I forgot to print off the directions below and made a complete yak of getting to the stones. I parked in a driveway and knocked on the door, there was noise inside but no-one answered. This is getting more common in the depths of rural Ireland. Anyway, I walked up a lane and then along the side of a small stream into another field. I then crossed a hedge and up in the corner I had to scale a wall at an open gate. At first glance over, there seemed to be no way in or out of the field but once you are near the stones you realise there are a few gaps on the southern hedge.
The stones themselves? Wonderful! One massive, bulky hulk and two skinnier but still quite large accomplices. Like the big boss man and his two cronies. The setting is again spectacular, this is stunning countryside. The stones dont seem to have ever formed a rectangle, it must have been quite askew when complete (if there was a fourth stone) in much the same was as the comparable, but slightly less dramatic, arrangement at Lettergorman.
The weather continues to oscillate though many dramatic shifts, it rained quite a bit which meant constant wiping of the lens for the brief burst of sunshine that produced a magnificent rainbow.
Aubrey Burl, in his guide, reckons this to be an 'outstanding site' with 'easy' access. To be honest I made a bit of a mess of it myself, but it isn't really that hard to find.
Take the road south past the circles at Kealkil and Breeny More. When you eventually reach the T-junction head east for a mile and a quarter. There should be two houses down the slope to your right, with very close parallel driveways. There will also be a bungalow on the hill to your left. You can ask for permission here.
The gateway to the four-poster is a short distance back the road to the west. Keep to the track and you should pass back above the owner's bungalow. You will cross a small stream and see an old wall topped with holly trees.
Walk up the hill past this and you can now, hopefully, see the tip of the tallest stone.
Gortnacowly is one of just five accepted four-posters in Cork and Kerry. This category of monument was only confirmed to exist here in the last thirty years. Its fourth stone, like that at Lettergorman, is missing. (According to O'Nuaillain's 1984 description it was still present in 1899.)
The three surviving stones are all tall, again like Lettergorman, miles and hills away to the south east. On the other hand the domination of the triangle by one huge ten foot hulk gives it an immediate visual similarity to four stoned Cappaboy Beg, a hill and valley to the north. The monolith there is at the north east of the structure, while here it stands to the south west. Apparently at Reenkilla in Kerry, which I have yet to see, there is a similar domination to the north west.
Its setting is spectacular. The Maughanaclea hills rise above it to the north east. To the east sits Nowen hill and to the south stretches wide Mullaghmesha.
The monument itself however leaves me feeling somewhat underwhelmed. Perhaps it's the absence of the fourth stone. Even when a circle mirrors the horizon, or perhaps because a circle does so, it has an intentional impact on the landscape. With the fourth stone removed the structure seems more random and natural. Or maybe I just like things round.
PS. I'll stick in a plan 'after' O'Nuallain or Burl to show where the missing stone could have been.