12. Gortnamoyagh Inauguration Stone

11. Glentaisie
7th March 2023
13. King of Ballycastle
7th March 2023

12. Gortnamoyagh Inauguration Stone

12. Gortnamoyagh Inaugeration Stone

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7th March 2023

Located in Gortnamoyagh Forest, it is said that this stone was used in the medieval period for the inauguration and crowning of local chieftains.

There are well worn indentations where the chieftain’s feet and the heel of his spear would have been placed during the ceremony. The site has also been referred to as St Onan’s Rock, the Giant’s Track, Shane’s Leap and St Adamnan’s Footprints.

One of the local stories about the rock said that a giant leaped from the rock to the old church at Errigal, a distance of some 800 metres.


Gortnamoyagh Inauguration Stone

The stone has been recorded under many names and there are various stories associated with it. The Ordnance Survey Memoirs, 1835, recorded the site under the heading of Giant’s Footsteps – “a rock on the surface of which appears to be the print of two bare feet of a human being, together with what is locally called the print of the top of the giant’s staff… It is locally said that the giant leaped from the above rock to the old church of Errigal…” It is also called the Giant’s Track or Shane’s Leap, St Adamnan’s Footprints and St Onans (Adamnan’s) Rock. The seventh century church at Ballintemple was called Aireacal-Adhamhnain or Adamnan’s Church; Adamnan was the patron saint of the district.

Photograph of Gortnamoyagh Inauguration Stone showing footprints.

Gortnamoyagh Inauguration Stone

Gortnamoyagh is said to be the inauguration site for the local chieftains of the area. The new chieftain would have stood with his feet in the hollowed-out footprints on the stone and the heel of his spear resting in the small indentation, overlooking the ancient church at Errigal. The stone is one of two in County Londonderry; the other is St Columb’s Stone at Shantallow, Londonderry. H P Swan gives a good summary of the folklore associated with the stone. “It is almost absolutely certain that it was brought from the Grianan of Aileach after its destruction, probably by an O’Doherty for his own installation… It was the ‘crowning stone’ of the Kinel-Owen, or, in other words, the stone upon which the chieftains of the great O’Neill clan were inaugurated. They reigned in Aileach for many centuries… the newly chosen chief was placed upon this stone, his bare feet in the footmarks; a peeled willow wand was put into his hand, as an emblem of the pure and gentle sway he should exercise over his tribe…”[1]


Photograph of St Adamnan's Church graveyard at Ballintemple, Garvagh.

St Adamnan’s Church graveyard at Ballintemple, Garvagh.

Errigal Old Church

The church is now in ruins with only parts of walls or foundations visible above the ground in the graveyard, however, the walls may still be intact below the ground surface. Samuel Lewis stated, “a monastery was founded here by St Columb in 589, which flourished until the ninth century, when it was plundered and destroyed by the Danes”.[2] Andrew McLean May noted that “in a survey of 1622 the church was said to be ruinous…” It is not known when the church was abandoned, but the Ordnance Survey Memoirs tell us that “divine service was transferred to the chapel of ease erected by George Canning Esquire in 1760, which is situated in the town of Garvagh and is now the only parish church…”


[1] The Book of Inishowen, 1938, Harry Percival Swan

[2] A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837, Samuel Lewis




From A29 Carhill Road take B64 Churchtown Road from Garvagh (signposted to Dungiven), after approx. 2.75km turn right onto Ballyrogan Road. Travel approx. 0.5km turn left onto Gortnamoyagh Road and there is a forest track on the left, with space to park one or two cars (54.9793, -6.7417).

Co-ordinates: 54.9756, -6.7421


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This project is receiving financial support via the District Council Good Relations Programme.