Forts from the prehistoric age are not as rare in Ireland as one might think, some are in near perfect condition, even some of those that were constructed thousands of years ago. Here are some of the best ones that we have come across:
Dun Aengus is a fantastic example of a stone fort which is thought to be over 2000 years old! It is perched on top of a cliff edge about 300 ft above the Atlantic Ocean.
The fort is said to have been built by Aenghusa who was a chief of the Fir Bolg – so it translates as the ‘Fort of Aenghusa’.
The impressive stone fort has three enclosures to defend against the enemy. If you look closely enough at one of the walls you will notice vetical, jagged rocks pertruding at an angle. This type of wall is called a chevaux-de-frise and is designed especially to trap the enemy.
The attraction affords magnificent views of the island and the Connemara coastline. It’s open all year round and there is a small fee. (The fort is accessed by foot through some uneven terrain so it might not be suitable for the elderly, children or people with disabilities).
Dunree Fort is now a military museum. It was established at the end of the eighteenth century during the Napoleonic wars and maintained as a fort until about a decade ago.
This fort has attracted visitors from all over the world. They are many facilities at the Fort of Dunree for you to enjoy, such as; Scenic Walks, The Guns of Dunree Exhibition, The Rock Hill Collection, Cafe and much more.
Aughrim, just off the main road to Galway, and 8km from Ballinasloe was the scene of the Battle of Aughrim on 12th July 1691, which largely decided the outcome of the course of Irish History.
Here the Williamite forces defeated the mainly Catholic Irish and French forces under the leadership of the French General, St Ruth, who was killed in the battle. There are two ringforts situated here each with a diameter of about 100 feet and surrounded by a six foot high bank.
Although ring-forts of earth and stone had their origins in pre-history, possibly in the Bronze Age, this type of enclosed settlement continued in use for a very long time and became very numerous in the early Christian period. Some, indeed, were rebuilt or extended in the Middle Ages as defensible homesteads even though by that time mortared castles and tower-houses dominated the countryside. Cahermacnaghten, 4 miles east-north-east of the spa resort of Lisdoonvarna, was occupied as late as the end of the seventeenth century and for some time previously had been the teaching centre of a celebrated Gaelic law school conducted by the O’Davorens.
A deed of 1675 shows that it was then inhabited and lists the dwellings standing inside the cashel, which has a diameter of just under 100 feet, as well as other property outside the wall. Of these structures only unintelligible fragments remain, but the well built cashel is substantially intact and has remains of an interesting late medieval two-tiered gateway.
Located on the beautiful Ring of Kerry is Staigue Fort. It is not known for what the fort was used but Staigue Fort represents a considerable feat in engineering and construction. It was built without the use of mortar, using just stones placed at a slight angle, lower on the outside than the inside to allow water to run off.
Most famous of the great circular stone cashels, Staigue is also one of the best preserved and conveys a fair idea of how the larger Iron Age fortifications must have looked in their day. A building combining exceptional strength with unexpected architectural flair, it was plainly more than a vernacular ring-fort.
It invites comparison with the Grianan of Aileach in Donegal, with which it shares certain features, and like it may have been a royal residence in the last pre-Christian centuries. Its secluded situation, ringed by a ridge of hills at the head of a narrow valley with a view south to the coast, is very beautiful.
The cashel wall is notable for its uniformity and there are many interesting features for you to see.
The famous star shaped fort can be found 3km from Kinsale. As one of the largest military forts in the country, Charles Fort has been associated with some of the most significant events in Irish history. The most momentous of which includes the Williamite War in 1690 and the Irish Civil War of 1922-23.
The fort has two enormous bastions overlooking the estuary, and three looking inland. Within its walls were all the accommodation requirements for the garrison of the fort and their families. To see how they lived really is a worthwhile experience. Why not visit the exhibition that’s on site too?
The Navan Centre interprets one of Ireland’s most important ancient monuments, Navan Fort. The Ancient capital and seat of the Kings of Ulster. From the ‘Real World’ of archaeology travel to the ‘Other World’ to hear legends of the Ulster Cycle. Visit the unique Iron Age/Early Christian period dwelling and, through Living History interpretation, learn about a past life. Finally, walk the path of history to the Navan Fort, the Ancient Seat of the Kings. Exhibitions are multilingual.
Summer Opening: 1st April – 30th September, Monday – Sunday 10.00am – 7.00pm, last admission @ 5.30pm.
Winter Opening: 1st October – 31st March, Monday – Sunday 10.00am – 4.00pm, last admission @ 3.00pm. Other times by arrangement for Tour Groups or Educational visits.
Admission Rates 2011
Adult £6.00 OAP £5.00 Child £4.00 Family £16.50 Group Adult £5.00 Group OAP £4.50
Group Youth £4.50
On top of the hill there is a double ring of stones which once retained a mound of stones. At the most northerly point of the ring there is a Passage-tomb with short passage, and a stone basin bearing faint decoration. Towards the south-south-west of the ring there is another Passage-tomb, this time with five recesses off a central chamber, and two stones decorated with spirals. The third and earliest grave is in the north-western portion of the ring, overlain by the stones of the inner ring. There are also other minor structures. The passage-tombs were built in the Late Stone Age, but in the Early Iron Age (500 B.C – A.D. 500?) surrounded on the outside by a large defensive stone wall, while further down the hill-slope are two further concentric stone walls which probably also belong to the Iron Age fortificatory system.