Category: Northern Ireland

Proleek Portal Tomb, Legananny Dolmen and Binder’s Cove Souterrain

On our short trip to Northern Ireland we ended up seeing prehistoric and historic sites (as usual) and these are three of them. 

The first one is just South of the border in the Republic of Ireland. Proleek (’obscure’) Portal Tomb is a large structure over twice my height, which was likely built by farming communities around 3000 BC and would have had a burial mound around it. The large stones served as an entrance to the tomb. 

The second one is called ‘Legananny Dolmen’ and is found in County Down. It is much smaller, but also impressively held up by pointy stone pillars. ‘Dolmen’ probably comes from the Breton word ‘tolmen’, meaning ‘stone table’, which refers to the flat stone on top. Again, built by the same type of people around 2500 BC to 2000 BC. The surrounding area derives its name from this dolmen, which means ‘The Pillar Stone of Anya’. Anya is a mythological mother goddess, who the legendary warrior Finn MacCool fell in love with.  

Just a few miles from Legananny Dolmen is a souterrain, known as ‘Binder’s Cove’ or locally as ‘Finnis Souterarrain’. This is probably a left-over from early medieval Christian times, when people lived in ring-forts. Souterrains generally ran below or near ring-forts and were likely designed to protect people from raids with a narrow entrance, which could be easily defended. This particular one is likely from the 5th century AD. The main tunnel is 30 meters long and about 1.5 meters high (ducking is essential) with some alcoves branching off, which may occasionally have been used for storage. 

Northern Ireland vlog on Youtube. 

We went for a short trip to Northern Ireland in October and visited quite a few prehistorical sites, such as dolmen, burial cairns and a souterrain (crawling into a badly lit tunnel basically). I couldn’t help myself to include the interesting history of the Brontë Family since we visited a place on the Brontë Homeland route. I also attempt to play the folk tune ‘Brian Boru’s March’. Enjoy! 

Slieve Croob and the surrounding countryside, Northern Ireland

Slieve Croob can be translated to ‘Mountain of the Hoof’ and though it is not very high (534 m), it is apparently over 380 Million years old, even older than the Mourne Mountains, which you can see looming on the other side. This whole area was once shaped by big ice sheets pushing down from Donegal during the Ice Age. On top of Slieve Croob you find the 12 Cairns, which are Neolithic burial chambers (possibly put together from one big one originally). Neolithic farming communities would settle in the fertile valleys below between 4000BC and 2000BC and they have erected many impressive stone structures all around the area. Slieve Croob was also traditionally the place where Lughnasa was celebrated, the festival dedicated to the Celtic sun god Lugh. It was celebrated in August to prolong the period of sunshine into the harvest months. People would pick bilberries (also known as ‘blaeberries’, giving it the name ‘Blaeberry Sunday’) on the way up and then sing, dance and play the fiddle. This was done on Slieve Croob well into the 1950s.

A Northern Ireland vlog is up on Youtube. 

Slieve Gullion, Northern Ireland

There is a Neolithic passage tomb on top of the hill. I could just about stand in it. It was an incredibly hazy day so the view was limited, but the walk was nonetheless enjoyable. I came away with a bag-full of litter from that walk, plastic bottles thrown into the heather because it was the convenient thing to do. If you see litter on a walk and you have the means to pick it up, please do. 

Ballynoe Stone Circle, Northern Ireland

At the centre of this stone circle is a Neolithic grave. The path that leads there, as well as a little tree growing next to it, are decorated with fairies, painted stones, beads and small personal items. Pagan customs seem to be alive and thriving in Northern Ireland. 

Inch Abbey, Northern Ireland

This ruined Abbey was one of the sets for the series Game of Thrones. Surely enough, just before we left, the Game of Thrones tour descended upon the place with their black cloaks and weapon and armour props. Good timing for us. 

St Nicholas’ Church of Ireland Church in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland

The church famously has a window depicting Santa Claus, who derives his name from St Nicholas. 

St Nicholas’ Church of Ireland Church in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland

The church famously has a window depicting Santa Claus, who derives his name from St Nicholas. 

Carrickfergus Castle, Northern Ireland, is a Norman castle built in 1177 and besieged in turn by the Scottish, Irish, English and French. It was garrisoned continuously for 750 years and used as recently as WWII.

Carrickfergus Castle, Northern Ireland, is a Norman castle built in 1177 and besieged in turn by the Scottish, Irish, English and French. It was garrisoned continuously for 750 years and used as recently as WWII.