Lifestyle & Seasonal

Old Irish Inspiration: A look at the ancient stonework of Ireland

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we ask an Irish stone artist what he loves about Ireland’s legendary stonework

St. Patrick’s Day falls on a weekend this year, giving the holiday some special attention. Revelers and traditionalists alike will be breaking out their most unique and notable activities. Big cities like Boston and Philadelphia have enormous parades, while Chicago has a big parade and dyes their river green. Savannah, Georgia, has a 3-day festival to mark the holiday, following a month of celebratory events.

Whether we’re one of the 32 million Americans that claim Irish ancestry or not, we love the Irish landscape, with its windswept cliffs and rolling green hills dotted with ancient dry stone walls and huts. Ireland is home to some of the most beautiful and long-standing hardscaping structures in the world. Sunny Weiler, a stone artist in the Irish town of Waterford City, Ireland, agrees. “6000-year-old standing stones and stone circles pierce the horizon of many Irish landscapes [as] do the towers and buttresses of many of our old castles and round towers,” he tells EP Henry via email. “In many parts of the country old dry stone walls separate and protect agricultural lands, somehow binding the natural and manmade landscapes together.”

Sunny says it’s impossible to not be influenced by his surroundings. The stone work, much of it done without mortar and with rudimentary tools and manual labor, is a living heritage of the past and current creativity and strength of the Irish people. “I constantly find myself being inspired by stone structures and features built here, be that something created a week ago or something created 6000 years ago.”

Many homeowners love the look of old stone. It adds an authenticity and warmth that other surfaces and materials don’t portray. If you want to emulate the look of old Irish stonework, Sunny suggests you start with, naturally, a trip to Ireland. “The best way (albeit maybe not the most practical way) would be to come visit Ireland for yourself,” he said. Some places to visit are some of Sunny’s favorites, like the Megalithic Passage Tombs of which Newgrange, built in 3200 BC, is the most famous. “The dry stone, corbeled interior chambers are an impressive feat with in themselves. The central chamber explodes into light once a year when a beam of light passes through a perfectly engineered chamber on the shortest day of the year. This light illuminates all the beautiful and ancient carvings that decorate the inside of the chamber.” If that doesn’t sound like the magic of Ireland, nothing does!

“Come immerse yourself in Ireland’s stone heritage and maybe join us for one of the many fantastic stone festivals we have here at different times of the year.” The Dry Stone Wall Association of Ireland host festivals throughout the year for its members, artisans, and Irish stonework fans (who call themselves “stoneys”). If a trip to Ireland isn’t in the cards for you this year, Sunny recommends checking out the Stone Foundation in America. “StoneFest in Seattle is one such festival where over the years participants built a replica of a traditional Irish Beehive Hut (like the ones recently made famous by the Star Wars movies).”

If you’re looking to add some Irish inspiration to your hardscape, a stone festival is a great place to start. Look for one near you. Another place to begin is to find time to sit with your local landscape architect. This professional can help you can find the right type of stone for your project. (We can help you locate an EP Henry Authorized Hardscaping Contractor). Whether it be a walkway, a patio, a driveway or even your own Beehive, a landscape designer can bring the Irish inspiration to you.

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