Raths (also called ring forts) are the most common ancient monuments found in Ireland and would have been the most common form of farmstead in use during the second half of the first millennium, particularly from around 600-900AD.
The remains of about 40,000 raths can be found all over the country and Corliss, in Co. Armagh, is a particularly fine example.
Raths were circular in shape, with defensive banks and ditches and wooden palisades, although those with impressive tiers of banks and ditches may have been built for status as much as defence.
Corliss is quite a large rath with two tiers of defensive banks (bivallate) and a deep ditch. It stands proud on a hillock with commanding views over the countryside of Co. Monaghan and South Armagh. The beech trees planted by the landowner over a century ago accentuate the height of the rath and add to the ambience of the site today.
The rath looks impressive as you walk up to it from the Corliss Road.
Going through the well-defined entrance into it, there’s a wonderful sense of tranquility and I soon became aware of what a haven for wildlife this is, with many small birds singing in the trees and wildflowers such as bluebells, primroses and wood sorrel flourishing within the sheltered banks.
Looking out across the countryside it was easy to imagine people living there over 1,000 years ago and looking across the same countryside as I was today.
In the centre of the large grassy area on the top of the rath is the entrance to a souterrain – another aspect of the defensive nature of the site.
Raths were built at a time when there would have been a need to defend themselves, as well as their cattle and food stores, from marauding cattle raiders and Vikings. Souterrains were built inside or beside the farmstead, as a place of temporary refuge and for somewhere to store and hide food.
The dry stone walls and roof lintels of this perfectly preserved L-shaped souterrain