This stone circle lies in Bonane Heritage Park, which is well signed from the N71 between Kenmare and Glengariff. Beside the circle, the park offers among others an impressive Ringfort, a Standing Stone and a Fulacht Fiadh. Currently you were charged an admission of 4€ per person, a bit expensive in my opinion, especially as there are no reductions for families.
The stone circle itself is stunning and well preserved. I counted 11 stones in the outer ring and in the centre lies a heavy boulder stone.
There are great views over Sheen River Valley. The only thing that disturb the atmosphere are two information boards, that stand very close to the circle. However they explain two interesting alignments of the circle.
One is the sunrise between the two entrance stones during summer solstice and equinox sunset over the stone right of the recumbent.
The other alignment is related to 'Major Lunar Standstill', that occurs every 18.6 years. On the opposite hill from the circle lies 'Altar', which, according to the info board, consists of three large flagstone. This marks the most southerly rising point of the moon, when viewed from the circle. The angle at which the moon rises coincides with the angle of the mountain, making the moon appear to 'climb' the mountain as it ascends.
The last time the event occured was June 2006, so if you want to see this phenomenon, be here at the end of 2024 ;-).
Ah yes, the summer solstice. I trekked up the hillside from the carpark (a longer and steeper walk than I had anticipated for this early in the morning!) and arrived just in time for that ancient traditional ritual: 'Foxy, SHUT THE F*&K UP!! F&%K SAKE! Mick, shut your effing dog up, f%&kin hell'.
Two heads had camped up at the circle and their pregnant retriever was guarding the tent with far too much enthusiasm. Who needs ravers and gluesniffers at Stonehenge when you can stare into the 'jaws of death' in Bonane Heritage Park.
Eventually one body emerged from the tent, and soon we were joined by a biker who's friend had gotten a puncture and was observing the cloudy skyline from the side of a miserable road a few miles away.
It didn't take long for the reality to sink in, there was to be no sunrise this solstice. The horizon line is quite high up above the circle so I knew it would be some time before the sun would reach that high so I wandered around the other monuments in the park in vain hope.
At 6.30am, the silence was once again broken by the sound of cars roaring up the track way. Thee cars appeared and parked below the ring fort, it seemed to have been some kind of guided tour so I shadowed them for a while to see what I could find out.
The sunrise from the circle apparently occurs quite late, sometime around 6.30- 6.40am. At this time the sun has been up for over an hour and so would be a blinding light appearing above the ridge beyond, probably impossible to observe safely with the naked eye and very tricky to photograph (no chance of detail in the circle unless you blend a couple of shots).
I think this was the fourth cloudy solstice in a row, except one year when I watched the most beautiful sunrise from a deckchair off the coast of Borneo. At least I came away with two valuable nuggets of information for next time, sleep in for another hour and check the gates are locked before huffing and puffing up the hill by foot!