Navan Fort

Top choice in Counties Down & Armagh

Perched atop a drumlin, Ulster's most important archaeological site is linked in legend with the tales of Cúchulainn and named as capital of Ulster and the seat of the legendary Knights of the Red Branch. Exhibits at the Navan Centre place the fort in its historical context, and display a re-creation of an Iron Age settlement.

It's 3km west of Armagh City; take bus 73 (seven daily Monday to Friday).

Known as Emain Macha in Irish, Navan Fort was an important centre from around 1150 BC until the coming of Christianity; the discovery of the skull of a Barbary ape on the site indicates trading links with North Africa.

The main circular earthwork enclosure is a whopping 240m in diameter, and encloses a smaller circular structure and an Iron Age burial mound. The circular structure has intrigued archaeologists – it appears to be some sort of temple, whose roof was supported by concentric rows of wooden posts, and whose interior was filled with a vast pile of stones. Stranger still, the whole thing was set on fire soon after its construction around 95 BC, possibly for ritual purposes.

From April to September, actors in period costume are on hand to demonstrate life in an Iron Age settlement as part of the Navan Centre's excellent living history tours (included in the centre's entrance fee).

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