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Fuerty Fairy Fort

Fuerty Fairy Fort

Fuerty Fairy Fort, Co. Roscommon
According to Liam Connolly, the fairy fort in sight of his kitchen window was used as a burial ground during the terrible years of the Great Famine. This fact seems only to add to the mysterious atmosphere, as well as the sanctity of the place.

Labbacallee Wedge Tomb

Labbacallee Wedge Tomb

Glanworth, Co. Cork
This tomb was built two millennia before the ascendancy of the Celts, whose legends named this monument the “Bed of the Witch [or hag].” Can it be possible that a folk memory from the Late Bronze Age about the woman whose decapitated remains were found here was somehow preserved in oral tradition?

Proleek Dolmen

Proleek Dolmen

Ballymascanlon House, Co. Louth
This site may be unique in Ireland as the only ancient monument likely to hide a golf ball hit into the rough. It is situated just off the sixth hole at the Ballymascanlon House Hotel golf course.

The Giant’s Causeway

The Giant’s Causeway

Portballintrae, Co. Antrim
In legend, these 40,000 interlocking blocks of stone were the first segment of a roadway stretching across the sea to Scotland. It was built, the story goes, by Fionn mac Cumhaill so that he might battle Benandonner, his rival across the sea.

The Grianán of Aileach

The Grianán of Aileach

Burt, Co. Donegal
Bus loads of schoolchildren drive up the winding road where the Grianán of Aileach dominates the summit. As the youngsters disperse to explore the fort they may not realize that it was actually assembled in 1837 from a disorganized jumble of stones.

The Mound of Down, and Down Cathedral

The Mound of Down, and Down Cathedral

Downpatrick, Co. Down
The Mound of Down, wildly overgrown with bushes and trees, is but a short walk down the hill from Down Cathedral. The Mound dates from the Iron Age; the Cathedral was first constructed in the 12th century.

Skellig Michael

Skellig Michael

Co. Kerry
“The scene is one so solemn and so sad that none should enter here but the pilgrim and the penitent.” (Lord Dunraven, 1875)
“The thing does not belong to any world that you and I have lived and worked in: it is part of our dream world.” (George Bernard Shaw, 1910)

Dún An Óir (Fort del Oro)

Dún An Óir (Fort del Oro)

Ballyferriter, Co. Kerry
There is little left to see at Dún An Óir. The earthworks from the hastily-constructed 1580 fortification have been eroded by weather and waves. There is no evidence of the November day centuries ago when 600 people were slain on this spot.

Binder’s Cove Souterrain

Binder’s Cove Souterrain

Finnis, Co. Down
Binder’s Cove souterrain may have been constructed as a place of refuge where its owners could escape when threatened, torches ablaze as they raced into the narrow tunnel. Today’s visitors need no flaming torches; they have the benefit of solar-cell lighting.

Dunbeg Fort (An Dún Beag)

Dunbeg Fort (An Dún Beag)

Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry
In 1910 T.J. Westropp called Dunbeg “the most complex and remarkable of the Irish promontory forts.” But archaeologists have few finds from the site. Why would the prehistoric inhabitants of Dunbeg bury their refuse when it was so easy to toss it over the edge of the cliff?

Castlestrange La Tène Stone

Castlestrange La Tène Stone

Athleague, Co. Roscommon
The glory of the Castlestrange Estate has long since turned to ruin. However one remnant of its opulence still remains: the prehistoric La Tène decorated stone.

Tobernaveen Holed Stone

Tobernaveen Holed Stone

Woodville, Co. Sligo
The use of this stone in folk remedies did not end at the beginning of the twentieth century. A woman living very close to the stone was interviewed by the Gardaí about what may have been this ritual practice in the mid-1990s.

Carrowkeel Passage Tomb Complex

Carrowkeel Passage Tomb Complex

Castlebaldwin, Co. Sligo
The Carrowkeel passage tombs are only 20 minutes from the rushing traffic of the N4. But they are a world apart: a transition from a modern community to a landscape of deserted blanket bog and heather-covered hills, punctuated with jutting limestone cliffs and rift valleys.

Rathcroghan Royal Site

Rathcroghan Royal Site

Tulsk, Co. Roscommon
Rathcroghan has both a geographic and a symbolic presence. It is an archaeological treasure trove, but it also is the venue of a queen-goddess with the power of conferring legitimacy on the tribal kings of ancient Ireland.

Minard Castle, Ring Fort, and Holy Well

Minard Castle, Ring Fort, and Holy Well

Anascaul, Co. Kerry
The drama of the Anglo-Irish conflict, explosively played out here in 1650, was—more than 300 years later—the backdrop for the 1970 film Ryan’s Daughter, filmed here and elsewhere on the Dingle Peninsula.

