Beaghmore Stone Circles

Excerpt from the book Travels through History : Northern Ireland and Scotland  Belfast and the Causeway Coast has been rated best region in the world to visit in 2018 by Lonely Planet. In September 2017, Scotland was voted the most beautiful country in the world by a respected travel company, Rough Guides

Taking the A505 westwards from Cookstown in County Tyrone, I found my right-hand turning to the Beaghmore Stone Circles after about 15 minutes. Having just visited the Giant’s Causeway, I was expecting to be one of many visitors to these Bronze Age relics. The drive through the countryside afforded wonderful views of the Sperrin Mountains, though I had to be careful as the road was narrow in places. After about four miles, I saw the sign pointing into a field. There were two other cars. The sun was out and the wind was blowing from the south-east. According to the information board, this area had Northern Ireland’s darkest sky, meaning there was little light pollution here, even in this modern age of 24-hour street lighting, car headlights, and planes flying overhead.

In a way, the fact about the darkest sky might have applied whenever the Beaghmore Stone Circles were created. For anyone expecting a Stonehenge-size spectacle, please read your guidebooks before you travel. Beaghmore has hundreds of stones, arranged in 7 circles, 10 rows, and a dozen cairns, but none of them are more than three feet in height.

The stone circles are in pairs, apart from one, which is filled with over 800 small, upright stones. This individual circle is known as the Dragon’s Teeth and is thought to represent a comet. The alignments of the circles correlate to movements of the heavenly bodies and three of the rows point to sunrise at the summer solstice.

The Giant’s Causeway

Excerpt from the book Travels through History : Northern Ireland and Scotland  Belfast and the Causeway Coast has been rated best region in the world to visit in 2018 by Lonely Planet. In September 2017, Scotland was voted the most beautiful country in the world by a respected travel company, Rough Guides

In 1693 the wider world first became aware of The Giant’s Causeway when Sir Richard Bulkeley, a fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, presented a paper on this unique geographical feature to The Royal Society. Even then, it was four years before an artist was sent to the area to provide evidence of this ‘curiosity’ on the north-east tip of Ireland.

It may seem remarkable to visitors such as myself that there were people in the late 1690s who put forward an argument that The Causeway had been created either by men with chisels and picks or by the efforts of a long-dead giant. When I looked at the Giant’s Causeway I had seen many pictures of it before, so it was completely new yet somewhat familiar, but in the 17th Century nothing like it had been seen before. Therefore, the visitor’s imagination could run wild.

In 1740 another artist, Miss Susanna Drury, popularised the Giant’s Causeway for the first time. Her views of the area are landmarks both in Irish topographical painting and in European scientific illustration. The groups of fashionably-dressed figures in Susanna Drury’s paintings show that, even in 1740, the Giant’s Causeway had become a tourist attraction. Soon it became part of The Grand Tour amongst the social elites of the time and its popularity began to increase, a trend that has continued to this day. Even though there were many visitors to the Giant’s Causeway in the period 1740 – 1770, no one could conclusively prove how the feature was created. Then in 1771, a Frenchman by the name of Demarest, announced the origin of the causeway was because of volcanic action.

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Julian Worker has written a number of travel books including

Travels through History : France

Travels through History – The Balkans: Journeys in the former Yugoslavia

Travels through History – Northern Ireland and Scotland