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Drystone Walls & Ditches of South West Ireland

Stone walls (2)

Stone Walls
Stone walls (2)
Modern walls
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Co Clare
Wall with 'buck & doe' cope stones

This is an excellent example of a wall with typical clare copeing stones, alternative large and small ones. This example is built from limestone.

Galtee Mountains
A rare wall in Ireland this is both single and double walling

Most walls in Ireland are built either of a single stones placed one above the other or with two faces or sides of stones. Typically you can 'see through' a single wall but not a double faced wall. This wall, which is referred to in the UK as a Gallaway Dyke has a double wall for the first foot or so and then the rest of the wall is built of single boulders. Just to add to its rarity value it has vertically placed stones with a regular and neatly constructed row of cope stones. This wall was built during the Irish famine during the 1840 - 1850 period and runs for several miles over a 3000' mountain.


In areas of intensive farming, ditches and walls provide valuable habitats for birds, animals, insects and wild plants.
Birds such as Wheaters and Pied Wagtails nest in some walls, along with many birds which build their nests in the plants and trees which grow on the ditches. In many parts of Ireland the only trees often grow along boundary ditches. Plants which grow at the base of walls and on ditches are often safe from modern pesticides and weedkillers, therefore there is often a wide variety of plants growing. This can also include 'relic' species which were once common in the adjacent fields. They also act as wildlife corridors especially bats, foxes & badgers and some birds, which use them to move across the countryside.

Vertical wall
Vertical walls are commone in the south west, But walls like this on slopes are uncommon

A distinguishing feature of many walls in the South West of Ireland is that the stones are aligned vertically, a feature only found here and in the south west of England. This wall on the Beara peninsular in West Cork is extremely well built. Note the use of long upright stones embedded in the wall to prevent the stones from falling down along the top.

It is often claimed that walls like this can only survive in frost free areas. This is not true as many of these walls are exposed to frosts and were built in much colder times in the last one or two centuries.