Before we traveled to Ireland in 2008, we learned about a recreation of an Bronze Age Village called The Cragganouwen Project. We had a large scale book-type map of the roads, but even so, navigating to Cragganouwen proved a challenge. We drove on country roads barely wide enough for one car, with vegetation brushing the sides of the car at some points. You know that kind of road–it makes you begin to doubt whether you’re in the right place, or whether it is even worth the trip.
When we arrived at this site, we knew instantly that it was definitely worth the trip. Because we arrived rather late in the afternoon, and there were no other tourists around, we missed seeing the recreations by costumed workers showing how Iron Age people lived in this area, but our imagination ran wild, anyhow.
Several types of architecture from different periods appear. The village known as Crannóg stands on a man-made island, includes a watchtower and protective walls of the type built between 500 and 1000 A.D.
A ring fort was built around the buildings of a farming family, rather than the kind of fort we are used to. This one represents a farmstead dated to the 4th or 5th century and perhaps used in later centuries as late as the 12th century
The methods of building these approximately 1600-year old houses impressed me–particularly the roofs. Remember these are recreations. In this damp climate the original reeds would not survive in tact.
Walking the paths through the quiet woods in this 50-acre site, you come to other fascinating finds, such as a dolman, a standing stone, and a pit that was filled with water. Why? Archaeologists are still trying to figure it out. One of my favorite things was this “corduroy road” which was apparently widely used in the Iron Age to get through the marshy peat bogs. Logs are laid across a packed earth pathway. I had read about these being used by pioneers in the United States, but had no idea they were so ancient in origin.
And if you want something a bit more modern, you can also visit the 16th century tower house on the property, and the leather-sided ship that replicated the voyage of St. Brendan (who discovered America, doncha know?). All in all, Cragganouwan Project makes for a very worthwhile detour from the better known attractions in County Clare, Ireland.
Now, as to how you get there?
From the website: The Craggaunowen Centre is located 10 km east of Quin, in County Clare, Ireland. The route is clearly sign posted at several junctions on the main N18 Limerick-Galway route, off the R462 from Cratloe, and the R342 and R469 from Ennis.
Have you visited any off-the-beaten-track sites in Ireland?
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