We tried to follow Jack Roberts' instructions, but didn't feel at all comfortable trying to get to the circle as he directs. So, given the difficulty of parking, the livestock in the fields, and the reported problems of reaching the site, we drove around and found the owner, who lives at the top of the next road to the left off the N71. We were given permission to drive up to their milking parlour along a track going uphill between the two minor roads (if driving east on the N71, this is a sharp turn back on yourself.) We parked easily at the top, and the circle is in the field to the northwest, behind the milking shed at about 200 metres, through a wide gate having a pedestrian access at the right. Once on the other side, the boulder burial is visible up the slope to the left. We then just had to step over a few wires.
I have to agree with everyone below, parking here really is a pain. That along with the fact that it is down as a standing stone on my old version of the OS map makes this a tricky site to get to. I drove up and down this road a number of times before eventually parking a little up from the T-junction at about the only gateway that doesnt cause you to block what is a narrow road.
Its a fantastic site, unfortunately the electric fence does take away from it. The day I visited there were a number of curious cows / bullocks in the field right up to it and as such you didnt feel like staying around for too long.
Bejaysus... these Cork 'circles are hard for the outsider to find, are they not? And without a lot of time/patience, forget it! Not worth asking the locals, either, since everyone assumes you're a tourist looking for Drombeg and - since that's signposted - you must be a muppet. One gentleman in particular looked me up and down and gave me the stereotypical 'I wouldn't be starting from here, mind...' directions to the honey-pot site even though, in retrospect, we were less than half a mile from Bohonagh.
However such tribulations can have unforeseen benefits, for example one false turn leading us to Woodfield, birthplace of Michael Collins. The name apparently still arouses heated, divided passions within Cork; the deep scars the Civil War inflicted upon Irish society clearly fade very slowly indeed.... nevertheless an enigmatic, intensely 'human' man worthy of much personal study in my opinion. But I digress.
Eventually the proverbial 'one last look' (seriously), whilst descending a steep hill, highlights the 'circle stones silhouetted upon the skyline opposite. No objections being raised at the nearest house, I set off up the hill and am promptly blown away - metaphorically this time - by the scene which greets me. With due respect to this morning's fabulous Drombeg visit, Bohonagh is in a different league altogether in terms of vibe and sense of place. There is an absolutely sensational aura upon this overgrown, unkempt hill top today. Possibly this has something to do with the towering, black storm clouds, washes of sunlight streaming across the landscape following a sudden shower. Then again it could be the sweeping views out to sea, or the joy of finally standing here being accentuated by the difficulty of the pilgrimage. Or the silence reflecting the overgrown impression of 'rawness' here? In truth I guess it's a combination of all these factors. The only (very) minor gripe is the cattle fence, but hey, so what?
But what of the circle itself? Nine substantial uprights stand in the ring, two of which, big beauties, are set radially to the circumference, acting as portals. Opposite, the conglomerate recumbent has been described by Mr Burl as ..'like an old white loaf thick with currants...' Wonderful words, indeed. Some way to the east is located a companion 'boulder burial', a sort of dolmen-variant with an (apparently) approx 20 tonne capstone resting upon much smaller supporting stones.
So everything's in its place at Bohonagh. I tend to think of the place as Drombeg's beautiful, reclusive sister, who doesn't get the boys because she can't afford the latest clothes and is too shy to come to the dance. Doesn't make her any less enticing, though, does it? I'd argue it makes her more so.... just like the landscape she graces, gloriously uplifting and melancholic by turn. Just like her even more reclusive nearby sibling at Reanascreena, another essentail visit.
We head back to Ballyvourney via Beal na mBlath (the site of Collin's ambush by anti-Treaty IRA forces), a spot which, like Bohonagh/Reanascreena encapsulates the heart and soul of Cork for me. Places which invoke real, raw human emotion; places which can make you actually feel something. How refreshing......
There's something just satisfying about the yellow of freshly cut fields - as redolent of the May/June cusp as hedges full of hawthorn blossom or the crisp heat, not yet turned heavy and dead on the senses.
A great time of the year for Bohonagh. The nettles and long grass around it only seem to enhance its wildness and great age, its dominance of what would be an overwhelming growth for a smaller site.
It's an interesting test. Swap places in your mind with Drombeg. Would it be improved here, in these surroundings? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Bohonagh would certainly lose something by being tidied up.
