Doagh Holestone, Co. Antrim

The Doagh Holestone with a burst of sunlight on a fine evening in Spring, 2012

“Perforated stones, very similar to the ordinary pillar stone, are found in many parts of Ireland, Scotland, and even, as appears from Mr. Wilford’s Asiatic Researches, in India. Abroad, as well as at home, their origin is shrouded in the deepest mystery, and it is not likely that the subject can ever be fully elucidated.

In Ireland they are generally associated with prehistoric remains, and are occasionally found in connexion with our earliest, and only earliest, ecclesiastical establishments. As has been already suggested what they were primarily intended for, no man can say. It is highly probable that they had their origin in days most remote, and that, somehow or other, perhaps like the “holy wells”, they became, as it were, pressed into association with Christian rites.”  Wakeman, William F., Handbook of Irish Antiquities, 1891

The Doagh Holestone or ‘Lovestone’ stands high on the crest of a hill with commanding views across the Six Mile Water Valley in Co. Antrim. This attractively shaped stone, 1.5m high, enjoys regional fame for its central place in local lore and custom.

Through a hole cut through from both faces in smooth funnel shaped form, and narrowing to a mere 10cm, a bride-to-be and her betrothed would link hands and thereby secure lifelong love and faithfulness. This traditional practice had been documented in the 1830s and is most likely a remnant of ancient ‘pagan’ customs. The practice apparently continues to this day, though a search on google images sadly returned no online photographic evidence! It’s possible that marriage was not the only contract or honour sealed through this rite in early historic and pre-historic times.

Doagh Holestone

Doagh Holestone on a fine evening in Spring 2012.

The outcrop against the skyline from roughly southwest.

The stone sits atop a bizarrely out-of-place outcrop, much of which has obviously been quarried away over a long period of time. The outcrop is several meters high but a stretch of sloping terraces reaches out from its southern edge, allowing a relatively straightforward means of access to the grassy, though often overgrown, platform.

The grass covered and relatively even-surfaced platform on top of the outcrop could accommodate a small crowd of well-wishers.

The stone is believed to have been erected during the Bronze Age, it may have been specially chosen and placed here in this prominent position in its final form though the hole and it’s attractively curved shape may instead be later alterations.   There are various accounts as to how the stone found employment over the years, from ancient fertility rites to the chaining up of prisoners.

Doagh Holestone

Much of the outcrop has been quarried away over a long period of time, in Spring 2012 some large and freshly unearthed boulders now lie at its foot.

It can be found off the Holestone road, around a mile northwest of Doagh Village on the Ballymena Road and is signposted. A colourful information board for visitors has been erected directly in front of the outcrop. Parking is very limited

Looking roughly southeast, the longest views are from this angle.

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