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.
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?
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.