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 Location: County Donegal. Near Raphoe, Ireland.  Grid Reference: 54 50' 59.12" N, 7 36' 16.29" W.

 

      Beltany: (Stone Circle).

Part stone circle, part mound, it has suffered at the hands of despoilers and must look very different from its original state.

The name Beltany is probably derived from Baal Tinne, meaning Baal's Fire, and Beltane was an ancient festival celebrating the sun. The festival of Beltane marked the end of the spring and the beginning of the summer and is the counterpart of Samhaim, the festival that marks the beginning of the winter. Both the deity as the festival are associated with growth and fecundity. This festival was held on the first day of May.

(Map of Site: How to get there)

 

   Beltany: ('Tops' stone circle, 'Ciorcal Cloch na Bealtaine').

On the levelled summit of Tops Hill, about two miles south of the village of Raphoe, is this fine stone circle, one of the few in NW Ireland. The name Beltany suggests that the pagan festival of Beltane, traditionally associated with the lighting of hill-top fires to regenerate the sun, was celebrated on the site.

The ring is 44.2m (145ft) in diameter and currently contains around 64 stones, though originally there were an estimated eighty with average heights of 1.8m. The style is similar to the circles in the Carrowmore cemetery; it is possible that Beltany is a transitional ring between late passage-tombs and early stone circles or a combination of both.

The circle, which is substantially older than the Iron Age, surrounds a tumulus. The tumulus may be the remains of a pillaged cairn, and some theories claim that the whole site should be really classified as a round cairn with the orthostats comprising a kerbing. (A Kerbed Passage mound)

The site was disturbed at the beginning of the century resulting in many of the stones to lean outward at acute angles. When Oliver Davies visited the site in the late 1930s, he reported that 'The platform had been recently and unscientifically excavated, and had been left in dreadful confusion'.

At the ENE is a triangular slab whose inner face is decorated with cup-marks.
 
 
Astronomy: Apart from the obvious association through its name, there are also theories of astronomical alignments concerning the circle. The most persuasive is from the high WSW pillar to the cup-marked slab whose pointed top provides a sighting point towards the hill-summit of Tullyrap, a few miles away.
 

The Beltany Outlier.

This single monolith 1.8m high stands 20m to the SE. From the high pillarstone at the WSW of the circle a cupmarked 1.5m high triangular slab at the ENE marks the point where the sun rises on May Day (Bealtaine or 'Beltany'). There are also standing-stones to the N and NW.
 

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