Nymphsfield Stone Circles
Mayo Stone Circles
The Cong area of Co. Mayo has been associated with the arrival of Túatha De Dannan plus the first Battle of Moytura. There is a wealth of Monumental structures with two massive cairns also several remains of five or six more: plus, four stone circles, standing stones, caves, several forts with cashels locally. West of Cross village there is an unopened cairn at Ballymacgibbon plus Ecohy’s Cairn also Daithi’s Cairn which is the equivalent size of Maeve’s Cairn in Co. Sligo. According to William Wilde the Nymphsfield stone circles are located on the former grounds of an Estate known as Glebe or Nymphsfield about 1.5 north of the entrance to Ashford Castle. The first Circle has several beech trees beside it. Twenty – three stones remain of hoary weathered limestone. The circle is about fourteen metres in diameter plus there is a small mound or cairn of stones within the east side. The smaller northern circle is largely intact but covered with bushes & scrub. There are several interesting pocked stones inside the ring of the rectangular limestone slabs at a metre tall. [i]
Ed Hannon states in ‘Visions of the Past’ that this circle is situated near Cong village. It is also known as Glebe North Stone Circle. It is a small raised mound that measures approx. sixteen metres in diameter. This is one of four stone circles located within one hundred & seventy yards of each other. Just twenty stones remain of the original thirty. The tallest stone is 1.2 metres. One of the most intriguing stones has a series of naturally formed ‘cup marks’ that completely covers one side. [ii]
This stone circle in the townland of Glebe near Cong is part of a group of four circles known as ‘Nymphsfield Stone Circle.’ On the Ballinrobe Road is a signpost that points towards the group of twenty – three weathered stones. The circle is sixteen metres in diameter with traces of a low kerbed cairn within the centre. The other three stone circles lie further afield with one in the back garden of a bungalow. These stone circles were discovered during 1699 by Welsh Geographer Edmund Llwyd. His sketches of the stones were later published. During the 19th Century the father of Oscar Wilde became so intrigued with all the stone circles, cairns plus standing stones north – east of Lough Corrib he eventually moved to the area. He built a home ‘Moytura House (means Plain of the Pillars) then spent the last thirteen years of his life living there. [iii]
This archaeological site is located on the Ballinrobe Road in the townland of Nymphsfield near Cong in Co. Mayo. It consists of five stone circles with large standing stones dated to the Megalithic Era. It includes a prehistoric underground dwelling that lies inside one of the circles. [iv]
The Irish Times in an article titled ‘Ring of Bright Fire’ on 13th January 2001 lists the Nymphsfield Stone Circle near Cong, Co. Mayo among the Western Group of the two hundred & forty stone circles identified with Ireland. [v]
Sir William Wilde, father of Oscar, built a holiday home at Cong, called Moytura House. Wilde wrote the following excerpt in regard to the circles.
‘Before proceeding with the narrative, we must here conduct our readers to the existing Danann monuments that accumulate in the fields opposite the glebe of Nymphsfield, to a portion of which local tradition has assigned the name of Cath na bPunndn, “the battle of the sheaves.”
There are here five very remarkable stone circles still remaining within the compass of a quarter of a square mile, and there are traces of others. The following examples are highly illustrative of these remarkable monuments. That figured above consists of nineteen flat flagstones placed in a circle, each inclining outwards, perfectly smooth on the outside, but grooved and hollowed on their internal faces, which were evident]y those originally exposed to the action of air or water.
A considerable portion of this circle has been removed and its interior, which is now planted, is fifty-four feet in diameter. Some of these stones are five feet over ground, are four feet wide, and eight or ten inches thick.
At the south-west corner of the same field, opposite the glebe there is another circle, of which the subjoined is a graphic representation. It consists of a series of standing stones, and is one hundred and fifty-two feet in diameter. Within and around this and the adjoining fields, to the south and east, several perfect circles still exist, and the sites of others can still be traced within the confines of Cath na bPunnan; so that here was evidently the stronghold of one of the contending armies.’ [vi]
A utube video of Nymphsfield Stone Circles narrated by Thomas Sheridan may be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_Cdw3nZZh8
Bernard O ‘Hara mentions the Glebe, Nympsfied & Tonaleeaun near Cong in a blog post ‘A short Appreciation of Archaeology in County Mayo part 1’ on 4th May 2015 at this link:
Maire Lohan produced an article ‘Ceremonial Monuments in Moytura Co Mayo’ in the Galway Archaeological & Historical Journal Vol 51 1999, pages 77 – 108.
There are several Mayo Monuments images at this link by Ed Hannon: https://visionsofthepastblog.com/category/ireland/
This site provides coordinates for Glebe Stone Circles: http://www.megalithicireland.com/Glebe%20South%20Stone%20Circle,%20Mayo.html
Several images are available to view on these following sites: https://picturingireland.blogspot.com/2015/07/magical-places-nymphsfield-stone.html
This book ‘Ireland: An Oxford Archaeological Guide to Sites from Earliest Times to AD 1600’ Halpin Andrew Oxford University Press, page 234 covers the Mayo stone circles on this site: https://archive.org/details/irelandoxfordarc0000halp
Sir William Wilde MD wrote ‘Lough Corrib it’s shores & islands’ 1867 McGlashan & Gill Dublin / Longman’s Green & Co. London one can view at this link; https://books.google.ie/books?id=NflUBQAAQBAJ&pg=PR7&dq=nymphsfield%20circles
There is a Facebook page at this link: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Glebe-Stone-Circles/1086015028108736
Tom Gillispie’s article on ‘Local History’ in The Connaught Telegraph 4th August 2020 provides details of The Battle of Moytura with an extract from a 1991 publication of ‘Cong, sights, walks’ by Gerry Collins & K. Roland.
[ii] Cong North Stone Circle (https://visionsofthepastblog.com/2015/07/28/glebe-north-stone-circle-co-mayo/) [assessed 3rd June 2020]
[iii] Picturing Ireland : Magical Places (https://picturingireland.blogspot.com/2015/07/magical-places-nymphsfield-stone.html) [assessed 3rd June 2020]
[iv] Points of Interest (https://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/towns-villages/cong/visitors-guide/points-of-interest-around-cong.html ) [assessed 3rd June 2020]
[v] Ring of Bright Fire (https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ring-of-bright-fire-1.269829) [assessed 3rd June 2020]