Louth Heritage - Archaeological

Archaeological Heritage

Early Christian Sites: monasteries and souterrains

Ardee Castle

There were once many 'Celtic Christian' monasteries in County Louth.  Many of these monastic sites have souterrains, ancient 'fall-out shelters' or 'panic-rooms'. Louth has one of the highest concentrations of these in Ireland, especially in the area between the Fane and Castletown rivers. People in this area must have lived under constant threat of attack. One of these monuments, at Donaghmore, is a National Monument. Sadly it can no longer be visited as nearby construction works have cracked some of the lintels.

Monasterboice, 'An Mhainistir', with its round tower and magnificent high crosses, is one of the finest examples of an Early Christian or 'Celtic' monastery. Monasterboice is on the Irish government's tentative list of World Heritage Sites (as part of a serial nomination ("Early Medieval Monastic Sites") along with Glendalough, Clonmacnois and others).  Louth County Council adopted a Conservation Study produced for Monasterboice in 2009, produced jointly with the Office of Public Works and the National Monuments Service of the DEHLG. 'Archaeology Ireland' published a Heritage Guide to Monasterboice during 2015 (see the 'Publications' page of this website). 

Faughart hill, site of another such monastery, is the reputed birthplace of Saint Brigid 'of Kildare', whose feast is still celebrated on 1st February each year www.bratbhride.com.  Faughart is a tremendously interesting and important site, on a high hill overlooking both the Gap of the North and the Plain of Muirthemhne. It is mentioned in An Táin Bó Cuailgne and has been the site of at least two important battles. 'Archaeology Ireland' magazine produced a special Heritage Guide to Faughart in 2007 Download 'Archaeology Ireland' Heritage Guide to Faughart.  A conservation study was commissioned in relation to Faughart by Louth County Council, in 2015, with funding support from the Heritage Council.

​Many of the other Early Christian sites in County Louth are also well worth a visit, including Dromin, Dromiskin and Louth (village). Several of these ancient sites also host ruined medieval churches and graveyards.  Anyone considering doing maintenance or conservation or even recording work in any of these old graveyards is strongly recommended to check out the guidelines published by the Heritage Council. Click on this link to go to the document on the Heritage Council website graveyard guidelines.