Astronomy meets archaeology
From 10,000BC when the first, hunter-gatherer settlers of Ireland came to this land, to our ancestors who populated these hills in the bronze age, to the present day community who live and work in the valley of the Broughderg River, people have left traces of their presence on the landscape we see today.
Tantalising glimpses of their culture, creativity and belief systems are revealed in a rich archaeological heritage. The Sperrin mountains, and in particular Davagh Forest, have a plethora of surviving ‘megalithic’ monuments: ancient field systems, standing stones, stone circles and burial tombs.
Beaghmore Stone Circles
Nestled amongst the green grass and heather clad moorland sit 7 mystical circles, 10 rows of stones and 12 cairns, carefully arranged.
Beaghmore (Bheitheach Mhór), meaning ‘big place of birch trees’ was once a dense woodland before being cleared by Neolithic farmers.
The circles and alignments were discovered in the late 1930s during peat cutting when 1,269 stones were uncovered. The site and the surrounding bog indicate that the area was occupied from Neolithic times through the Bronze Age.
Our Neolithic Ancestors
Hearths and deposits of flint tools have been carbon dated to 2900-2600BC. Several of the stone rows run over the tumbled walls of field structures which also date from Neolithic times.
Look closely at some of the stones and what may seem as ancient chisel marks bear a resemblance to our oldest known Celtic writing. Ogham, a secret and sacred writing, was a system of symbols used for magic and divination.
The circles and alignments, however, remain a mystery. No-one really knows why this intriguing cluster of stones was created.
It must somehow involve the sky?
Some archaeologists believe that the circles have been constructed in relation to the midsummer sunrise, or to record the movements of the sun and moon acting as markers in a calendar to identify certain lunar, solar or stellar events.
Three of the stone rows point to sunrise at the solstice and another appears to be aligned towards a lunar maximum.
The stones speak of ancient rituals and to a people who understood astronomy. When you visit this ancient site look up in wonder at the sky and reflect, that the people that built these monuments observed the same sky, sun, moon and stars.
Could this have been the first observatory in Davagh Forest?
From the first Observatory at Davagh to the latest.
Visitors can now walk from what we believe may have been the first observatory in our ancient landscape, Beaghmore Stone Circles, to the modern-day observatory at OM in Davagh Forest.
The 3.4km Solar Walk will link the observed solar system in the sky with the astronomical solar and lunar alignments at Beaghmore. An augmented reality app will provide a digital guide of the solar system to explore space and planets in real time, linking the uniqueness of the sky above to the uniqueness of the area’s deep archaeological landscape.
OM Solar Search App
Download the OM Solar Search app and explore the planets of the Solar System. As you wander along the Solar Walk, markers with QR codes let you trigger augmented reality experiences on your phone. Learn fascinating facts like how old Earth is and what Saturn’s rings are made of.
Beginning at the OM observatory building, the further you walk along the trail, the further you travel into the galaxy!