Dry Stone Walls

Image taken near lake Windemere, The Lake District, England UK.

Dry stone is a building method by which structures are constructed from stones without any mortar to bind them together. Dry stone structures are stable because of their unique construction method, which is characterized by the presence of a load-bearing façade of carefully selected interlocking stones. Dry stone technology is best known in the context of wall construction, but dry stone artwork, buildings, bridges, and other structures also exist.

A dry stone wall, also known as a dry stone dyke, drystane dyke, dry stone hedge, or rock fence. As with any dry stone construction, the structural integrity arises from compressional forces and the interlocking of the stones. Such walls are used in building construction, as field boundaries, and on steep slopes as retaining walls for terracing.

Terminology varies regionally. When used as field boundaries, dry stone structures often are known as dykes, particularly in Scotland. Dry stone walls are characteristic of upland areas of Britain and Ireland where rock outcrops naturally or large stones exist in quantity in the soil. They are especially abundant in the West of Ireland, particularly Connemara. They also may be found throughout the Mediterranean, as in the Balearic Islands, Catalonia, València, Languedoc, Provence, Liguria, the Apulia region of Italy, Croatia, Cyprus, and in the Canary Islands, including retaining walls used for terracing. Such constructions are common where large stones are plentiful (for example, in The Burren) or conditions are too harsh for hedges capable of retaining livestock to be grown as reliable field boundaries. Many thousands of miles of such walls exist, most of them centuries old.

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