Wrote impressions down immediately after the visit "Brilliantly atmospheric site overlooking Bantry Bay and the western mountains". This site is well signposted and involves an uphill walk on a narrow road. It is possible to drive up but parking spaces very limited.
In his superb little book “Exploring West Cork” Jack Roberts has written about Kealkil as follows:
“This is deservedly one of the best known and most important sites in the area consisting of an alignment of two large standing stones, a five stone circle and a radial cairn. The site is situated on a hill to the south of Kealkil village and is sign posted at major junctions.
The site was excavated in the 1930’s and the largest of the alignment stones was replaced in its socket. This originally stood at over 5 metres high (17 ft in the original excavation report) but about two metres of the lower portion had broken when it fell. The cairn was one of the earliest radial stone cairns to be properly identified and these comparatively rare and very curious monuments still baffle archaeology in the present day. Perhaps the suggestion that they were used as astronomical calendars is the best interpretation so far put forward but as yet no one has deciphered how they may have served this function. If megalithic architecture was based on a system of orientation and astronomy then this site with its outlook across a mountainous panorama to the west and north could lend itself to a wide range of interpretive possibilities.”
Footnote: The information board says Kealkil is from 'An Chaolchoill' meaning 'the narrow wood'.
Just a quick few words to inform anyone who may have visited this site previously that the land owner has removed the hedge that was about fifteen metres west of the complex. It's a bit of a cold rinse to the senses if you're used to seeing it the way it was, but it does open the view out. Less distraction in the eyeline I suppose.
The ground is intact, dry and solid for a distance of about ten metres from the monument but between this and the gates to the west and east it looks to have been turned over and reseeded, with grass growing in isolated clumps. This ground, even in the dry conditions at the moment, was excessively waterlogged. No change there then.
A wonderful site, well worth the climb up the hill. There is now a rather obvious unlocked sprung gate, with the now obligatory 'No Trespassing' sign attached, leading to the site from the top of the hill. It took some time to traverse the boggy ground leading to the stones, and approaching the site I was sure there was a recumbent sheep guarding the way. It turned out to be a smooth boulder, outside and away from the main complex. The cairn has a couple of bushes growing well in the middle, but I was amazed at the intricacy of the cairn and the sheer number of stones.
The uprights have a very pronounced male/female aspect to them, but I couldn’t spot any glaring alignments to them in the surrounding scenery.
I’ll confess I was so blown away by the cairn, uprights and views, I didn’t really take much notice of the circle at the time. I did notice the gradation appeared to be opposite to other circles in that the stones increase in height toward the axial stone as opposed to the more usual decrease in height. I must study my photos closer.
Kealkil wasn't very easy to find, the narrow lane zigzags up the hill. If you get to the top of the hill you've gone too far (though this is where the road is nearest to Breeny More). We parked on the side of the road, climbed the gate with the "Beware of the Bull" sign and made our way across a boggy field. The weather was superb and the views were hard to beat.
The Irish haven't given in to the "brown sign" mentality (thank goodness) so many interesting locations are not widely publicised. However, there are a few books and leaflets and even a tea towel(!) showing many of the ancient sites around the country.
The circle is a small 5 stone, with a the recumbent set at the SW. Next to this are a pair of huge standing stones and a radial cairn. The site is excellent, and in such a beatiful location.
On the way back we bumped in to JC and struck up a conversation about the difficulty of finding these sites in Cork. We all agreed it is definitely worth the trouble, and that the key is to not get too stressed out about it!
In connection with the fieldnotes that I wrote a year ago, this is a feature about access improvements to this site. It appears on the Heritage Journal and is reproduced here with Heritage Action's kind permission.