Stone Walls in the West of Ireland

Traditional Irish stone wall from County Galway Traditional Irish stone wall from County Galway

Stone walls in Ireland are as old as farming, the oldest known to be those from Ireland's prehistoric farmers at the Ceide Fields in North Mayo which are approximately 6,000 years old.

Like any field enclosure they provide many uses: keeping cows and sheep in, keeping others out, delineating 'my land' from 'your land', but these stone walls also provide another useful function - they are dry built out of the local stone, in fact usually the stone from the very fields that they enclose. So by building the walls farmers are clearing the land.

And so the stone walls that one finds on travels in Ireland are local to that area. In County Down ( see image below) they are typically massive granite boulders, bigger than anywhere else and in Galway they are built of the abundant limestone.

The farmers creating one of the most intensive farming systems in Europe thousands of years ago were mostly livestock farmers, arable crops played some role but animal husbandry was key to the society of ancient Ireland at that time.

Today they still provide all of those functions and also as a habitat for wildflowers and wildlife.

So if you are wondering why are there stone walls in Ireland, this is why - and it has always been this way.

It's no wonder that stone walls have been synonymous with strength and resilience for centuries.

Stone walls have also always provided a fascination for artists, photographers and writers who see the beauty in these simple but intricate constructions.

Truly traditional stone walls are built using nothing more than local stone, so local that it isn't quarried but collected from the fields that the very walls will enclose, using no cement or mortar. There is a traditional skill to building the walls, and often depending on how windy the locale is, larger gaps for air to pass through leaves the construction stable and solid.

Stone walls of the Mourne Mountains, County Down
Stone walls of the Mourne Mountains, County Down
Last modified on Wednesday, 08 July 2020 14:16
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