|Athgreany Cairns - Valley floor by Athgreany Circle - Cairn|
Known also and signposted as the "Piper's Stone Circles" Athgreany is a beautiful place. Once the home to sun worship, it sits secluded on the top of a knoll flanked on three sides by hills and by the flood plain on the fourth. Once off the road the track seems obscure, just a cart track and then to the right a well worn footpath runs up a hill. Following that (and my instincts for I had no map) as I crested the brow of the hill there it was, hidden until the last second. The huge rounded light grey stones that make up this circle shining in the sun light. There is a massive lichen covered outlyer down the slope. This is heavily carved on its top. Around the base of this is a ring of yellow/red quartz stones and a small ditch. This feature I later noted is common to all the stones here. When in use and looked after this place must have shone brilliantly in the sun.
You are secluded enough from the road here and the whole place is very peaceful. Sitting in the center of the circle I was overcome with a feeling of great energy in a most disturbing, yet wonderful way.
The Piper's reference is a typical Christianisation of the site. It relates to the tale of a piper (the outlier ) and a group of maidens (the circle) that were petrified for dancing on the Sabbath.
A boulder or standing stone set outside a stone circle, quite often at a compass point or on a significant cosmic alignment (see Ballynoe (County Down)).
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Once again I find myself back at Athgreany while motorbikes speed past at 100mph below.
I came here to try taking some different photos. To take these I put my camera on the tripod, set it to timer mode and held the camera as high up as possible to try and get a view from above. This technique works quite well and the beauty of the digital camera is that if it's no good I can delete it and try again.
Yep, back again. This circle is a great one for a quick visit with some friends. Once again at least two sheep skulls were lying around the circle .... what goes on here?
While Julian was admiring the stones I was looking for the ever present sheep skull. I eventually found it in the bushes - I knew it would be there.
A wet and windy time was had here today. After the 'roundness' of Broadleas (County Kildare) the definite ritual feel to this circle is very clear. And yes, the skull was lying around too. We also noticed that the house in the valley to the east has some pentagrams and sigals painted upon it, too.
The drive down to County Carlow today was fairly nasty - all fog and cold - so we decided to stop off at Athgreany to enjoy it in the mist and wait for the weather to warm up a little.
It's amazing how the weather can change a place. Today, even though there was a hazy sun, the circle looked odd. It had an ethereal air to it, but it was somehow a sad place today.
As I drove past here a few weeks ago I saw that there was now an information board at the end of the little track that leads to the base of the hill, so I decided to stop by and check it out. It's not too impressive to be honest, but at least it does affirm to anyone wanting to come here that they can. However, to get here you still have to climb over a very rickety and dangerous gate! Surely the money would have been better spent providing better access and not teasing people from the road.
It's odd. but in all the times I have been here I have always ben rather lazy about it: I've never actually walked beyond the circle down the other side of the hill or up the hillside beyond. I remedied that today and took a look at the circle from the far slopes to the south. It looks much better from here and this really should be the way to bring people to the site. At the moment you walk up the hill and the circle is suddenly there. This gives you a lovely surprise, but it's a sudden hit that soon leaves you. Approaching from the south would give a much better sense of journey and arrival.
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Back again. After Broadleas (County Kildare) Athgreany is a mixed bag. You can appreciate the views and its place in the landscape, but the circle is more ruinous. I really must come here for a sunrise one day this summer to see what it's like at dawn.
I wasn't actually going to add notes for my visit here today, but out of disgust I feel I must. I came here to look back up to the standing stone on the hill above (also in Athgreany (County Wicklow) townland).
At the recent solstice someone had obviously had a little ceremony up here. The problem is that the idiots didn't clean up after themselves and left a load of litter in the centre of the circle. This included bunches of foliage and berries as well as a sea shell and the metal bit of a tealight. Not only is this annoying for others that visit the site, but also a hazard for the sheep that are often put out to graze here. I suppose the people that left it probably claim to love nature, but leaving small metal objects amongst juicy leaves is totally irresponsible! I took the metal bits away with me, but left the bunches of plants. I wish I had taken it all now, because I don't know if the berries left are poisonous to sheep or not. Sadly I only thought of this when I got home.
Standing stones, also called menhirs or monoliths, are the most simple of megalithic monuments. They are exactly what they say, a stone that stands with one end set into the ground. Being simple in form does not make them simple to understand, for they have served several purposes over time. Some were placed to mark burials, others were probably erected to mark boundaries or travel routes, the purpose of others is uncertain, but it may well have been ritual.
Standing stones can vary enormously in size from a under 1m tall to over 4m. Some have been purposely shaped (see Stone Of Destiny (County Meath)) and some must have been chosen purely for their shape (see Ballyvatheen (County Kilkenny)). Most standing stones are dated to be from the Bronze Age, but some are clearly older, especially those associated with passage tombs such as at Knowth (County Meath) and Loughcrew - Corstown (County Meath).
Others have been re-used in later times (see Kilnasaggart (County Armagh) and Breastagh (County Mayo)), perhaps to try and capture some of the powers of the old gods or to legitamise a claim to land.
There is something special about a site when the ground is white around it. Well, we've had no snow this year, so frost will have to do. At this time of year the sun doesn't shine on Athgreany until late in the morning, so I was frozen standing about taking photos this morning.
Follow the N81 from Dublin passed Hollywood and look out for a brown sign on the left hand side of the road saying "Piper's Stone Circles". It is possible to park right next to this sign. Take the path and turn right up the small hill at the end of the hedgerow.
This is an explanation of (and a bit of a disclaimer for) the coordinates I provide.
Where a GPS figure is given this is the master for all other coordinates. According to my Garmin these are quite accurate.
Where there is no GPS figure the 6 figure grid reference is master for the others. This may not be very accurate as it could have come from the OS maps and could have been read by eye. Consequently, all other cordinates are going to have inaccuracies.
The calculation of Longitude and Latitude uses an algorithm that is not 100% accurate. The long/lat figures are used as a basis for calculating the UTM & ITM coordinates. Consequently, UTM & ITM coordinates are slightly out.
UTM is a global coordinate system - Universal Transverse Mercator - that is at the core of the GPS system.
ITM is the new coordinate system - Irish Transverse Mercator - that is more accurate and more GPS friendly than the Irish Grid Reference system. This will be used on the next generation of Irish OS maps.