Gallán Bhaile Phúinse

From the Hedgerow (640x426)

A short distance up the road from the Standing stone at Craddockstown we find what is possibly the tallest Standing stone in the country. It is definitely the tallest I have come across to date. I first spotted it driving up the old country road, peaking up over the hedgerow, it kind of reminded me of a obelisk from ancient Egypt. Unfortunately it is quite difficult to gain access to and despite numerous attempts to find a way in, nature’s natural barrier, kept this ruin hunter at bay on this occasion, so I had to settle for some shots from beyond the hedgerow. This massive stone which is more commonly known as the Long Stone of Punchestown Great, stands at about seven meters in height, with 1.5 meters of it underground, and appears to have an almost square base which gradually tapers at the top.. It is estimated to weigh approx nine ton, resides in a field adjacent the well-known Punchestown racecourse.

Longstone 2 (640x426)

The long Stone is a National Monument which thankfully is under the protection of the Irish Government for whatever that is worth. Some years ago the land owner erected a small fence around the stone. I can only guess that this was done to stop livestock using it as a scratching post. From my experience animals seem to be drawn to these stones and will regularly use them to relieve that itch. You would not believe the amount of times I have found clumps of wool and other animal hair stuck on similar stones. It is said to have fallen in the early 20th century and was put back in place in 1934. During an excavation carried out at the time a small Bronze Age burial kist was found beside the socket, but it was apparently empty. Perhaps the Long stone was used as a grave marker back in ancient times, or was it erected for some other purpose?

Longstone (640x415)

The Welsh chronicler Giraldus Cambrensis spoke about many of Kildare’s standing stones in his Topographia Hibernica which was first published back in 1188 as follows:

Fuit antiquis temporibus in Hibernid lapidum congeries admiranda, quae et Chorea Gigantum dicta fuit; quia Gigantes eam ab ultimis Affricae finibus in Hiberniam attulerant, et in Kildarensi planitie, non procul a castro Nasensi, tam ingenii quam virium ope mirabiliter erexerant.

 In ancient times there was in Ireland a remarkable pile of stones, called the Giants’ Dance, because the giants brought it from the furthest parts of Africa into Ireland and set it up, partly by main strength, partly by artificial contrivances, in an extraordinary way, on the plains of Kildare, near Naas.

— Gerald of Wales, Topographia Hibernica, Distinctio II Chapter XVIII.

I found this quite strange as there was no mention in any of the Annals of Ireland which mention Giants from Africa visiting our shores. In fact the only Giant that I know of was the Leader of our legendary Fianna, Fionn Mac Cumhaill whom was sometimes reffered to as being a giant? Well one tale tells that Fionn in a show of strength to his wife threw the longstone from his base on the Hill of Allen, and it landed at its current location Near Naas some which is some fifteen kilometres away as the crow flies. Whatever the truth is, I am sure we can all agree that this is is one magnificent monument, which you really need to see in person to fully appreciate the sheer size of the stone.

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About edmooneyphotography

Photographer, Blogger, Ruinhunter, with an unhealthy obsession for history, mythology and the arcane.
This entry was posted in Diary of a Ruinhunter, Photography, Standing Stone and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

60 Responses to Gallán Bhaile Phúinse

  1. jfwknifton says:

    That is a fantastic stone, and one of the best I’ve ever seen. I don’t think there’s anything anywhere near as tall in Cornwall, although until the Puritans vandalised it, there used to be a gigantic vertical stone in the middle of the stone circle at Avebury. Currently the Rudston Monolith is the tallest, but I was not impressed, as it is sited in a very mundane churchyard, In the 1970s I went to see the supposed biggest ever stone in Brittany but that had fallen over and lay in three or four pieces. That was supposed to be sixty feet or more in its prime. Thanks for introducing this stone though. It deserves to be more famous than it is.

    • Wow, I really need to get out and travel more, so many wonderful places to visit and so little time. I really boils my blood when I hear of idiots destroying these ancient sites for whatever reason.

  2. adeleulnais says:

    I love the stories you`ve quoted here. I wonder now, if the reference to the Giants might have something to do with the Tuatha De Dannan? Or maybe even the Nephilim? It is said that Finn was a giant so maybe he was descended from said giants?

    • All quite possable, sadly our records all date from the early medieval period and where written by the early christian monks whom would obiously put their own slant and understanding on these records, so we will most likely never know.
      I dont recall the sidhe being referred to as giants and the Nephlim as far as I know were wiped out during the great flood. Interesting thoughts though. On the hill of Allen a tower was built a few centuries ago. Whilst digging the foundations the remains of a giant were found. Some say these were the bones of Fionn but who knows?

  3. Great post Ed, you really do get under the skin of the story and offer sensible thoughts on the whys and wherefores. Invaluable to a novice like myself 🙂

  4. gordon759 says:

    When you see an animal rubbing itself on a stone you should, of course, say, “God bless the Duke of Argyle”. This is to commemorate the good duke who was concerned that animals were knocking down walls on his estate by scratching themselves on them. Rather than banish the livestock he erected posts so they could scratch themselves more easily. In some parts of the county stones were erected as scratching posts and have later been described as standing stones!

