Drombeg Stone Circle
At a Glance
County Cork
OS Map 89
OS Coordinate W 247 352
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Drombeg Stone Circle, Co. Cork

Fulacht Fiadh (cooking pit)

(an Drom beag): the small ridge

Location: In West Cork about 4.5 km southwest of Ross Carbery and 3 km northeast of Glandore on a side road to the south of R 597. The road is signposted, but the signs can be difficult to see. The side road is very narrow and runs between some very steep hillsides. There is a nice little carpark at the site, though it is not suitable for tall vehicles (trucks or buses). From the carpark it is a short, almost level walk to the stone circle.

Description: This stone circle is situated on a natural rock terrace on the south slope of a low hill. It is approximately 9 meters in diameter and at present it consists of 17 standing stones, the most westerly of which is the fine altar-like axial, which has two egg-shaped cup-marks, one with a surrounding ring.

The two portal stones, the tallest of which is 2.05 m, are on the NE side.

A 1957 excavation radio-carbon dated charcoal from a cremated burial found in one of five pits to a date of 600AD plus or minus 120 years, though the circle itself is almost certainly Bronze Age.

During the winter solstice it has been reported that the suns rays fall on the flat alter stone that faces the entrance to the circle.

Nearby is a small stream with a fine example of a Stone Age cooking pit called a fulacht fiadh. Excavation in 1959-60 revealed a horseshoe-shaped drystone enclosing bank, a central slab-lined cooking pit, U-shaped hearth and well with a stone-lined overflow drainage channel. Nearby a C-shaped post-hole structure enclosed an oval shaped unlined pit containing broken burnt stone and a roasting pit.

Originally, a fire was made in a hearth and hot stones were added to the embers to heat. These stones would then be placed in the cooking pit to heat the water for cooking. Once the water was boiling, the meat -usually venison- was added. The hot stones would bring the water to a slow boil, thus cooking the meat over several hours, rather like an early crock pot.

Also excavated in 1960 was a multi-period site consisting of a C-shaped shelter which was replaced by a stone hut, which was eventually demolished and replaced by a figure eight shaped stone hut from the same time period as the fulacht fiadh. A causeway was built extending from the hut to the cooking area in this final building phase.

Comments: This may be a bit on the "commercial" side as far as the carpark and walking path go, and the circle itself is gravelled, but the ambience is barely diminished with these modern amenities. The site overlooks the rural countryside with the sea easily visible in the distance. A terrace that runs above the circle offers easy access to excellent photo angles. At the beginning of the trail near the carpark is a trailer that once was a small souvenir shop for the site in tourist season. It was stocked with a few items on our first visit in 2001, but locked. On subsequent visits, it was not only locked, but quite empty.

Other Items of Interest: In addition to the circle, over 30m to the W are the remains of 2 conjoined round huts, the larger of which had a timber roof supported by a central post. The smaller hut had a cooking-oven on its E side. From the huts a causeway leads to the cooking-place containing a hearth, a well, and a trough in which water was boiled by dropping in hot stones. Tests have shown that almost 350 liters could be boiled within 15 minutes of the stones being dropped in. The presence of the stone circle, huts, and cooking-place suggests that annual or seasonal gatherings took place at what was likely a sacred site down to the 5th century AD, the dating obtained for the cooking-place.

  © 2005 F.J. & K.D. Schorr - All rights reserved.