Some of the Old Sites of Northern Ireland

The Old Ways

Dromena Cashel, Co Down

An early Christian period cashel and souterrain which are situated on the northern side of Dromena Hill, Kilcoo, County Down. The inner compound is surrounded by a dry stone wall approximately 9-12 feet thick. In the middle of the compound are an entrance and an exit to an underground passage that would have been used as a store and place of refuge during times of attack. There are two underground chambers accessible from the passage. The passage and chambers are constructed from earth and stone. Within the cashel are a number of stone formations which may be the remains of dwellings and the souterrain.

The wall of the cashel (a defensive enclosure of stone) is 9 ft to 12 ft thick, and encloses an area 132 ft by 108 ft. It was rebuilt after an excavation in 1926 for the Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society.
Ballynoe Stone Circle, Co Down
The site is the result of long development and a late Neolithic to earlier Bronze Age date range is likely.
Ballynoe is formed of a ring of around 60 rough boulders some 33.5M in diameter with stones up to 1.8M in height.
As with many ancient sites Ballynoe was revered and re-used during its long history, in this case during the Bronze Age, when a burial mound was constructed within the main stone circle. The mound was finished with kerbstones and then surrounded by a half circle of upright stones. It was excavated in 1937 when it was found to contain several stone cists which in turn contained the remains of several cremations.
As with all ancient circles of stone we can only take an educated guess at their purpose, although a specific entrance and the large internal space suggests its use in ritual activity of some sort (which may seem a bit vague and wide ranging but there is little evidence to suggest specifics from contemporary archaeological evidence).

To this day the site is still used for ritual and to honour the spirit world. With respect for the remains still at this site.
Dundrum Castle, Co Down
Dundrum Castle is of the many medieval castles of Ireland and certainly one of the more important and impressive. It was built by the famous knight John de Courcy, sometime around 1180 on the location of a previous Celtic fortification. It saw plenty of battles all the way to the 17th century. It overlooks the scenic Dundrum Bay and offers excellent views of the surrounding countryside. Dundrum Castle is one of the more important medieval castles in Ireland

Dundrum was initially built partly of wood and partly of stone. Part of the wall was stone, but most of the building within it were wooden and no longer extant.

Hugh de Lacy in turn invaded Ireland and defeated de Courcy taking over de Courcy’s major castles. Sometime after this date it seems that the wooden structures at Dundrum were replaced by stone ones. It is believed that it was de Lacy who built the stone tower, the Keep. The tower is interesting in that it is circular in design, something unusual for castles in Ireland, but common in Wales. The reason perhaps for the choice of design was that many of de Lacy’s men were from Wales.

Dundrum Castle saw many battles in the centuries that followed and changed hands many times. Initially it does not seem to have had a tower, but one was added and its defenses strengthened. Lord Grey captured it around 1539 and wrote of it to king Henry VIII: “I took another castell……called Dundrome, which I assure your lordship, as it standeth, is one of the strongest holds that I ever saw in Ireland”. The house at the lower end of the ward was built by the Blundell family who owned the castle after 1652.


On this site many have fallen, In the celtic times the Fortification was the high point of Dundrum where the cheiftain lived. Overlooking Dundrum Bay the fortification would have had advanced warning of approching enemy tribes, alowing the Cheiftain to call all his people to the safety for the hilltop fort.

Dumdrum has always had an important role in history. We should always remember those who give their lives defending it.


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Copyright © Patrick E Carberry 2016