The Holestone of Doagh – A History of Mystery & Marriage

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The Holestone on the mound
The Holestone on the rocky outcrop

Background

Perched on top of a rocky outcrop near Doagh in County Antrim is the Celtic whinstone megalith, known as the Holestone. It is one of the best preserved standing stones in Ireland and is thought to date back to the Bronze Age. It is just less than 5ft tall and the smooth hole is funnel shaped tapering to 10cm in diameter.

The rocky mound is about 10ft high and circular and is in itself an impressive feature. Robert Armstrong in his book Through the Ages to Newtownabbey says “Each time I visit this site I wonder if the platform on which it (the Holestone) stands holds an undiscovered secret…

The Doagh Holestone and the presence of numerous souterrains in the area are evidence of an ancient settlement at this location. (The word souterrain comes from the French “sous-terrain” referring to an underground passageway or gallery possibly used as hiding place or a larder).

The Lovestone

The Holestone - Love and Marriage
The Holestone – Love and Marriage

Traditionally the Holestone, sometimes called the Lovestone, is associated with love and marriage. A woman would place her hand through the hole and her intended would clasp it on the other side. Thus they were betrothed and pledged to each other undying love. In some cases, when clergy were unavailable the Holestone was used as the marriage ceremony itself. Local engaged couples and newly-weds still visit the Holestone in honour of this ancient custom.

“To this day, through all the changes of race and peoples that have occurred in County 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”.

H C Lawlor  The Irish Naturalists Journal 1930
Monuments and the Holestone - H.C. Taylor
Monuments and the Holestone – H.C. Taylor

Pagan Beginnings

No one knows the origins or the original intended purpose of the stone. One theory is that it was a meeting place for Celtic kings, perhaps to seal deals or pacts. Others believe it marks a significant burial site. It has also been associated with pagan altars and fertility rites. Folklore claims that if you look through the hole it will guide you to hidden treasure.

The Holestone – A Warning for the unfaithful

One legend tells of a man who was unfaithful on his wedding night. The couple had sworn their fidelity at the Holestone. He was cursed to spend eternity as a black horse roaming the countryside.

Location

The Holestone stands about a mile from the village of Doagh and just under 17 miles from Belfast. Its prominent position on the hilltop gives it commanding views over the Six Mile Water Valley. The ascent of the rocks forming the mound is steep with uneven surfaces – you may need to use you use your hands/ knees on the larger rocks! Also, as you have to walk through a field to reach the Holestone, we suggest a dry day if possible!

Map: Find it on the map

Address: 24 Holestone Road, Doagh, Ballyclare, County Antrim BT 39 0SB


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2 Comments

Rob Lyttle · 25 November 2022 at 7:56 pm

Brilliant…. Thanks for this.
I moved to the far end of Cornwall in 76 and lived there for mmmmm mm….. 40+years. Still plenty of standing stones, round house remains, and ancient sites. I love them!
In fact, when I was at Belfast Art College I started painting this standing stone that was in my head. And years later, about 4 miles from the Lands End, I FOUND IT! Known as the Blind Fiddler.
Was a kind of Close Encounters thing 😇
You know, it wouldn’t surprise me if that “betrothal” theme was the original use of the stone. These “habits with meaning” have a persistence that can transcend wars, religions, and thousands of years, just by being “passed on”
Love your work 😍

    P&P · 28 November 2022 at 3:51 pm

    Thank you very much Rob. We love the stories of olden times with myths & legends galore. The old pre-Christian beliefs are fascinating.

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