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      bizarre and surreal Abbeyquarter Stone Circle by the Garavogue in Sligo Town.
The bizarre and surreal Abbeyquarter Stone Circle by the Garavogue in Sligo Town. For many years this was County Sligo's only roundabout.

TheAbbeyquarter stone circle.

The Abbeyquarter stone circle is one of the most unusual monuments in County Sligo, or indeed anywhere in Ireland. It is also known as the Garavogue Fairy Fort The circle of 44 boulders is 23 meters in diameter and stands on a knoll overlooking the river Garavogue. The Garavogue is only 8 km long, flowing from Lough Gill through Sligo Town and into the sea.

The Abbeyquarter monument is Sligo towns oldest building. It is a boulder circle of the Carrowmore type, which originaly had a cruciform structure at the centre. This is a stratiegic position allowing travellers to pass north and south without crossing Lough Gill and the mountains which bound it on all sides.

Abbeyquarter Stone Circle from Google Earth.
Abbeyquarter Stone Circle from Google Earth. The monument is at the crown of a low hill by the river Garavogue.

The Stone Circle remained and the town of Sligo grew and expanded. It is called Abbeyquarter as it was on the Abbey property. In the Seventeenth Century the monument appeared on the Seal of Sligo - probably it's importance was recognised by some of the Freemasons in the town.

At some stage in the recent past, probably prior to 1950 the Catholic Church attempted to have the monument removed, but they had trouble persuading anyone locally to do the job for them. It is said that an old woman, a 'sean cailleach', came rowing across the lake in a boat and warned the people that bad luck would fall on anyone who disturbed the circle. A man is said to have uprooted a thornbush which grew in the centre, and he was dead within a few weeks.

Abbeyquarter by William Wakeman.
William Wakeman's illustration of Abbeyquarter from 1882. © Sligo Library.

The Catholic Church set up the statues at the centre of the monument to celebrate the year of the Assumption in 1950. Crosses were erected all over Ireland in that year to celebrate the Dogma of the Assumption. Other crosses on ancient monuments in the region were erected at Tobernalt three km south of Abbeyquarter, above the Caves of Kesh Corran near Ballymote, and on the Hill of Sheemor near Carrick on Shannon in Co Leitrim.

Today the Abbeyquarter Stone Circle sits in a roundabout surrounded by houses in the estate called Garavogue Villas. Until 1997 this was the only roundabout in County Sligo.

The Christian statues
The Christian statues were added to the site in the Marian year of 1950; crosses were erected on many ancient Irish sites including Kesh Corran and Sheemor at that time.

Abbeyquarter - Borlase

This circle of boulders is nearly perfect, forming a ring on a raised mound 65 feet in diameter. The inside surface is perfectly level. On the N. there are two stones, seemingly the remains of an inner circle. There are several gaps in the ring, one of which is on the north side, immediately opposite the two stones.

<Abbeyquarter circle.
Abbeyquarter circle.

Three large boulders, which Col. Wood-Martin thinks may have been rolled out of their place in the circle, have somewhat the appearance of the commencement of an avenue leading up to it. A little north of the centre, two stones are to be seen which seem to have formed a portion of a dolmen or cist. One of them is a flat slab; the other, seemingly, a supporting stone.

An excavation at the foot of the latter disclosed "traces of the flooring of the cist, upon which were some bones, the greater portion of which were calcined." This cist was. Col. Wood-Martin thinks, only "a division, or septum," of the original structure.

Fairy Garden.
A local at Garavogue Villas, beside the circle, keeps Sligo's largest collection of garden gnomes in the front garden.

Dr. Frazer states that the discoveries consisted of "1 3/4 lb. of calcined bones, seemingly all human, but in a very fragmentary state; 2 1/2 ozs. of uncalcined human bones; three molars, and one incisor tooth of a young person; the tooth of a goat, and another, probably of a dog; also bones of goat or sheep."

Garavogue Villas from the air.
Garavogue Villas from the air. Photo © Eyeflight.

This circle, in point of its standing on a bank, of the contiguity of the stones, and their number, and of its diameter, may be compared with one on the island of Inishowen, or Ennishowen, in Lough Mask.

The view from Abbeyquarter to the summit of Carns Hill.