I visited the Holestone today, taking my Dad along after earlier unsuccessful attempts to find it. It turns out there was no need for my guide: the route has been signposted with the brown monument signs showing the way. That got us onto the Holestone Road ok, but we still managed to drive past the site twice since the gorse was hiding the stone and the information sign can't been seen from the road. Keep an eye out for a silver metal farm gate into a field with what looks like a group of bushes in it - that's the mound of rock the stone sits on.
Visited this site the year before last, pretty impressive but hard to find!
Unsurprisingly its located just off the Holestone road just outside Doagh. On top of a stony outcrop surrounded by gorse bushes and not easy to spot. We finally found it after three visits and with directions from a local historian friend.
If visiting, don't wear shorts......
Local tourist board lists it as an attraction and states that it was used in the 1800s or there abouts for marriages...
In December, 1927, Mr. Wm. McIlroy, owner of the farm on the edge of which stands this remarkable monument, had occasion to widen an entrance to one of his fields, and in doing so had to remove a protruding stone. He found it to be one of the top stones of souterrain, of which there were two chambers, with the passage of one or more others, blocked up. The souterrain presented no unusual features, being built in the ordinary manner with the side walls of the chambers corbelled inwards, narrowing towards the top, and kept in their position by the usual long stone slabs laid horizontally across, forming the roof [...]
The question arises, why did the builders not utilise the Hole Stone? Within a couple of hundred yards of it on either side are two souterrains with a hundred or more of these long stones used in the roofs. Here was a suitable stone immediately to hand, and yet they would not disturb it.
I can think of no prehistoric monument of whose written history we know nothing the use and purpose of which have been so well preserved by inviolable tradition as the Hole Stone. From times long prehistoric a ring was regarded as part of the ceremony of Arrhae or betrothal prior to the marriage ceremony itself. To this day, through all the changes of race and peoples that have occurred in County Antrim, particularly South Antrim, the tradition that the Holestone is a betrothal, if not a marriage token remains unbroken, and couples from all the district round still plight their troths by clasping fingers through the ring or hole in this stone. Here then appears the probability that the souterrain builders refrained from using the Hole Stone, because it was sacred in their pagan religion, if not actually a deity.
Well if you say so. From some 'Tentative Deductions' about the stone in The Irish Naturalists' Journal, Vol. 3, No. 5 (Sep., 1930) by HC Lawlor.
On a rocky eminence in the townland of Ballyvernish, about one mile from the village of Doagh, stands a whinstone slab, called the Holestone. This stone is upwards of five feet in height above the ground, and near the base six feet eight inches in circumference, and ten inches in thickness. At about three feet from the ground there is a round hole perforated through it, sufficient to admit a common-sized hand; it has evidently been made by art, but there is neither record nor tradition respecting the purpose for which it was erected, nor by whom.
About thirty years ago a man put his hand through the aperture of this stone, but was unable to extricate it; on which, those who were with him gave the alarm, and a crowd was soon collected, whose conflicting opinions only served to increase the fears of the person in limbo.
Amongst those assembled, was a Mr. O---, a resident in the neighbourhood, who seeing so much needless alarm, determined to be a little waggish upon this occasion. "Fly," said he, to a by-stander, "for my powder-horn, and I'll soon free him; I'll blow up the stone in an instant!" At these words, the confusion and alarm of the multitude beggars all description, while the cries of the prisoner, which had hitherto been sunk in the noise, became piercing in the extreme.
During the confusion, the gentleman had sent off privately for some vinegar, and on the return of the messenger, with it, he began to pacify the prisoner, and to bathe his hand, which had become swelled in the various attempts made to get it extricated; and he at length succeeded in effecting his liberation, without application to the dreaded powder horn. [..]