Irish National Heritage Park

I had been meaning to revisit the Heritage Park at Ferrycarrig since it re-opened, so when a friend suggested we visit I was delighted to accompany her. The park, which has been extensively refurbished, takes you on a journey through Irish History, from the mesolithic period to the Norman invasion in the 12th century. There are 16 sites in total in the Park, but I have selected a number of the more interesting ones.

Mesolithic Period

The first site shows two structures from the mesolithic period 9,000 BCE. These two structures are 1/3 of their original size. The smaller one is more typical of the type built in Ireland. The taller teepee type are known as a 'Howick house' and were found in Northumbria. House@

Typical Irish House

Neolithic Farmstead

The first inhabitants mainly lived by the coast and lived on a shellfish diet, during the mesolithic period the hunter-gathers lived on a diet of seafood, hazelnuts and wild boar.

Neolithic Period

A short walk through the woodlands brought us to a Neolithic Longhouse; with a small structure alongside used for storage. The Neolithic period began in Ireland c.4,000 BCE and by this time the inhabitants had become farmers. They started to cultivate cereals, mainly wheat and barley, they also kept animals such as oxen, sheep and goats. The Céide Fields, a neolithic farmed landscape covering about 10 square kilometres, was discovered under blanket bog in in North Mayo during the 1930's

As well as farming, pottery also arrived during this period, many examples have been discovered throughout Ireland. But probably the most striking things to appear were the megalithic monuments. Well over a thousand of these megalithic structures still adorn the Irish landscape. The vast majority of these monuments can be divided into four groups, passage tombs, court cairns, wedge tombs and portal tombs. Site number 3 is an excellent replica of a portal tomb. It has a cairn to the rear and reminds me of the portal tomb at Ballykeel in Armagh.

Bronze Age (2,500 BCE- 500CE)

Site number 5 is an example of a recumbent stone circle. These consisted of a number of stones that were graded in height, from the two portal stones down to the large recumbent stone. One of Ireland's finest and most popular examples is Drombeg in County Cork.

Stone Circle

One of my main reasons for visiting the park was to see site number 7, the rather impressive ringfort. They were mainly built between 500CE and 1,000 CE. In Ireland ringforts have a number of names, Rath and Lios refers to earthen ringforts and Caiseal, Cashel, Cathair, Caher or Cahir refers to the stone forts. The one in the park is an earthen type complete with a wooden palisade. The image above was taken from the back of the ringfort looking toward the entrance tower. The ringforts were defended farmsteads, and the wealthier farmers would display their status by building large stone forts. More than 40,000 thousand examples of ringforts have been recorded in Ireland. Some of the finest stone forts can be found in Counties Kerry, Galway and Clare. Here are a few of my favorites, Cahergal and Staigue, Co Kerry, Dun Eochla in Galway and Caherdooneerish in County Clare.

Palisade and Ditch

Hut Interior

Early Christian Monastery

Christianity came to Ireland in the 5th century. The first monks like St Enda, St Patrick and St Declan established churches throughout Ireland. By the 10th/11th century these wooden churches had been replaced by larger stone churches, many of these still survive today. Site number 8 is an example of an early irish monastery. It features a stone church similar to St Flannan's 11th century oratory in Killaloe. At the centre of the site is a painted replica of the north high cross in Castledermot, County Kildare. Other features of site 8 include, a scriptorium and a herb Garden.

Another form of defended homestead, site number 12, was a Crannóg. The word is derived from Crann-meaning tree, wood, timber. These timber homesteads were constructed on mainly artificial islands in lakes and rivers. Crannógs were used over many thousands of years up until the 17th century. Other sites at the park include replicas of a Viking boatyard, a round tower, a water mill, an ogham stone and a not very impressive Norman fort. From the fence behind the round tower there is an excellent view of the River Slaney and Ferrycarrig Tower House. The park is open all year round and if you are in the area I would recommend a visit. Click here for more information e

Situated: Three miles west of Wexford Town, off the N11. Heading south on the N11 turn right about 300 metres after Ferrycarrig Castle. The Heritage Park is on your left.

Discovery Map 77: T 0103 2287. Last visit Aug 2017.

Longitude: 6° 31' 2" W

Latitude: 52° 20' 54" N

Google Map

Photos: Jim Dempsey.

Ferrycarrig Tower House

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