Monday, 24 September 2012

Longstone of Punchestown Great

View from the Hedgerow
Just a few minutes up the road from Craddockstown West Standing stone which can be found atop a hill in the field adjacent the racecourse at Punchestown lays the ‘Longstone’, of ‘Punchestown Great’. This monument can be partially seen above the hedgerow from the road, and similar to the Stone at Craddockstown is difficult to access. I had to drive back up the road and park near the Racecourse entrance before walking back down the road. The only way into the field would have been to fight my way over the roadside bank, through the waist high nettles and a bramble filled ditch, for which I was not appropriately dressed for. So after walking in each direction for about 20 minutes on this occasion I would have to settle for some shots from the fence.


This standing stone is known to be the tallest and probably the most awesome of all the stones to be found in Ireland. The stone itself was said originally seven meters in height and weigh approximately nine tones and appears to have an almost square base which gradually tapers at the top. In 1931 the stone was toppled and re-erected three years later, but during its restoration it lost almost a meter in height. You would really have to stand up close to this monument to fully appreciate the sheer size of the stone. There was a bronze age Kist found beside the monuments stone lined socked but no burial artifacts were recovered as it was found to be empty. It is the largest of several such monoliths which can be found in the Kildare area. Numerous functions of such standing stones have been suggested over the years, ranging from burial markers to boundary stones, Places of ritual for our ancestors to astrological calendars. A small wooden fence now surrounds the stone along with an official OPW sign. Whilst the fence does visually impair the site, it also protects the monument from livestock which seem to graze in the same field.


The Gaelic name for these stones is ‘Gallan’, and there are many interesting stories associated with them. My personal favorite concerns the legendary leader of Na Fianna, Fionn MacCumhaill whom some say was a giant. Legend states that as a test of strength, Fionn was said to have hurled the stone at his wife in Punchestown from the hill of Allen.

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