Today is the start of National Heritage Week so I'm thinking about the heritage that surrounds me and how much it inspires me.
My home is in Newbliss, Co Monaghan. It had a long and prosperous history built around linen production but much of this was lost during and after famine times. I've started reading about this in recently and hope to put together a post about it soon. Even though I'm not originally from Newbliss, I loved finding out more about where I live and how it has been shaped by the past.
But in the land around me I see signs of an older history. There are four Fairy Forts in Newbliss - one of them directly behind my house. I can see another one in the distance from my kitchen window and another on the way to my children's school. The last of them is harder to spot from our home.
These forts have been around for a very long time. In the 1930's the National Folklore Collection was complied from stories collected by schoolchildren from all over the country. They detail daily life, customs, traditions and the land around them as told by the children. There is a piece in the archive about the fort behind our house.
On this August Bank Holiday Monday we went for a walk up to the fort and it was magical. We had to go through the old Market house gate which is usually locked and this added to the atmosphere - we were seeing something special. The children were chatting away and bubbling with excitement! On the way, we chatted about what a market house was for and who would have come to it over the years to buy and sell their goods.
On up the hill we went, not sure of what we'd see. At the top we found the fort. A huge circle of trees on a high bank with evidence of remains of some sort of moat-like structure around it, although it had been well worn down by cattle over the years. I took full advantage of the situation to tell the boys some dangers of fairy forts that I had been told by my grandfather, Tom McCormack in Tang, Co Westmeath. Their eyes were popping!
We hung a coat on a hawthorn before we entered the fort (in case we were trapped by the fairies) and made our way in. The views were spectacular. We could see all the roads into the village and talked about who might have needed somewhere like this - maybe as a look out!
The stillness and quiet was eerie. There was a soft breeze and the hum of bees around us. There was a lovely feeling of peace and we found ourselves whispering in case we broke the spell. It's hard to explain how important that little trip was to me.I love folklore and this had been a wish of mine ever since I became aware of the four forts. I'll never forget it and hopefully, with a bit of luck, I'll get a chance to explore the other three!