The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

The Gloonan Stone, Cushendun, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland

The Gloonan Stone, Co.Antrim

The Gloonan Stone (Rosemary Garrett)

Irish grid ref: D2336 3218. A couple of miles to the west of Cushendun village, Co. Antrim, along the Glendun road and opposite Craigagh church can be found The Gloonan Stone, or St Patrick’s Knee-Stone, which is actually one of literally hundreds of balluan stones that are to be found in Ireland, and is said to date back to the time of the Irish patron saint, though it’s more likely to pre-date him. The Church of St Patrick and St Brigid across the road is worth looking at and, in Craigagh Woods to the west, there is an ancient, carved altar stone (Altar In The Woods) that has been frequented by the local Catholic community for hundreds of years. The village of Knocknacarry is roughly ½ a mile to the south-east on the opposite side of the Dun river, while the coastal village/townland of Cushendall is 8 miles to the south-west on the A2 road.

At the opposite side of the Roman Catholic church of St Patrick and St Brigid on Glendun Road at the side of the entrance to the farm stands the famous Gloonan Stone with a large hollowed out, circular hole and a smaller circular depression that is considered to be one of the more famous of all the balluan stones in Ireland. The name Gloonan (gluin) means knee-stone, this one in particular being associated with the great St Patrick. Of the two holes the deeper one often has water inside it that is locally considered to be miraculous – in fact it is, perhaps, sometimes erroneously called St Patrick’s Well, the water having the ability to cure warts and other skin problems. Legend says that when St Patrick was travelling this way in the 5th century AD he stopped here, knelt down on the stone and drank the water, thus making the water from that time onwards, miraculously curative; his knee apparently caused the smaller, circular depression, at least that’s the ‘legend’. Other possibilities being that the stone was used by Celtic missionaries as a sort of baptismal font, another that it was used for the grinding of corn?

In St Patrick and St Brigid’s Catholic church, dating from 1917, across the road there is a lovely Rose window and also some other interesting stained-glass. Inside the entrance stands a replica of the medieval Ardclinis crozier, the original one being in the National Museum, Dublin. This bishop’s crozier came from the monastic site at Ardclinis near Waterford and could well be associated with St Patrick?

In Craigagh Woods to the west stands the famous ‘Altar In The Woods’, an oval-shaped stone set into a rock with the crucified Christ and a winged cherub carved onto it; there used to be an inscription but this has worn away. The stone was brought here by boat from the island of Iona, western Scotland, in the 1500s by local people in the days of Penal Law. The Local Roman Catholic community came to worship at this rocky site long before the carving of Christ as it was well hidden by the oak trees, and every June crowds of people with ‘great faith’ still come to worship here at the altar and at the little chapel that stands on the site of an earlier religious building, probably of a medieval date.


Garrett, Rosemary., Cushendun, and the Glens of Antrim, J.S. Scarlett & Sons, Ballycastle, Northern Ireland, 1956.



Author: sunbright57

I am interested in holy wells, standing stones and ancient crosses; also anything old, prehistoric, or unusual.

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