Kealkil Stone Circle - How We Find a Thin Place Matters

Kealkil Stone Circle - County Cork - Ireland
Kealkil stone circle is in the western part of County Cork. It sits in a clearing  - a sort of plateau - over a hilly, rocky, muddy region of a farmer's field. The circle has five stones with a diameter of about eight to ten feet.  Outside the circle are two tall stones - one eight feet high and the other thirteen feet high.

References state that the tallest stone probably stood twenty feet high when the circle was first established.   (Mythic Ireland, Michael Dames)

In February of 2007 I made a solo trip to Ireland. I was exploring the southern region.  Daylight was scarce at that time of year and it rained - no poured - nearly every day. I set out to find Kealkil on my last day in West Cork, and I was pressed for time. The road to the circle was marked with a brown directional sign, but finding the actual circle took more effort than I expected. I suspect if before I set out I'd known how much muck I'd have to trudge through and brush I'd have to climb over, I probably wouldn't have bothered.

It's a good thing a didn't know.

The view was blocked by brush.  After about 20 minutes of searching, climbing and sinking up to my ankles in mud, I knew I was standing in the field where the circle was located but I couldn't see it.  I kept looking.  Finally, after crossing the field and navigating more brush and mud - I saw the tip of the tallest stone of Kealkil in the clearing. 

My first glimpse of that circle is a rare memory.  The kind that that comes when you're stunned at the site of something... like an unexpected stranger in your midst.  At first site, this circle emanates energy - sort of like a mild shock wave after an explosion.  You're immediately hit.  Boom - there it is.  Then the wave draws you in like a magnet ... pulling you closer to the circle.

The tallest standing stone was twice my height.  It was easy to see that the two outliers were in alignment with the axial stone in the circle.   Axial stones are often lower than the other stones in the circle and usually serve as a implement to bounce or bend the sunlight at a certain time of year. Many believe that people used these circles as a kind of calendar, charting the position of the sun.

The energy in the circle seemed warm and welcoming.  But when I stood behind the shorter of the two outlying stones and walked between them into the circle, it nearly took my breath away. 

Standing in the center I could take in the vast landscape views from that plateau.  The mist stuck to the mountains to the north and it was just clear enough to see Bantry Bay to the south.  In the distance a farmer was burning brush in a field and the tiny patch of orange from his fire punched through the scene of endless green and gray.  A brisk wind came out of the south and all at once I realized I was surveying all four of the classical elements - earth, wind, fire and water - at once.

How I Came to Discover Kealkil Stone Circle

Two Outliers of the Kealkil Stone Circle

Kealkil was not on my agenda of things to see on that trip.  I'd never heard of it.  There are hundreds of stone circles scattered throughout Ireland, and west Cork has a large cluster.  The day before I visited Kealkil I had driven the Ring of Beara, found and visited five stone circles, and walked nearly eight miles in order to do so. I saw Uragh Stone Circle, Shronebirran Stone Circle, Cashelkeelty (my all time favorite), Ardgroom and Kenmare Stone Circles. On earlier days on this same trip I visited Drombeg Stone Circle and the Grange Stone Circle - the largest in Ireland.

I'd concluded my visits to stone circles.

After finishing that ring of Beara, I checked into a perfect room at a bed and breakfast in Glengarriff.  The owner suggested I grab dinner at the local pub.  I did.  I sat at the bar alone and ordered a meal. This always gets people talking.

An older man pulled up a stool next to mine and started a conversation.  I told him I was researching mystical sites this region, and trying to learn about the history.  For the next hour he entertained me with stories of copper miners and mining companies who raped the landscape and exploited the workers.  He wove in characters who survived the exploitation and helped restore the Beara. He was originally from Cornwall and his family were tin miners who came to Beara to work in the copper mines.

When I told him I was writing about thin places, he said I must go visit Kealkil stone circle as it had the tallest standing stone in all of Ireland and that if I missed Kealkil, I wouldn't really have a good perspective on Ireland's stone circles.  With great enthusiasm he drew me a map of how to get there and even said he knew the farmer and was certain he'd give me access. He assured me it was close by, and not much of a detour off the road on my way to Dingle.

The next morning, pressed for time, I decided to make Kealkil my first stop.  I suspected there was some reason I met that man in the pub. 

I'll never forget him and I'll never forget Kealkil.

From my journal after visiting Kealkil ....

February 23, 2007 
Whatever brings us close to the Divine Presence is what we're going to look to ... what we search for.  And there are some occasions when we know we've found it.... when we know that something of this world has lifted us closer ...opened our eyes.. transported us into the eternal world.

In a church it may be icons, statues or the incense - certainly the music - these move and transport us into the Divine Presence, but we have to exercise our senses in order to be transported.  Sometimes this is very difficult. Sometimes concentration doesn't come easy.

But you barely have to try in a thin place like Kealkil.  The presence reaches up and grabs you. It pushes you in - through the portal. 
Maybe the stones here were once used like icons, to help with that transportation.  Maybe the people who put them here went places we haven’t discovered yet – or have only imagined.