The Abbeyquarter stone circle is one of the most unusual monuments in County
Sligo, or indeed anywhere in Ireland. It is known locally as the Garavogue
Fairy Fort. The circle of fourty-four boulders is twenty-three meters in diameter and stands
on a knoll overlooking the River Garavogue. The Shelly River is only five kilometers
long, flowing from Lough Gill through Sligo Town and into the sea.
The Abbeyquarter monument is the oldest building in Sligo town. It is a stone
circle of the same type as those found in Carrowmore, which possibly originally had a cruciform chamber at the centre. The Carrowmore circles have been firmly dated and range from 5,800 to 5,000 years ago. This is a stratiegic location marking an ancient ford on the Shelly river , named the Garavogue after the great Cailleach, goddess of the early neolithic farmers. Abbeyquarter may be the oldest of all the early passage-graves, the burial place of the first colonists to come to Sligo.
The Abbeyquarter Circle was lucky to survive as the town of Sligo grew and expanded from the twelth century onwards. The name indicates the circle was on lands owned by the
Abbey of Sligo, the oldest medieval building remaining in the town. In the Seventeenth century
the Abbeyquarter stone circle, then known as the Sligo Stones, appeared on the Seal of Sligo Town.
The Catholic Church erected statues at the centre of the Abbeyquarter circle in 1950: to celebrate
the year of the Assumption. Crosses were erected all over Ireland
throughout the early 1950's to celebrate the Pope's definition of the Dogma of the Assumption.
Other crosses at ancient monuments in the region were erected at Tobernalt three kilometers south of Abbeyquarter, on the cliffs above the Caves of Kesh Corran near Ballymote, and on the Hill of Sheemor near Carrick on Shannon in Co Leitrim.
A map view of the Abbeyquarter passage-tomb showing its relationship with the River Garavogue, which connects Lough Gill to the sea.
Today the Abbeyquarter Stone Circle sits within a roundabout surrounded by houses
in the estate called Garavogue Villas. It is one of the most surreal yet one of the easiest monuments to visit in Ireland.
Abbeyquarter - Borlase
The enormous study, The Dolmens of Ireland, their Distribution, Structural Characteristics, and Affinities in Other Countries; together with the folk-lore attaching to them and traditions of the Irish people, was published by William Copeland Borlase in three volumes in 1897. The Dolmens of Ireland collected all the currently available information about megalithic remains.
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 north 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.
Three large boulders, which Colonel 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.
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."
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.