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Ancient Sites

Stepping stones into the past

Northern Ireland is home to a wealth of ancient, pre-Christian sites, steeped in mystery and mythology. These include the earliest site of human settlement in Ireland at Mountsandel Fort, Armagh's legendary Navan Fort or 'Emain Macha' of Irish history, and countless, intriguing stone circles, burial sites and dolmens.

Back in the mists of time, some of our remotest areas were bustling! The first known dwelling on this island was found at Mountsandel near Coleraine (7000BC).

19236_Beaghmore_Stone_CirclesFermanagh and Tyrone are especially rich in Stone Age archaeology. Atop a windswept upland or in a lakeside field, await intriguing stones and earthwork. Can you solve the mystery of the seven Beaghmore Bronze Age circles? Or the curious idols on Boa and White islands on Lough Erne? The Fermanagh lake was popular with Neolithic and early Christian Celts; its shoreline and islands full of burial and dwelling sites.


14013_Belfast_City_Hall_TourWithin Belfast City Hall grounds you can view the memorial paying tribute to the 22 Belfast men who lost their lives on the ship, and thanks to Pirrie's influence the Lord Mayor's Suite is also known as 'The Titanic Rooms' as craftsmen who worked on them also worked on the famous liner.




18125_Navan_FortVisit the spectacle of Navan Fort near Armagh, stronghold of the Ulster kings, famous in the sagas of Cuchulainn and the Red Branch Warriors.

 

 

 


17247_Devenish_IslandThere are even more antiquities from the early Christian era. Superb examples of monastic sites, gravestones, abbeys, round towers and Celtic crosses crop up in every county. The perfect round tower on Devenish Island in County Fermanagh is worth the boat trip, as is the church on White Island, overlaying Christian and earlier imagery.



Greyabbey is one of our best monastic sites, set in parkland with a medieval herb garden. Also see: Nendrum Monastery in Down, Armagh Friary, Killevy Churches, Ardboe High Cross (Ulster's first), Antrim Round Tower, Dungiven Priory (15th century tomb of an O'Cahan chief). You can even visit St. Patrick's church in Raholp and his grave in Downpatrick.

Visit the National Trust website or the Northern Ireland Environment Agency for more ideas.

Just Some Ideas

The Navan Centre, Armagh

The Navan Centre interprets one of Ireland’s most important ancient monuments, Navan Fort, the ancient capital and seat of the Kings of Ulster.

Lagan Valley Regional Park, Belfast

Lagan Valley Regional Park is recognised as Northern Ireland's only Regional Park. It covers an area of 4,200 acres and extends 11 miles along both sides of the River Lagan between Stranmillis, Belfast to Union Locks, Lisburn.

Knockoneill Court Tomb, Maghera

A megalithic tomb, dating to the Neolitic or New Stone Age (2000-4000) is found in Knockoneill. It gets its name from the semi-circular forecourt of upright stones that lead to a gallery.

St Colmcille’s Bed, Chair & Holy Well, Sixmilecross, Omagh

There are few parishes in Ireland in which there is not at least one holy well and that in many parishes there are more than one.

Knockmany Passage Grave, Clogher

On top of a steep hill, the tomb has a modern cairn over the top to protect prehistoric stones carved with zigzags, spirals and circles. Views across the Clogher Valley.

Tirnony Dolmen, Magherafelt

One mile north of Maghera stands a prehistoric tomb at least 4,000 - 6,000 years old. Dolmens are tomb structures with standing stones and a horizontal capstone, found in a number of places in Ireland.

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