Stone Circle
Co. Donegal
Nearest town: Strabane
Nearest village: Raphoe
Map references: C255005

Beltany ImageOne of the best Irish stone circles

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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 was celebrated on the site.
    The ring is 44.2m (145ft) in diameter and still contains 64 stones, though originally there were eighty or more. 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.
    The circle, substantially older than the Iron Age, also incorporates 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.
    The site was disturbed at the beginning of the century causing many of the stones, which have an average height of 1.8m (6 ft), 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 cupmarks. There is also one 1.9m (6ft 3in) high stone standing outside the circle, about 20m to the SE.
    There are some theories of astronomical alignments concerning the circle. The most persuasive is from the high WSW pillar to the cupmarked slab whose pointed top provides a sighting point towards the hill-summit of Tullyrap, a few miles away.

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