Drumena Cashel and Souterrain

Drumena cashel wall)
Within the walls of Drumena Cashel

This cashel, near Castlewellan, Co. Down, is a great example of a cashel, or ringfort. It was a common type of farmstead in early medieval times, where the farm was enclosed within a strong circular wall. Drumena Cashel is roughly circular in shape, about 40m wide and with walls up to 3m thick.
Some excavations and restoration took place in the 1920’s and the present entrance to the cashel is probably not the original entrance.

Drumena CashelFoundations of a house that had been built inside the fort at some time. The long wall behind is part of the cashel wall.

Like many cashels and raths, there is a souterrain within the enclosure and this would have been used for storage and maybe also as a refuge. This souterrain is particularly well-preserved.

Drumena souterrain (3)
Entrance to the souterrain with cashel wall behind

Both the fort and souterrain are easily accessible and the souterrain is big enough to walk around in comfortably. The souterrain is T-shaped and has 2 entrances, one with steps down into it, which were probably put in when it was restored (see title photo).

It is much easier to access than many souterrains and if these are the original entrances they weren’t built to deter invaders. So many souterrains have a low entrance that you have to crawl through, or at least crouch down to get in and then just as you get inside and start to straighten up there might be a protruding stone, deliberately placed to bang your head on!
It is certainly a more superior type of souterrain than some I have been in!
Drumena Souterrain entrance (2)

Drumena souterrain (1)

Drumena souterrain (2)

One of the passages leads to a small chamber which has an air hole in one of its walls.


Drumena souterrain
Spiral shapes on one of the stones inside the souterrain



Dolmens of County Down

Some dolmens of Co. Down, from the much photographed Legananny (below) to some in  rather surprising places!

Legananny Dolmen

Built in an elevated position on the slopes of Slieve Croob  and looking towards the Mountains of Mourne, Legananny is one of Northern Irelands best known dolmens.

This extremely tall portal tomb is made of granite and has a large capstone slab finely balanced on the points of three tapering pillars.
Many dolmens are associated with figures from ancient legends and Legananny, is a translation from the Gaelic, Liagan Aine, meaning pillar stone of Aine.

Around the winter solstice the morning sun shines through the two portal stones, illuminating the underside of the capstone.


Continue reading “Dolmens of County Down”

Binder’s Cove Souterrain

Binder’s Cove, or Finnis Souterrain, near Finnis in Co. Down

Last year, when I was crawling through the wet, muddy and claustrophobic Claigan Souterrain on the Isle of Skye and getting muddy from head to foot, I thought of Binder’s Cove and longed for a bit of luxury in my souterrain exploration.
Binder’s Cove is easy to find, has parking beside the road, a footpath up to the site, steps down to the souterrain and it’s own lighting, powered by the solar panels at the entrance.

Binder's Cove Souterrain  (6)
Solar panels power the lighting for the souterrain

There are thousands of souterrains in Ireland but few are easily accessible. This well-preserved 9th century souterrain was opened to the public in 2003 after the landowner and Banbridge District Council thought that it would be a good idea to open the site to the public and give locals and visitors the opportunity to see inside what was a very common, but hidden, feature of the early Christian landscape.
Work was carried out to stabilize the stonework, install the solar panels and lighting and also improve the mud floor so that visitors don’t get muddy.


Binder's Cove Souterrain
The lights switch off automatically after 15 mins but can be switched on again by pushing the button on any of the individual lights (if you can find the light switch in the dark!). It’s amazing how quickly 15 minutes pass when you’re exploring a fairly large souterrain and when the lights went out I was glad I had my headtorch.

The main passage is 30m long and has two shorter passages of about 6m leading off on the right hand side. The entrance passage is only 1m high, so a bit of a squeeze at the beginning, but then the height increases to 1.5m.


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7. Binder's Cove Souterrain

There was some shallow water at the very end of the main passage. In this part of the tunnel my breath (at least I assumed it was my breath) appeared as a white mist in front of me – very spooky!

It is called Binder’s Cove because Binder was the name of a previous owner of the field and Cove is a corruption of cave, a common term for a souterrain in Ireland.