The Nine Stones, Carlow, Ireland

The Nine Stones are situated on the saddle between Mount Leinster and Slievebawn with striking views over the counties of Carlow, Laois and the Wicklow Mountains. On a very clear day eight counties can be seen and even the coast of Wales to the east! This small but attractively placed stone row is also known as Coolasnaghta, the Irish being Cúil an tSneachta, meaning ‘The nook/corner of snow’, a apt name considering that due to the height of Mount Leinster over the surrounding countryside snow falls here before most other places. The nine stones are aligned roughly east to west over a distance of around 12 metres with 1 metre approx between each stone. They are small in stature, the tallest only 60cms in height. It is believed that the stones are not aligned astronomically and may serve a ceremonial or later memorial meaning.

The significance behind the stones is unknown but local folklore ascribes several ‘histories’ to them. One theory suggested that they were the final resting place of nine shepherds or nine chieftains. Another says that it was the final resting place of nine rebels who were buried there during the 1798 rebellion after the battle of Newtownbarry. There are three separate tales relating to the Nine Stones in the 1930s Dúchas Schools Collection, the first stating they were the graves of nine highwaymen and says, ‘There is a local legend which says that if any one of these stones is seen out of place by any traveller he is bound to replace it in its proper position. If he does not do so it follows on and hits him on the legs’ (Collector John Brennan, informant Eugene Brennan, Killedmond, Co. Carlow). The other two tales relate to the 1798 rebellion with one having much more detail, the following came from the teacher of Scoil and Chlochair, Bunclody, ‘It is said that in the year of 1798 that the present house of the priests or the Parochial House which is on Main Street Bunclody was then a soldiers Barracks and the Captain’s name was Captain Irvine a notorious Captain. It is said that Captain Irvine’s army and Father Murphy’s army were to have a fight at Borris and after the fight there were only nine of Father Murphy’s men left. They fled to Kildavin for safety but seeing that the enemy was after them they took through the fields and through a field called the Gap to Killbranish. When they reached Killbranish they were exhausted and the nine men lay down near some  stones and fell asleep. When Captain Irvine’s army found them they murdered them and ever since the place where they killed the nine men it is called the “Nine  Stones”. When Captain Irvine’s army came home they told the Captain how they killed the nine men and the Captain said “Are you sure that you mangled them well and are you sure that they are dead” and they said “Yes.”

Though the Nine Stones are a somewhat underwhelming sight the views from Mount Leinster and the scenic drive to the stones certainly makes it worth the visit.

GPS: 52.63712, -6.79307

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