Day out: Beaghmore, County Tyrone

This fascinating Bronze Age site was only discovered in the 1940s. Many questions surrounding the stones remain unanswered, adding to their allure on a misty October day

Stone circle in countryside

The multiple rounded peaks of Tyrone’s Sperrin Mountains make a compelling place to explore at any time of the year. Remote and little-visited, they are particularly fascinating for anybody interested in ancient history.

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Hundreds of archaeological monuments suggest these hills may have been more densely populated in millennia past than they are today. And prime among the megalithic sites is Beaghmore Stone Circles.

This unique location feels especially atmospheric at dawn or dusk in autumn, when mist swirls around the rocks. Standing among the stones at such times, it takes only a small hop of imagination to picture the events and cultures that may once have centred on this very spot.

Stone circle in countryside
The name Beaghmore may derive from the Irish words Bheitheach Mhór, meaning ‘big place of the birch trees’, suggesting that this open landscape was once very different
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History of Beaghmore Stone Circles

It’s the extent and complexity of Beaghmore that makes it stand out. In a landscape peppered with lone monuments, here is a close-knit collection of seven stone circles, 10 stone rows and a dozen burial cairns, some still containing human remains.

The complex dates from the early Bronze Age, with excavated flint tools carbon dated to 2,900–2,600BC. Even-older Neolithic field structures also lie just beneath the surface. 

Six of the stone circles are arranged in pairs, with an embanked cairn lying between them. The social standing of the people buried within the mounds can only be guessed at, and the rituals associated with each alignment remain mysterious, too. Some believe the positions indicate links to the sun and moon at the solstice, while others believe they are centred around the tombs themselves.

The seventh stone circle is particularly interesting. A wider ring constructed with larger stones, it stands alone and is filled by more than 800 smaller stones all pointing up towards the sky. Known as the Dragon’s Teeth Circle, the significance of this unique formation is lost to time.

Beaghmore was only uncovered during peat excavations some 80 years ago, so it’s also worth wondering what antiquities still lie hidden beneath the boggy cloak now covering the Sperrin Mountains. 

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Visit Davagh Forest Park

To complement your visit, head to nearby Davagh Forest Park. Alternatively, check out the ‘Journey in Time’ tour that links 14 other historic and archaeological sites within the surrounding area.