Cashelenny Stone Circle Archaeological Survey

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Cashelenny Stone Circle Archaeological Survey


Lough Derg--Vicinity--Archaeological survey--Stone Circle


The following description is derived from Cody (2000). The ‘stone circle complex at Cashelenny, County Donegal, is sited on bog-grown upland some 10 km. north-east of Pettigo . . . . The site was known to Oliver Davies who conducted fieldwork in County Donegal in the 1940s and 1950s. In his notes in the topographical files in the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin, he identified it as a complex of stone circles and alignments and through his work it came to be included in the Archaeological Survey of County Donegal where it is briefly described (Lacy 1983, 71). Some years later Claire Foley of the Environment and Heritage Service, Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland, whose attention had been drawn to the site by Michael McSorley of Castlederg. County Tyrone, alerted my former colleague, Dr Sean Ó Nualláin, to its significance. In August 1991, accompanied by Mr McSorley, the writer and Dr Ó Nualláin visited the complex and in September of that year it was surveyed. The monument is exposed in a 30m. - 35m. wide strip of cut-away bog which extends for something in excess of 120m. in a north-easterly direction from the environs of an abandoned house. This turf-cutting is old work and there would not appear to be any local memory of it. The surface of the cut-away strip is approximately 1m. below that of the surrounding bog. As none of the stones of the monument rise more than 75cm. above the cut-away surface it is likely that they had been wholly enveloped before turf-cutting took place. There would still seem to be a 40cm. thickness of peat at the site, the surface of which is now under a lighlt growth of grass and heather.

The monument stands between 600 and 700 feet O.D. (183-213m.) on a gentle south-facing slope on the south-western spur of Crockarthur, which spans the boundary between Donegal and Tyrone. This hill is one of a series along a belt of hill and mountain country, lying between the Derg River to the north and the Termon River to the south, which stretches eastwards from Lough Derg in County Donegal almost to Drumquin in County Tyrone. Northwards from the monument the ground rises gently and just 50m. away drops sharply to a narrow valley which forms the north side of the spur. The outlook from the site is limited by relatively close horizons formed by hill-ridges except to the south. In the latter direction there is an extensive view across Lough Nageage, 0.6 km. away, and beyond it along the basin of the Termon River in the direction of Lower Lough Erne. The accompanying plan shows the 134 stones that were visible at the date of survey. Of the 134 only nine are 40cm. or more high, 101 stones are no more than 15cm. high and shout half of these scarcely rise clear of the cut-away surface. Many of the stones at the sire are clearly set on an end or edge and while the status of a considerable number of low stones must remain somewhat uncertain it is considered likely that the great majority are in situ. A very small number appear to be prostrate, as if they might have fallen or been uprooted, and these are shown in outine on the plan.

Four classically-sited features are identified. At the south-west there is a stone circle and some 5m. to the north-east, and slightly upslope, there is a larger sub-circular feature, possibly also a stone circle, in the interior of which there are set stones. Between the two circles there is a row of stones and at the north-eastern end of the complex there are a number of stones, perhaps another linear setting. The stone circle at the south-west, part of which is still enveloped in bog, is some 10m in diameter. None of the stones forming the circle rises more than 30cm. above the cut-away surface. For the most part there are gaps between the stones, though two stones at the south-west at the point it exits the bog are almost contiguous while the next two stones are set end to end but it is possible that this pair originally formed one stone. The second circle measures about 14m. across. An apparent irregularity in the perimeter at the north-west may be due to loss or concealment of stones. By way of contrast with the last, which apparently lacks any internal settings, low upright stones occupy the interior of this feature and it is likely that many more have been lost or are concealed by peat. Two perimeter stones at the south-east, marked A and B on the plan and 1.20m. apart, are the tallest not only of this feature but at the entire site. They are 70cm. and 75cm. high respectively and, in contrail to most of the stones that seem to form the perimeters of both circles, these are radially set. They might form an entrance feature. The row of stones between the two features already described is represented by ten stones. These form a slightly irregular line some 10m. long. It can be described, somewhat loosely, as running tangentially to the largo circle and were it extended further south-eastwards it would also form a tangent with the smaller circle. The fourth feature, at the north-eastern end of the complex is 2m. to 3m. from the larger circle. It may be a short row of stones, possibly doubled, though it is conceivable that the stones here are part of a circle now largely lost or still concealed.

The grouped arrangement of the features at the site the use of quite small stones, the occurrence of set stones in the interior of one of the circles and the combination of circles and rows identify the site as an example, perhaps the most westerly, of the mid-Ulster group of stone circle clusters of Beaghmore type which are centred on the plateau south of the Sperrin Mountains in County Tyrone (Davies 1939). The full extent of the complex and the degree of structural elaboration remain to be established at Cashelenny before detailed comparisons can be made between it and other examples of this geographically distinctive group of Bronze Age monuments.’

1. Cody, E. 2000 A stone circle complex at Cashelenny, County Donegal. Ulster Journal of Archaeology 59, 85-7.
2. Davies, O. 1939b Stone circles in Northern Ireland. Ulster Journal of Archaeology Ser. 3, 2, 2-14.
3. Lacy, B. with Cody, E., Cotter, C., Cuppage, J., Dunne, N., Hurley, V., O'Rahilly, C., Walsh, P. and Ó Nualláin, S. 1983 Archaeological Survey of County Donegal. A description of the field antiquities of the County from the Mesolithic Period to the 17th century A.D. Lifford. Donegal County Council.


Compiled by: Paul Walsh


Archaeological Survey or Ireland


National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Ireland


2 August 2017


Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence


Archaeological survey summary








Class: Stone circle
Scheduled for inclusion in the next revision of the RMP: Yes




Compiled by: Paul Walsh, “Cashelenny Stone Circle Archaeological Survey,” Digital Derg: A Deep Map, accessed October 3, 2023,