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Ceide Fields, County Mayo

Ceide Fields view over water by Barbara Ballard Ceide Fields is Irelandís most extensive prehistoric site, covering 3707 acres of grounds. Field systems, enclosures, stone walls, and 30 court tombs lie preserved under a 5000-year-old bog, replete with mosses, lichens, heathers, sundews, milkworts, orchids, bog cotton, and other plants. Itís the oldest known field system in the world, dating to Neolithic times and, because it was buried by peat, preserved intact.

Ceide Fields visitor centre by Barbara Ballard Situated in a dramatic site along the ocean-hugging, cliff-hanging northern coast road of county Mayo, the siteís part peat-clad and part-limestone and glass, pyramid-shaped visitor centre rises above 370-foot high cliffs. The award winning building offers exhibits and an AV presentation.

4500 year old Scots pine by Barbara Ballard The star of the exhibition is a 4300-year-old Scots pine tree. At the top of the pyramid is a platform with views over the ocean and the fields.

The film, Written in Stone, and the exhibitions explain the history of the place and give information on the geology, archaeology, botany, and wildlife of the area. They tell of the lives of the people who lived here: their society, beliefs, and daily life. They were peaceful farmers who reared cattle and possibly grew wheat and barley. They first had to clear the forests from the area. Clearing the land turned it into grassland, but eventually the soil changed into bogland, possibly due to the 225 days of rain per year along this coast.

The prehistoric remains were first discovered in the 1930s when a local man was digging turf. But it remained to his son, an archaeologist, to put the picture together 40 years on. In addition to the field walls and tombs, shards of pottery, part of a plow, and arrowheads were discovered. A guided tour skirts the boundary of a five acre field. The site is not fully excavated (four square miles have been done) partly due to its size but also in order to preserve it. Iron probes were used to find solid objects under the peat, thus the walls and tombs were located, giving a picture of stone age living.

The nearest town, Ballycastle, is a resort with a long sandy beach. The town holds an Irish festival in June.

Visitor Information

Ceide Fields
County Mayo
On the on R314, five miles west of Ballycastle.
Tel. 0 96 43325
Open: mid March-end Sep, 10am-5pm March-May, June-Sep until 6pm; in winter to groups only by advance booking; guided tours available.
AV presentation; self-serve food; disabled access to ground floor of exhibition; car park.

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