Itchy Ireland

I have a keen interest in the ‘goings on’ of ancient Ireland. Not so much an interest in the academic side of who was who, but in the spiritual side of things.

It fascinates me as to what the ancient Irish believed, in a spiritual sense. I reckon they were more in touch with the signs and nature’s communications around them. The key word being “reckon”. Because that is really all we can do, thousands of years later. We can piece together actual events and dates based on the writings of monks and Roman scholarly types etc., but the gaps have to be filled with educated guesses. And one guess is as good as the next when there is no evidence.

I attended a seminar recently at which various speakers from the respective historical organisations of Ireland came to Donegal and gave us their take on things. It was very interesting at times. At other times it was confusing. It seems it’s not just Country singers we can’t agree on, it’s also archaeology and prehistory. Like the speaker representing the National Museum likening a civilian in possession of a metal detector to some sort of highly organised criminal. I found myself slinking further down into my seat the more he spoke.

I gathered the problem is that there have been cases whereby somebody has found some buried artefact or other and before you could say “Archaeology shmology,” the thing is for sale on the internet to the highest bidder. But of course as with all things in the world we (metal detector owners) get tarred with the one brush. There is practically a zero tolerance of metal detectors everywhere in Ireland apart from the beach.

A few speakers later there was a rep from a different Irish body, The Heritage Council, telling us to keep searching like crazy because “..we have only scratched the surface..” as regards ancient discoveries in Ireland. He was my favourite speaker. I straightened back up in my seat. He was making some very interesting statements. I had assumed like so many others that most pre-historical sites of any major significance had been already found and recorded. Not so, according to him…

…and Not so, according to me also. Because two weeks later I found something!

I found a pyramid! Yeah, baby, you heard me, a pyramid, in Donegal, Ireland.

In truth it’s a large three sided stone, about hip high – showing above the heather. I’m not sure how further down it goes, perhaps a couple of foot. There is a longer version of this story which I am gagging to tell but I must remind myself this is a blog post, not a thesis.

I have been doing an awful lot of hill walking lately. Actually the truth is I never leave the hills. My wife calls me Moses, the kids think I’m half goat. I have always been drawn to hills or mountains. If you haven’t been up one lately, get yourself up soon, you’re missing out. It’s like an out of body experience, looking down on the world below. That’s my main reason for hill walking, the spiritual feeling it brings.

So last week as I trekked along a local hill, on the lookout for the burning bush, I came upon this stone. It was on a stretch of the hill I hadn’t really been on before. I was kinda letting my spirit guide me, if that makes sense. I passed the rock at first but as I did so, that little inner voice goes “take a closer look at that rock”. I went towards it and noticed how it was sitting alone on a kind of plateau. I also noted the triangular shape. As I circled it I got a strong feeling that it was somehow a big deal back in day.

I lifted my head and there on the opposite hill in the distance was Grianán of Aileach, a circular ancient stone building. This three sided stone was pointing directly at it. Grianán was also, from this point, perfectly framed in a distant valley.

Grianán of Aileach is one of those places where some knowledge is known but not all. The current structure, which has been restored once or twice, is believed, by a reliable source, to have been built in around 790AD. But he did hasten to add that the current structure has been built inside the perimeter of a much older structure. Some believe it was a fort, more say it was a place of worship, and others say nothing at all. I did read a theory somewhere that it was an amphitheatre. Garth plays Grianán, hmm.

Not far from this three sided rock there is an ancient burial mound, or Cairn. Local legend says it holds the original builder of Grianán. Guess what, one of the other corners points to the cairn. I am not sure yet where the third corner is pointing, if anywhere. But the following day I returned with a compass. I placed it on top of the stone and it turns out that Grianán is also exactly south of this stone.

My gut feeling is that this stone has some ancient significance. I feel this is the spot from where the site for Grianán was chosen.

I snapped a few photos and created a little slideshow. There also appears to be a ‘human face’ carved, probably by nature’s chisel, into one of the ridges of the stone. See if you can spot it. I wish it could talk to me.

The Heritage Council guy was correct, we have only scratched the surface. Look around you, there is an itch somewhere, begging for centuries to be scratched.

Thank you for reading

Frankie.  (See slideshow below.)




