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Exploring a Fairy Fort: A Journey Through Time | by Mary Montague
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Exploring a Fairy Fort: A Journey Through Time | by Mary Montague


During my childhood summers, the sound of a corncrake could be heard from the hay meadow below this hill. However, that meadow has now been replaced by a housing estate. The area where I am standing, however, has remained relatively unchanged. The traditional stone gateposts may have slightly slumped over time, but even back then, their caps were missing. I am currently in Drumkeen, a townland located near the border of south-west Northern Ireland. Townlands are small divisions of land with Gaelic origins. The term is still in use today due to the strong sense of loyalty and attachment they inspire, often exceeding that of parish or county.

I am en route to a fairy fort, which is the remains of a ringfort or rath from the medieval period. These structures are circular earthen mounds surrounded by trees and typically housed a settlement. They may have served as a defense against attacks from neighboring clans. Fermanagh has many of these forts scattered on top of its drumlins. Some, such as those in Monavreece and Letterboy, have two raised banks, one within the other. The rath in Letterboy is particularly large, with enough space for horse-drawn carriages and over a hundred cattle.

The reason I am here is not extravagant. However, during my childhood winters, when I hurried to walk the dog before the sun set after school, it felt like my own victory. As I reminisce, my eyes are drawn to another hill in the vicinity. My stomach flutters with memories. I remember when the previous owner of the hill destroyed its fairy fort, an act that was considered taboo. It was risky to anger the fairies, who were believed to be representatives of the supernatural world and included our predecessors and their druids.

I continue walking through a deserted field. The hedges are mostly filled with beech trees, which were originally planted to improve the appearance of the land when it was part of the Blennerhasset estate. A group of these trees surrounds the fort in an elegant circle. As I approach a gap in the fort’s rampart, a hawthorn tree stands guard and allows me to enter. In gratitude, I touch a thorny branch. Suddenly, as I make my way towards the mound that marks the center of the rath, there is a commotion. I look up through the branches and come face to face with a fairy, who glares at me. Her wings made of yellow and blue gauze flutter as a blue tit flies away.

Source: theguardian.com