Tuesday, 30 October 2012

more small adventures in Ireland

My obsession with ancient Ireland continues unabated. Our latest jaunt brought us to Mountsandel Fort (above) in Coleraine, near my hometown. Mountsandel is the oldest known inhabited site in Ireland with finds dating from 7900BC and it perches high on a rather picturesque bend in the River Bann. 
Excavations have shown that the site was continually occupied throughout every period of settlement in Ireland,  in the Mesolithic and Late Neolithic; as a promontory fort in the Late Bronze Age / Early Iron Age, as a motte in the 13th Century and as a fort, possibly an artillery emplacement, during the 1641 Rebellion.
Today it is largely forgotten about, bar the odd local out walking their dogs.
This is another really fascinating ancient earthwork which I'd never heard of until recently, despite being only about ten miles from my hometown - it blows my mind just how many remnants of our celtic ancestors there are scattered about this country, if you only know to look for them.
The earthworks are known as the Lissanduff Circles and take the form of two pairs of concentric rings (raths) dating from the early Bronze Age. The main rath would have been a large standard enclosure used as a fortified home for people and animals, these were built in defensive locations to offer maximum protection from raiders.
The farthest set of concentric banks are more intriguing, they are oval in shape and have a water spring at their centre. Archaeologists have discovered that non-porous clay was used to line the banks of the oval in order to create a deep pool of water, which would have been used for water rituals.
The raths (or the 'Dark Fort' as it is known locally) sit just behind the beautiful beach and sand dunes of Portballintrae. We visited on a particularly 'refreshing' day! 
And lastly, a small wander through Downhill Forest where we discovered that Autumn has well and truly set in round these parts and indeed winter doesn't feel too far off. Alas I fear my beautiful new bell tent that I recently bought may have to lie in storage until next year. 
Where have you been adventuring?

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