Two pic credits =grianán aerial shot was from and the other was from wikipedia.


31 thoughts on “Itchy Ireland

  1. What a great post. Loved this line – “Actually the truth is I never leave the hills. My wife calls me Moses, the kids think I’m half goat.”
    As long as people are people, we will never agree on anything, even if the question is 1 + 1.

  2. Wonderful! Well done, have you spoken to the authorities about it and if you have do you know yet what they think it represents? I

    I think you’ve persuaded me to get a metal detector.

    • I have emailed the “daddy” of all things Grianán (Brian Lacey). He will have a look when he gets up this way again. He does, based on my notes, think that maybe the stone itself may be of “some” significance. I am sure he has been lead on many a wild goose chase and so is more cautious to “new finds”. He is interested.
      That was only last week. I haven’t really mentioned it to anybody other than him. I am happy to wait for his opinion, when he gets a chance up this way.
      Metal detectors are hit and miss. Great for finding things of zero importance.

  3. That is truly amazing Frankie. I can feel something electric looking across that meadow toward the historic site. I hope you will keep us updated on further studies. Or at least let us know when you do write that thesis. Better get your chisel ready. 😉

  4. Wow, this is so cool, Frankie! It makes so much sense. I believe you are absolutely on the right track. There are the same kinds of structures in both North and South America. I saw some in Illinois, along the Mississippi River.
    I wish I were there – I mean, somewhere in Ireland.

    P.S. I know this has nothing at all to do with your point (which I really get and sense is so true), but will you humor me anyway? The next time you are up in the hills, will you call out hello to my ancestors from Claire Marie O’Brien? My granny used to say, upon hearing ANY reference to ANY event in Ireland,
    “Those are our lads, bless their hearts”.
    “But Gran, that guy got drunk and burned down -”
    “You hush up until you know what you’re talking about!”
    “Yes, Gran”.
    We never did learn enough to know what we were talking about.
    But I think I do now.

    • I will surely Claire Marie, although there is an O’Brien household within earshot at the foot of the hills. I hope they don’t think I am shouting at them.
      I will do it tomorrow.
      That is interesting that there are similar structures across the water. Small world!

  5. There it is again, your way with words! Enjoyed this piece. Funny how academics believe the past is sacred property to be removed from the common man. Yet it was probably left behind by him in the first place eh?

  6. I love this post. Ancient history fires the imagination so directly because of the mystery perhaps. I like your insight ‘The key word being “reckon”. Because that is really all we can do’.

    The men in our family were often taking to the hills although we were living in Wales I think their Irish roots shot through. There were streams of the freshest water I have ever tasted flowing freely and they would leave a beaker there to take a drink. Another Irishman in our village would walk around 10 miles to visit a friend two mountains over. Such a healthy way of travelling and so scenic! It’s incredible how curiosity can make mince meat of hiking miles up hill!

    • Thanks Lita.
      I know you are the Welsh answer to Heidi. I remember you mentioning mountains before.
      That’s a clinker of a line “..curiosity can make mince meat of hiking miles up hill!”
      I will rob that at some stage!

      • hahaha feel free. Heidi was my favourite story as a kid so you have made my day!! I remember she used to live on a diet of brown bread rolls. She is an untold superhero!!

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  8. Fascinating story, Frankie. I hail from a mountainous region, and can definitely agree with you on the special feeling one gets from visiting and/or walking them. I can’t think of a better or more appreciative and respectful person to find a historical remnant. My 2 cents’ is that you keep on searching and wandering and wondering, too. 🙂 I love to read these, and obviously others do also.

  9. Hi Frankie,

    This is all so fascinating. I can see why metal detectors would be frowned upon, but, forgive me, I don’t know if I could stop myself if I were in Ireland.

    The image of the head is amazing. Looking straight up too!

    It reminds me of the Old Man in the Mountain in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, part of the head gave way a few years back, after many years of erosion.

    You must have so much to research and explore in Ireland. So cool.

    You should write a book. 🙂

    I thoroughly enjoyed this detailed article. It’s like taking a trip.


    • Thank you Cathy. 🙂 You are very kind.
      I would happily retire now (if I could afford to) and spend my retirement roaming the hills. That would be heaven to me.
      I must check up The old man in the mountain, new hampshire.

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