Equinox sunset over Knocknarea.
The complete circle at Carrowmore 57, looking northeast to Benbulben. The photo is taken from Site 56 which is only a few steps away. Circle 7 can be made out just to the left of the cottage.

Carrowmore Circle 57

Carrowmore 57 is one of the largest and best-preserved of the circles close to the center of the Carrowmore complex. This impressive ring is located on the edge of a gentle hill close to the central monument. Right beside Circle 57 is the almost complete example of tertre monument, Circle 56, and both monuments have good views to the Cailleach's House, the north towards the imposing wall of Benbulben, and towards Knocknarea in the west.

The interior of the circle is currently divided by a fieldwall which was built during the late 1830's, when Queen Victoria came to the British throne and an enclosures act was passed requiring landowners to fence property. A slice of the circle on the east side, comprising eleven large upright boulders, remain in private ownership outside the O.P.W. compound.

Circle 57 at Carrowmore
Carrowmore 57 is located on the brow of a low hill close to the centre of Carrowmore.

The ring of stones at Circle 57 measures 18 meters in diameter, with extremely large boulders being used to complete the ring. The use of such large stones may indicate that this is an earlier monument. On the west side of the ring the stones are recumbent, or lying flat on their long sides, while to the east to stones stand upright, in places more than two meters tall. The interior os the circle is a raised platform, made of small stones, up to one meter above the surrounding ground level.

Circle 57 at Carrowmore
Carrowmore 57 is located on the brow of a low hill close to the centre of Carrowmore, with wonderful views west to the magical mountain of Knocknarea and Queen Maeve's cairn on the summit.

Circle 57 is one of several monuments which were reused at a later period by the invading people during the bronze age, who replaced the neolithic farmers from about 2,500 BC onwards. They removed a boulder within the southeast side of the circle and rolled it aside to make an entry into the ring; it is likely that the dolmen and chamber were dismantled and removed from the circle at this time. The large boulder in the fieldwall just south of the circle may be the capstone of the dolmen from Circle 57. A pit or hollow at the center may be the remains of the chamber, while two pieces of limestone may be the last piece of a passage.

Circle 57 at Carrowmore
Carrowmore 57 viewed from Circle 17.

This is one of the larger circles at Carrowmore with a diameter of 18 meters. As usual the boulders enclose a large earthen platform or tertre. The 32 stones used in this circle are of a very large size in contrast to the stones in Circle 56 which are much smaller; and those on the west side are laid end to end, while many of those on the east site are standing upright.

Carrowmore 57 by Robert Welch, 1896.
Carrowmore 57 by Robert Welch, 1896. Colour added by ourselves. Image © NMNI.

Antiquarian investigations

Carrowmore 57, like all the other circles at Carrowmore, was first dug by the antiquarian and treasure hunter Roger Walker of Rathcarrick, who dug with Petrie and, and who failed to keep records of his activities. The circle was excavated again in a much more scientific manner some fifty yeats later by W. G. Wood-Martin along with the artist and antiquarian William Wakeman, and Reverend James Graves.

"This circle is perfect, and consists of thirty-two (thirty-three according to Wood-Martin.) stones of large size. The diameter is 47 feet. The cromleac is destroyed." - Petrie.
Carrowmore 57, a fine complete circle, but missing its dolmen. This photo, taken from the possible capstone of the dismantled chamber, shows what a fantastic raised space is created by the platform or tertre within the ring of boulders.

"The circle is slightly oval, measuring 60 feet from east to west, and 52 from north to south (out to out).

The result of searches in various spots within the circle was but a few uncalcined bones, also a small fragment of worked flint, and a flint flake, or spear head." - Wood-Martin.

The view north from Circle 57.
The view north from Circle 57, towards Circle 7 and Benbulben.

Two fine photos of this monument survive, the first by Robert Welch who seems to have visited around 1896. Welch left some valuable images of Carrowmore, and liked to include local people in his images. The three boys in Welch's photo of Circle 57 probably come from the cottages close by and can be tentavively identified in the Irish census of 1901 and 1911.

Carrowmore 57 photographed by W. A. Green.
Carrowmore 57 photographed in 1910 by W. A. Green.Image © NMNI.

W. A. Green, a student and protegee of Robert Welch who followed in his footsteps and photographed many of the same monuments, visited Carrowmore in 1910. It is wonderful to have the photographs of Welch and Green to contrast with the present condition of the monument.

Carrowmore 57 by William Wakeman.
View to the south over Carrowmore circles 56 and 57, illustrated by Wakeman. The hills of Croughan and Doomore, each with a neolithic cairn on its summit, are on the horizon. Image © County Sligo Library.