Bronze Age religious symbol or bullock hindquarters scratching post? The Ardmore Gallan Standing Stone may have served the former purpose at some time during its 2,500-year history, but it’s definitely serving the latter purpose at present from its location in the middle of a field full of cattle.
The Ardmore Gallan Standing Stone is located a couple of miles outside a village with the great name of Muff. In fact, the stone is often called the Muff Stone. It dates from 2,500 BC, standing about six feet tall and half that in width and depth. Its distinct feature is 40 cup marks, or round indentions, about half of which are encircled by one, two or three rings. The stone evokes similar feelings to Newgrange, an ancient stone monument aligned with the winter solstice.
Finding the stone took a morning’s effort, several wrong turns and directions from a helpful older man cutting weeds along a remote roadside. None of us suspected it would be found a quarter mile off the main road, the concrete driveway winding behind a house before opening up in front of several farm buildings.
Grand adventure ahead
Declan read about the stone in a book our B&B host provided us, and it looked cool. We had no definite plans for Monday, and we all enjoy an adventure. Our host believed there was a historic marker that would make locating the Ardmore Stone a snap. But we didn’t see it on our way to Muff, so we inquired about the stone at a petrol station in town. However, no one there knew how to find it.
Heading back toward Moville, Marilynn remembered it was near Inishkeen, signs for which we’d seen along the way. So we left the main road and headed in that direction, only to wind up back on the main road at another sign for Inishkeen. So we’d basically traveled in a semi-circle.
A little ways back, an older man was weed-whacking his yard, so we turned around and asked him for directions. He was quite specific: pass the closed pub with the thatch roof, then a closed building supply company and take the next road to the right, a concrete driveway. He gave great directions, but it was obvious the concrete road was somebody’s private drive and not a public thoroughfare.
As we wound up the road, we could see the stone in the middle of a field, looking like it was being protected by a herd of cows. The road wound uphill, past a residence and opened out to three large outbuildings, a truck with its door open in front of one of them. We got out and were immediately met by a large dog that, fortunately, turned out to be friendly.
The farmer then appeared from the building, and we asked permission to see the stone. He graciously agreed, cautioning us to watch out for cow patties and assuring us the bullocks would be no bother.
We couldn’t escape the feeling that the cows felt some sort of connection to the stone. They watched us intently, moving away from us in ones and twos, then en masse, but never getting too far away. As we approached the stone, they continued to watch us from turned heads. We spent a few minutes examining the stone and snapping a few pictures before making our way back to the car.
The cows started walking back around the stone as we moved away, again with intent stares that seemed preternatural. They gathered around the stone as if protecting it, one rubbing his butt contentedly across its face.
Farmer Dermot explained that he gets visitation requests quite frequently and is happy to share the stone. Apparently more happy to share than the cows appeared to be.