The 30 odd heifers crying aggressively outside the fence give a reminder of the origin of the townland's name.
I don't usually get odd twinges at most sites. Maybe it was just the fact that the portal stones were as tall as me, but walking through them felt like the feeling you get going through a police checkpoint.
The electric fence is too damn close, other than that this is a nice circle with some odd bits and pieces lying around outside it.
The southern part of the ridge it sits on is rapidly becomming engulfed in briars, hopefully someone in the locality keeps it in check.
‘Stone Circles of Cork and Kerry’ suggests parking at the road junction and approaching the hill from the West. I parked on the junction as suggested, opposite a gate to a field full of cows. That’s the one, I told myself, leapt the gate and set off. Crossing the field, I was aware the cows were watching me. As I’d passed them and was starting to climb the hill, I heard the thunder of hooves behind me. I turned to find two of the beasts charging me! I waved my stick while backing away, which confused them for all of 5 seconds before they started forward again. Luckily I was close to the electric wire fence, and ducked under it quickly. The power wasn’t on, but I hoped they didn’t know that. I’m sure they could have uprooted the fenceposts easily by just leaning against the wire. They came right up to the wire, and looked around the corner of the hill, where I’d started climbing. I looked back to find they’d doubled their numbers! I continued up, but drew a complete blank. I was on the wrong damned hill, trapped by a herd of manic cows! Maybe waving my stick hadn’t been such a good idea…
I looked around, and found another trackway up the adjoining hill, so decided to try my luck that way. On top of this hill, I found two very sad looking stones. Surely this can’t be it? Half a page in Roberts’ book for this? I looked around, almost in desperation now, and spotted, just on the brow of the next hill along, what might have been a glimpse of a stone. No turning back now I thought, and made my way across. Electric wire was everywhere along the field boundary, which also had a substantial hedge. Milling back and forth, I found only one spot that looked traversable, and what looked like a droveway on the other side.
I clambered through and let myself down, only to find myself being sucked under into very soft earth. I lost my balance whilst trying to reach firm ground on the bank, slipped and put my hand down into a bed of nettles! “This can’t get any worse”, I thought. “There’s nothing left to happen. I’ve been chased and trapped by cows, sucked at by the ground, and my hand bloody stings all over! Get some dock, quick.”
Back on firm ground, I started toward the crest of the hill, when I spied more cows looking at me. For once, luck was with me when I saw at least two lengths of cattle wire separating us. And there were the stones! I boldly marched up to take my pictures. Sadly, the ground was too overgrown to actually enter the circle and I didn’t want to antagonise the cows any more than I had already done by approaching the boulder tomb a little way off, so I turned to try to find my way back to the car.
The droveway seemed the best idea, despite the soft ground, so I followed it for a short way, only to find it petered out after 50 yards or so. The farm was obviously in the other direction! Undeterred, I continued on through the nettles. Hey, my hand and leg were stinging like nothing I’ve ever felt before. There was nothing left to go wrong, was there? I came to a field boundary, like a small thicket, but one that the cows had been through before. The ground was soft here again, and there were other more obvious signs. Must be a way through then, right? Well almost. I battled my way through, then came to the ubiquitous electric wire fence again. A nervous glance around, no cows, and over we go. I’m now in a field, that appears to border a road, and there’s a gate! I rush across to it, scale the gate and find myself less than 50 yards away from the car. Sweet mercy! Back in the car and relating the adventure to Mikki, bugger me if the original bolshie cows don’t come right up to the gate where I started and look straight at us, as if to say “if this gate weren’t here, pal, we’d have you!” So take Jack Roberts’ advice and park where he suggests, but walk up the road a short way before looking to head across the fields.
The quartz circle stone, despite its fit with late Bronze Age ritual colour schemes, is placed on an empty socket position and is not an original feature. Two out of the three support blocks under the large boulder burial are quartz however, as was a large support stone at the base of the pillar to the north of the portals.
For those who like to let their imaginations run, here's a roughly contemporary account of a similiar construction from Exodus 24, 4-8:
Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and put up twelve sacred pillars, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. He then sent the young men of Israel and they sacrificed bulls to the Lord as whole-offerings and shared-offerings. Moses took half the blood and put it in basins and the other half he flung against the altar. Then he took the book of the covenant and read it aloud for all the people to hear. They said, 'We will obey, and do all that the Lord has said.' Moses then took the blood and flung it over the people, saying, 'This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you on the terms of this book.'