Ballynoe Stone Circle

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Ballynoe Stone Circle, September 2009
Ballynoe Stone Circle, September 2009

Ballynoe Stone Circle is a stone circle situated in the small hamlet of Ballynoe 2.5 miles (4 km) south of Downpatrick, County Down, Northern Ireland. It is near the disused railway station, reached by a long footpath off the main road, at grid ref: J481404.[1] It is a large and impressive circle lying in cultivated lowland, less than 100 ft above sea level, in the heart of the fertile Lecale peninsula.[2][3] (Latitude: 54.290937N Longitude: 5.726292W)[4]


It is a large and complex site which appears as a large circle of over 50 closely spaced upright stones, some as much as six feet tall, with some small gaps, surrounding a space about 110 ft across. Two of the fallen stones have cavities which could be artificial cup-marks. The stones of the outer circle are nearly all composed of local Silurian grit, but a few are granite erratics. Two of the stones stand 7 ft apart immediately outside the circle on the west, and there are four outlying stones, two on the north-east (9 and 40 yards from the circle) and two on the south-west (9 and 50 yards from the circle). In the eastern half of the circle is an oval mound contained within a kerb with diameters of 46 and 58 ft, with the long axis on an east–west alignment. Immediately inside the circle on the west, opposite a pair of external stones, is an arc of six stones supporting the edge of a raised platform which occupies much the same position as the oval mound on the east. Excavations found that the 5-foot-high (1.5 m) mound was of stony earth, with a stone cairn at the core. Under the mound, between the cairn and the kerb were found a number of smooth boulders (baetyls) set in the old surface. Large cists were found at the east and west ends of the mound containing cremated bones.[1][2][3][5]

It would seem that a kerbed round mound in the passage tomb tradition was added to the east end of a long cairn in the court tomb tradition, with a stone circle encompassing this composite structure.[6] The site is the result of long development, and a late Neolithic to earlier Bronze Age date range is likely, as it seems to span several different building phases.[1] Aubrey Burl has noted that a number of the characteristic features of the Ballynoe circle (its diameter, outlying stones and north–south alignment) are closely paralleled in Cumbria.[7]


The mound was excavated in 1937–38 by Dutch archaeologist, Dr AE Van Giffen, who died before publishing his examination of the site.[7] The excavation concentrated on the mound, finding stone cists containing cremated bones. The only pottery recovered was from a small cremation pocket outside the mound and was a decorated rim sherd of Carrowkeel (passage grave) ware. There was a random scatter of cremation pockets between the mound and the stone circle.[2] The excavations failed to satisfactorily explain the relationship between the various parts of the site.[8]



  1. ^ a b c Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland (1983). Historic Monuments of Northern Ireland. Belfast: HMSO. p. 88.
  2. ^ a b c Evans, EBT (1966). Prehistoric and Early Christian Ireland. A Guide. London: Batsford. pp. 94–95.
  3. ^ a b Government of Northern Ireland (1947). An Account of the Ancient Monuments in State Charge. Belfast: HMSO. pp. 27–28.
  4. ^ "Ballynoe - Stone Circle in Northern Ireland in Co. Down". The Megalithic Portal. Retrieved 2008-06-01.
  5. ^ Cooney, G (2000). Landscapes of Neolithic Ireland. London: Routledge. p. 113.
  6. ^ Donnelly, JP & Donnelly, MM (1980). Downpatrick and Lecale. A Short Historical Guide. p. 9.
  7. ^ a b Mallory, JP & McNeill, TE (1991). The Archaeology of Ulster from Colonization to Plantation. Belfast: Institute of Irish Studies, QUB. pp. 72–73.
  8. ^ Harbinson, P (1992). Guide to National and Historic Monuments of Ireland. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. p. 107.

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Coordinates: 54°17′27″N 5°43′35″W / 54.290937°N 5.726292°W / 54.290937; -5.726292