind the scenes video or articles that future visitors can look at?

The museum has a very visitor focused approach to exhibiting. Currently we’re documenting and recording stories of emigration which have been donated to us with the intention of rotating our existing exhibitions in 2018. Visitors and stakeholders have been forwarding us biographies, interview transcripts and associated documentation relating to their own, their families or famous individuals’ stories of emigration over the last 10 months and the response has been fantastic.  All of this material will be proofed, researched and verified before we can shortlist material for our future exhibits but everything is currently being archived and may find additional uses as part of our education programme, temporary or travelling exhibits or as content for our online blog.

Is there a committee that decides to feature something or a finding that becomes available and you build around that? Or does the planning involve a specific structure?

The short answer is both. The museum curatorial team usually selects the themes around which we will focus for the coming year, potentially linking them to key anniversaries or commemorations of note in keeping with the museum narrative. However you always need to remain flexible and be able to quickly respond when opportunities present themselves.

It’s the 2017 season coming and what are your plans for exhibits this coming year?

For 2017 the museum plans to exhibit a number of temporary exhibitions alongside its existing long term exhibition. The first will be the ‘Saving the Famine Irish: The Grey Nuns of Toronto’ exhibit which highlights the remarkable stories of these charitable sisters who endangered their own lives to save those fleeing the Great Famine in Ireland. Subsequently EPIC will exhibit a temporary exhibition titled ‘Migrant Memories’. It has been designed by Irish school children as part of a competition run by the museum in a four part magazine series on Irish emigration featured in the Irish Independent.

Do your exhibitions centre on the local only or do you have art and future or contemporary issues come into play occasionally?

EPIC’s exhibitions, as you might imagine, have a global focus. We chart the journey of over 10 million Irish emigrants who left our island shores and highlight the impact they and their descents have had, and are still having, overseas. Emigration is of course a highly topical subject at the moment and the museum displays often sparks lively discussions between our patrons. We feel this is an important part of our role in society and by situating and sharing individual stories within the larger narrative of Irish emigration we help to raise awareness of this often little understood aspect of Irish history and contemporary affairs.