Meet the Past: Dolmens and Fairy Raths

fairy_rath

The past and the present in rural Ireland are balanced and closely tied up together. I want to share some photographs of ancient things taken in different years and seasons, and thank the thoughtful farmers who are the guardians and protectors of the balance.

There are about 190 dolmens in Ireland.  Dolmens have an entrance – the portal. Another name for dolmens is Portal tomb, because most of them are associated with graves.

The most visited dolmen is Poulnabrone portal dolmen  – a fine megalithic monument in the Burren, Co Clare .

dolmen

The site was excavated in 1980, and the bones of 21 people – 16 adults and 5 children –  were found. The bones were dated from 3800-3200 BC. There were also many other finds like stone tools, arrow heads, beads and even the head of a bone pin.

dolmen

The natural limestone formations in the Burren are called grykes and clints ( you see them in the image below) 

dolmen

The magnificent Proleek dolmen is also known as the Giant’s Load. It is situated in Co Louth near Dundalk, in the grounds of   Ballymascanlon Hotel.

dolmen

The dolmen  is about 3 m high and has a round capstone weighing approximately 35 tons. Legend says that a wish will be granted to anyone who can throw a pebble on its capstone so that it stays there.

dolmen

Another impressive megalithic structure is Knockeen  dolmen located near Tramore, Co Waterford.

dolmen

The dolmen is about 3 m high, and has two enormous capstones.

dolmen

Next to the dolmen is an old graveyard, quite overgrown. This is what it looks like in the end of December…

old_graveyard

A few minutes drive from Knockeen dolmen, there is another amazing megalith – Gaulstown dolmen. If you are interested, here is a Tramore area Dolmen map,  but you have to know that some of the dolmens cannot  be seen from the road.

dolmen

This is one of the dolmens that is accessible the whole year. Kilmogue dolmen, or Harristown dolmen, or Leac an Scail, is Ireland’s tallest dolmen at almost 5 meters or 15 feet from the ground to the tip of the capstone. It is situated near Templeorum, Co Kilkenny.

dolmen

dolmen

Another fascinating structure is a Fairy rath.

There are about 50.000 Fairy  raths, or Fairy forts in Ireland –  the remains of the Bronze Age – Iron Age circular dwellings. It is what the archeologists say. The ancient books say that the raths are the portals to the magical world of the Tuatha Dé Danann little people,  the fairies.

As you see, the trees grow only on the edges of the circular wall  and the central section. Why? No one knows.

fairy_rath

The ditch, or moat, is very deep, and there is no growth. Who can explain it?

fairy_rath

No one in their sound mind would cut a tree or even break a branch from a rath. Most of people believe that  if they do so, they would be followed by bad luck. Here you can read what happens if you don’t respect the fairies.   

fairy_rath

The Fairy raths were used as burial grounds for the  babies who died before they could be baptized, and had thus been denied  a burial in the Church grounds.  If the Catholic God would not accept the little ones, the ancient Gods would accept them. Babies buried in raths were thought to be protected by the fairies.

Thank you for taking a trip to the ancient places with me! Hope you enjoyed the reading.
IneseMjPhotographyHave a great week!

57 comments

    1. Thank you Cynthia! Sorry for the late reply – I was down with flu 😦 Ireland is so rich with history. Some places are sinking into earth, but still visible from the airplane. Those are the most ancient, probably going back to the fairies’ times 🙂

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  1. Recently, I started working on my ancestry only to discover that on both sides many of my ancestors originated in Ireland a couple of hundred years ago–1700s or late 1600s. In fact, my last name is not what I had thought most of my life but is originally Lytle from Ulster born there in 1680–currently it is spelled Lightle. Love these blog posts because they relate to something I am working on–researching and writing poems related to the ancient Cosmic Mother and the indigenous religions.

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment! I am not going to Ulster often, otherwise I would take pictures for you 🙂 What area exactly are your ancestors from?

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  2. A lovely and fascinating insight into Ireland’s ancient past…I’m sure the fairies would be pleased with your photographic chronicle of their homes. Lots of good luck coming your way!

    Vijay

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  3. Inese: This is a wonderful posting even for an individual such as myself that has her feet squarely planted in the facts and nothing but the facts. Sounds terribly boring doesn’t it? I can almost see a group of fairies at play; perhaps they are barefoot only to dance faster and therefore chase the ribbons faster. Your photographs are lovely with there added elegant mystical charm. They fit this piece perfectly.

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    1. Sheri, thank you so much for your lovely comment! I know you love the facts but I am certain you also know a thing or two about fairies, having that beautifully tended garden of yours 🙂
      My best wishes
      Inese

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  4. Ancient burial stones and fairy raths are such fascinating subjects. When I get a chance to spend more time, I will follow your links. It is past midnight and I have a ten hour day on Tues.which I wake up at 6 and report to work at 7. A little bit about me, but also hoping you know I wanted to learn more on these subjects. 🙂

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  5. Thanks so much for this lovely post Inese. I visited the one in the Burrow (a friend who was living there at the time showed me and my parents around) and it’s a magical place indeed. I understand why the fairies would live in Ireland. ♥♥

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  6. I love this post so much, I learned a lot when reading this. I wonder how people in the past created the dolmen without machines! The fairy rath is a new thing for me, I will respect those places for sure – the trees are certainly too beautiful to get cut!

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    1. Thank you for taking the tour with me, Indah! 🙂 Archeologists think that originally the portal stones were buried in earth, and only the capstone was left outside. It means that now the dolmens look even more impressive than at the time they were built 🙂

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  7. Great Photos, and a really lovely tour of the Old Stones. I’m wondering, did you notice the face on the tree trunk in the 13th image you posted (the first image of the rath)? It looks like you had company!

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    1. Thank you for loving my tour! 🙂 No, I didn’t see the face, but I see it now! Isn’t it a little man? I was there with a friend who kindly showed me the place – don’t know if I find it myself… I would love to go again and see if I get more experience. The Little People can be very friendly when they need a favour from you 🙂 May be he needed my help or something? Thank you so much for your comment!

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  8. Inese, this is great. I’ve been to Ireland twice and not seen these. Perhaps next visit. I’m glad you included some people in the iamges to give some scale to these structures. My gosh, they’re huge. Thank you for posting….Cheers

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    1. Thank you, and I am really glad you liked the post. There are also Standing Stones, but I leave them for another time 🙂 Some of the dolmens are easy to access, some not so. Do your research before you go. Yes, I included people to bring scale – it worked 🙂 Thanks again! Have a great week!

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  9. I always like to see old stone structures that seem impossible to put together during those time. I have not heard of them before or have seen them. They are fascinating.

    The trees that grow only on the edges of the circular wall and the central section are even more mystical.

    A great tour and love the music too.

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    1. Thank you for taking the tour! 🙂 The trees are a mystery. No one planted them. They grow and die and grow again, years after years. This place should be overgrown with all sorts of flora by now. It is simply fascinating.

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  10. I enjoyed this post very much. I visited the Burren with my sister and her family about six years ago. Love the dolmens and all the ancient sites of Ireland. Your photos are wonderful and love the music, too!

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  11. Dear Inese, thank you for these glorious powerful photos — and the perfect music to listen to while viewing! I’ve seen pictures of dolmens, but didn’t know what they were called. The idea of calling them portals really resonates with me. This is a beautiful post in so many ways. Mega hugs! 🙂

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    1. Thank you for your lovely comment, Teagan! There is something in the air when you enter a fairy rath or walk around a dolmen. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had hidden more secrets than it seems. I believe in supernatural, it is why I love your writings. Hugs and best wishes! 🙂

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