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Drystone Walls & Ditches of South West Ireland

Stone Walls

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The common stone in the south west is Old Red Sandstone, with some limestone further north & East. Sandstone is of generally of two types, one being dark grey/black and easy to work and split. The other is of various shades of brown mixed with other dark colours. It can vary from being easily worked to impossible to shatter even with a sledge hammer.

One feature of Irish walls found in the south west of Ireland is they are built with little if any batter or slope to the sides of the walls.

Through-stones, which stretch to both sides of a wall and are a feature of many walls elsewhere, are also not always used in drystone wall construction here.

Another almost unique feature is that a large proportion of walls are built using stones placed vertically in the wall. This type of construction is also seen in the south west of England. These walls are quick and easy to build and long lasting, if constructed properly, despite not conforming to 'traditional' methods of construction.

Walls widths vary from about 2'6" to 3' wide and much wider if it is a clearance wall. Hight varies from as little as 3' to no more than 5'.

Drystone walls built here have two distinct styles. Stones placed level as is common through Europe and other parts of the world or, almost unique to the south west placed vertically in the wall. Cope stones to lock the top of the wall securely are not particularly common and slabs laid flat are probably the most common but turf is also used.


This new wall built in 2007 is typical of the vertical stone walls common to the south west

Calf Island wall

This wall is on the Calf Islands a few miles off the West Cork coast. A clever use of smaller stones and large flat ones placed in a 'H' position when viewed in plan prevents the smaller ones from pushing over the larger stones. To get this picture I had to canoe 7km from Schull harbour to reach the islands as they are now uninhabited.

Sherkin Island wall

This is from Sherkin Island off the West Cork coast and is typical of the 'rough' walls found here. It consists of large slabs set upright with smaller stones wedged between. It is approximately 4 ft in height.

Typical of the traditional walls here is this double wall built of field boulders placed vertically in the wall. However, single width walls are also common.

Double wall - field stone

However this part of Ireland contains some very variable examples of walling styles:-

Cliffs of Moher - Flagstone wall

This wall is composed of limestone flags on both sides of a ditch and is located in Co.Clare near the Cliffs of Moher


Again on Sherkin Island this wall displays an almost total abandonment to normal wall design. This wall on the western part of the island is on the edge of a steep cliff. It would have been built to keep cattle or sheep from wandering over the edge. The wall is approximately 300 yards in length. In some places, it has two levels of horizontal slabs - the section pictures has just one. The wall averages 3 to 4 feet in hight.