Emerald Isle


Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore, Irish fairy tales and More Irish Tales and Legends

Crannógs of Ireland, prehistoric dwelling places for the people of Ireland

Crannógs, the name meaning "young trees" for reasons which aren't too clear, were dwelling places for people in Ireland from the time of the Tuatha de Dannan right up to the seventeenth century. They were built on shallow lakes or pools on top of tree trunks stuck into the lake bottom, piles of rocks, mud and other debris or on natural islands.

They were very defensible as you either had to swim or make your way across the narrow causeway connecting the crannóg to the mainland if you wanted to attack the place, getting through a gatehouse where people were raining down arrows on you in the meantime. Sometimes the path to the crannog would be slightly submerged under the lake's surface, coloured as the lake, and it would be difficult to cross unless you knew where the path was in the first place.

They were usually quite large, twenty five meters across and raised almost two meters above the surface, surrounded by a wooden palisade wall. The buildings within would have been made of wood and wicker as well. The bigger ones are called royal crannógs because it's assumed they were the homes of powerful persons of high status. There was usually enough room for the livestock as well in any case, to protect them from raiders and predators.

Even more interesting than these comfortable and well protected abodes was the way they often had escape tunnels which came out through and under the lake in secluded areas nearby. The locations of these tunnels were a well-kept secret, as you didn't want your enemies sneaking across in the middle of the night!

Larger crannógs and defensive positions often had networks of tunnels beneath them, labyrinths almost, with protective "creeps" or stile-like obstacles in them. Sometimes engraved magical ogham stones were used as roofing material to support the tunnel walls.

Today you can visit reconstructed crannógs at places like Quin, County Clare, adjacent to 16th century Craggaunowen Castle. Crawl through the tunnels and experience for yourself a taste of what life might have been like in the times of the ancient heroes of Ireland!

Crannógs of Ireland

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