    • Wow, thats interesting. I have heard that it was a popular practise for landowners to construct follies on their properties in the 18th century. Do you know of any examples?

      • gordon759 says:

        I cannot lay my hands on an example at the moment, but the case I was thinking of was a standing stone in a field, that was initially listed as prehistoric, until it was noticed that it stood in the middle of a ‘ridge and furrow’ system. This would have meant that medieval ploughmen somehow managed to drive their ploughs through the stone!
        I must write something on follies, particularly the way in which landowners would not only build romantic ruins, but would ‘edit’ real ruins to fit a romantic landscape.

  5. belshade says:

    Your liking it to an Egyptian obelisk is, I think, a true one. It is well out of the standing stone category! Presumably it would have a solar observation function, as the obelisks are presumed to have had. That is, those which are still in situ and not transported to London, Rome, New York which wouldn’t do much for their accuracy. The greatest example physically is le Grand Menhir Brise in Brittany. Great pictures – the most impressive is No. 1 where the stone is competing with the trees. Des.

  6. beetleypete says:

    I agree that this looks a lot more like an obelisk, than a conventional standing stone. Either way, it is very impressive, and I hope it continues to be cared for properly.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  7. Rajiv says:

    I like that Ruin Hunter banner!

  8. chattykerry says:

    Wow – that’s a big one!

  9. oglach says:

    Of all your talents; explorer, photographer, historian, storyteller, one odd one gets me from time to time; your sense of humour; I had to view this post three times because I was laughing so hard when you wrote that the stone was under the protection of the Irish government, for whatever that is worth. Then I read your replies to comments and started laughing even harder. I’m having a hard time learning here, but it’s great craic! I’ll have to read again when I calm myself. Thanks.

    • Ah cheers mate, it was a completely off the cuff remark, but true in its intention. Numerous sites have been considered protected over the years and have been destroyed for one reason or another. It is very rare for a proper prosecution and the fines imposed are laughable. There is no real deterent in Ireland for damaging these heritage sites. It actually makes my blood boil and is no laughing matter. But we cant be all doom and gloom, Im doing something I really enjoy, so a bit of banter goes a long way in keeping spirits up 🙂

  10. How extraordinary! That really is a massive stone… I’m quite overcome!

  11. John says:

    So very interesting! Pitty we can never know exactly the stories behind these wonderful relics. I very much appreciate your hard work in putting together these posts. I like the new banner too!

  12. Darlene says:

    Wow! This is amazing. Will we ever learn the real story of how it came to be or will we need to be content with our imagination or that of others?

  13. noelleg44 says:

    What a phenomenal stone! Wouldn’t you just love to go back to the time it was erected? It must have been put there for something or someone special.

    • Oh you know me only too well, wouldnt it be so cool to go back and see how it all happened. We really know so little about our ancient past. Im sure we could learn a thing or two from these people 🙂

  14. Welsh Gerald wrote a load of rubbish about the Irish. A real rumour-monger. He’d spread it about that some unknown quantities carted a great stone from Africa (Africa!) rather than credit home grown heroes with the exploit.

  15. The sky in the background is incredible. Nice work.

  16. always fascinating Ed. And I like the mystery that surrounds them. Giants from Africa, legends and speculations , yet we will never know. Great images and I love those foreboding clouds!

    • Thanks Cybele, The giants from Africa was an opinion of Gerald of Wales. Although he was a historian/Cronicler , many of his writtings especially concerning Ireland were quite laughable. He would often refer to the native Irish as dogs!
      I have looked into an African connection. Morrocco has some massive neolithic structures, but many sites showing them often rely soley on our Welsh friends writtings which doesnt rest well with me. When you bring giants into the equation you end up going down the rabbit hole, then its the Nephlim which is not a great can of worms to open up either 🙂

  17. wildninja says:

    Ed, something you’ve really made me wonder about is the logic that determined how high the entrance would be on each of these towers. I’m still vexed by the one tower you featured in which the entrance was 20 feet up or some crazy thing.

    • Hi, its not really a mystery. In school we were always told that the door was situated high up as a defensive feature. Now this may be somewhat true, but if you look at it logically. Having a doorway in such a structure at ground level would have affected the building in a terrible way. These towers were quite long and narrow, with little foundation. Having the door at gground level would most likely cause it to collapse. Hope this helps 🙂

  18. pattimoed says:

    A wonderful bit of history and photos, Ed. I love the details–about the animals using it as a scratching post. 🙂

  19. Pingback: Gallán Bhaile Phúinse – VinLand Blog

  20. Pingback: Gallán Bhaile Phúinse by Ed Mooney | Daily Echo

  21. Quiche says:

    Thank you for sharing! I love reading your blog & looking at all the wonderful archaic photographs that I might never see of my Ancestral Ireland!!!!

  22. Great!! Awsmm 😍👌

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