Beaghmore is one of those sites which is a ‘must see’ if you’re in Northern Ireland and, although having seen pictures and read fieldnotes prior to our visit, I was quite taken aback by the size, variation, complexity and general weirdness of it all. It really is like no other place I’d visited before. I mean, sure, there are places on Dartmoor that encompass stone avenues, circles and cairns, but not on this scale, or of this complexity, that I’m familiar with. Seven circles, numerous cairns and possibly twelve stone rows – what was going on here? And, more intriguingly, what else was out there so far undiscovered, because apparently the site was uncovered by peat cutting in the 1940s and there may well be other artefacts still hidden beneath the peat nearby. I’d certainly put my money on it anyway.
When we arrived the weather was on the cusp of a mighty downpour, with massive threateningstorm clouds above, and although we were lucky enough to avoid it, the sunny weather was slow to recover so we decided that we’d have to make a return visit in the hope of better light. Of course this also meant there was a dearth of other visitors so we had the place pretty much to ourselves. Over the course of the two visits (day 2 turned out to be perfect with bright sunlight and atmospheric clouds – my favourite!) I must have spent nearly three hours wandering around sucking up the exquisite beauty of the place with its sombre Sperrin Mountain backdrop. Circle E, the largest circle, with its interior scattering of smaller stones known as ‘the dragon’s teeth’ (and on this occasion charmingly interspersed with daisies). Circle G with its larger ‘entrance stones’, almost mirroring each other in appearance, though if you look carefully the right hand stone isn’t actually part of the circle at all. It’s the second stone of a tangential double row aligned roughly East North East, possibly towards the Summer Solstice sunrise, and, like many of the other avenues, the stones on the other side are all small, giving an odd lopsided appearance. The cairn adjacent to circles F and G is also interesting as it seems to be the only one here with a ring ditch with the alignment of smaller stones, just mentioned, pointing straight at it.
By chance on the first day I thought I’d discovered a small cist in a pile of stones near the end of the row coming from Circle B, but as it turned out it was just a small hidey hole in which was secreted a geocache, so if you’re there anytime in the near future you too can add your name in the notes. So, a justifiably ‘must see’ destination and one that’s certainly in my top ten sites visited.