Around the Navan Fort

    Speak to anyone from Armagh and they will no doubt tell you that the city is the “ecclesiastical capital of Ireland”, meaning a place considered paramount by the followers of particular religions.
    And without doubt within this historic city cathedrals, churches, gospel halls and graveyards are aplenty and it’s history is awash with religious connotation.
    But before the surrounding city was developed, a nearby five hectare site which contains the remains of a large fort led to the discovery of the origin of this ancient city.
    While the mound at Navan Fort is not really visible to the Armagh skyline, and is not easily recognisable from anywhere within the city, panoramic views of the city and outlying areas can be enjoyed from the mound at the top of this historic site.
    The site is approximately two miles from the city centre and takes around 30 minutes to walk to.
    Upon arriving at the main entrance, a short walk around the outer circumference of this almost perfect circle is recommended.
    With its steep banks and walkways along the lower ditches of the earthwork, it gives a true feel for how the inhabitants of the day would have defended the lower areas of this small fort.
    After circling the lower section, a more challenging climb faces you to the highest point on its mound at the top, where the views of Armagh City, neighbouring Milford and beyond welcome you.
    Walking around the upper mound really gives you the feel of this mystical site. Home too many Irish legends and retold in stories known as the Ulster Cycle, which centre on King Conchobar who ruled from Emain Macha (Navan Fort).
    The legends of this area is said to have inspired writers and artists, including W.B. Yeats.
    A short walk down the stone paths leading away from the main entrance to the fort will take you through countryside to the nearby Navan Visitor Centre.
    The Centre features some of the artefacts found in the area and audio-visual exhibitions of the fort and its history, which was opened in 1993.
    Within a short walking distance of the fort there is other significant prehistoric sites. These include The King’s Stables and a man made pool also dating to the Bronze Age.
    The King Stables is located in a very tranquil area and is thought to have been used for sacrificial purposes.
    Many of the Bronze Age artefacts in the Visitor Centre have been found in the pool at the King’s Stables which was also used by the inhabitants of neighbouring Haughey’s Fort.
    Haughey’s Fort is approximately one kilometre to the west of the Navan Fort and is named after the farmer who owned the land.
    The large hilltop enclosure that is Haughey’s Fort is a Scheduled Historic Monument (a monument of national importance) in the town-land of Tray.
    It consists of a 350 metre oval enclosure surrounded by two concentric ditches. Inside this enclosure another ditch encloses an area of 150 metres in diameter.
    Archaeological excavation shows that it was occupied in the late Bronze Age circa 1000 BC, after which it was abandoned, although some artefacts discovered were of Iron Age date, suggesting that it was later reoccupied again.
    Well worth spending a few hours on this educational walk that gives great insight into the history and foundation of Armagh City.

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