Gallarus Oratory

Gallarus Oratory

Dingle, Co. Kerry
You can still feel the community pack
This place: it’s like going into a turfstack,
A core of old dark walled up with stone
A yard thick…
Seamus Heaney
“In Gallarus Oratory,” 1969

Knock Áine

Knock Áine

Knockainey, Co. Limerick
This sacred hill of the fairy queen Áine, who was known as both sun goddess and love goddess, was a ceremonial site long before the first stirrings of a Celtic mythology. It remains sacred for some visitors today.

Knocknafearbreaga Alignment

Knocknafearbreaga Alignment

Knockanoura, Co. Clare
These are, in legend, a band of robbers turned to stone. As Mary Harrison explains, there was something so powerful about these stones that her frightened horses would not come near them.

Tullaghan Hill Holy Well

Tullaghan Hill Holy Well

Coolaney, Co. Sligo
Although it is two miles from the sea, and atop a mountain, the well was in 1188 called one of the wonders of Ireland, as it was said to have low tides and high tides, as if it were connected to the ocean.

The King’s Stables

The King’s Stables

Navan, Co. Armagh
Not a natural feature such as a holy well, this artificial pool was dug out, and allowed to fill in with water, to create a ritual site sometime in the first millennium BCE. There is no other site like it in Ireland.

Lubitavish Court Tomb: “Ossian’s Grave”

Lubitavish Court Tomb: “Ossian’s Grave”

Cushendall, Co. Antrim
This tomb was known as “Cloughbrack” on early maps. It is unclear when it became connected with Ossian and the effort to reclaim Ireland’s ancient folkloric patrimony from the fabrications of an upstart Scotsman.

Killinagh Church and Cursing Stones

Killinagh Church and Cursing Stones

Blacklion, Co. Cavan
The ruins of the church at Killinagh, with its adjacent holy well and ruined prehistoric tomb, have long appeared to be a place with deep pre-Christian associations. This is nowhere more evident than at the large boulder known as St. Brigid’s Cursing Stone.

Doagh Holestone

Doagh Holestone

Doagh, Co. Antrim
A visitor to the Doagh Holestone might find the ground blanketed in flower petals, the remnants of a visit by newlyweds come to clasp hands through the hole. Their family and friends attend this modern rendition of a time-honored local practice, blissfully unmindful of earlier, more pagan activities at the site.

The Rock of Doon

The Rock of Doon

Termon, Co. Donegal
The Rock of Doon is a craggy eminence with a storied past and a glorious panoramic view. On its flat summit there was reputed to be an inauguration ceremony in which the tribal leader was joined symbolically with the powers of nature during a brutal pagan rite.

Ring of the Rath (Rathgall Hillfort)

Ring of the Rath (Rathgall Hillfort)

Tullow, Co. Wicklow
The nineteenth century blarney depicted by travel writers in Ireland has not gone out of style. In June of 1979 our informants delighted in the competitive spirit, each trying to outdo the other in spinning the more outrageous tale of the Ring of the Rath.

Poulnabrone Dolmen

Poulnabrone Dolmen

The Burren, Co. Clare
This exquisitely-proportioned monument sits just off a main tourist route, its spacious new parking area accommodating dozens of buses disgorging daily many hundreds of their polyglot passengers. Some arrive sadly misinformed.

Howth Dolmen

Howth Dolmen

Howth, Co. Dublin
Nineteenth-century antiquarian Samuel Ferguson believed it to be the grave of the legendary Aideen, who died of grief when her husband Oscar was slain in battle. Ferguson commemorated the site in his lavishly illuminated poetic work, The Cromlech on Howth.

Labbamolaga

Labbamolaga

Knockanevin, Co. Cork
Just below the hill from the crumbling stone oratory are four standing stones, the remains of a stone circle. The oratory’s entrance, unique in Ireland, is composed of three similar pillars. Can these have been removed long ago from the stone circle?

Dowth

Dowth

Slane, Co Meath
Dowth means “darkness.” And darkness is what’s left for the visitor today. The electricity has been turned off and entrance is generally prohibited. Dowth was named from the darkness that fell on it when the king and his sister committed an unforgivable act.

Cahergal and Leacanabuaile Forts, Ballycarbery Castle

Cahergal and Leacanabuaile Forts, Ballycarbery Castle

Kimego West, Co. Kerry
The two forts are known in Irish as caiseal, not far from the Irish word for castle, caisleán. In local legend, the distance from the forts to the ruins of Ballycarbery castle is a short one also, as they are all reputed to be connected by underground passages.

Keel East and Slievemore Deserted Village

Keel East and Slievemore Deserted Village

Achill Island, Co. Mayo
All ancient monuments carry within their stones a poignant reminder of the lives of long-departed people. However the stones of Keel East sit adjacent to an even starker memento of life gone by: an entire deserted village.

The Gate of the Cow; Kilmalkedar Keelers Stone

The Gate of the Cow; Kilmalkedar Keelers Stone

Ballyferriter, Co. Kerry
Near the town of Ballyferriter are two stone monuments vividly bringing into the landscape the stories of an enchanted cow whose milk was ever flowing. The Glas Gaibhnenn gave milk freely to all, until she was tricked by an evil woman.

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