JN 29 (N24 AND R 512) TOWARDS WATERFORD
Scaling the 110 steps up to Hangman’s Rock, taking in the crisp air and exhilarating, unspoilt panoramas of Lough Gur, it is abundantly clear why people chose to settle here for more than 5,000 years. No view in Ireland compares to it, taking in sites from across the spectrum of mankind from Neolithic to present times. Discovering the horseshoe-shaped lake at the heart of this magical landscape is one of those wonderful rural adventures so typical of Ireland’s Ancient East. Between the towns of Herbertstown and Bruff, it’s nestled away amid hills and green scenes scattered with standing stones, burial mounds, Iron Age forts – and, so locals will tell you, the home of the King of the Fairies.
By the lakefront you can get an overview of the area’s remarkable archaeology in the thatch-roofed Heritage Centre. The centre’s design is inspired by Neolithic farmers’ houses excavated at Knockadoon, and conversations flow with the friendly faces who look after it. Then you’re itching to explore on a guided tour or simply with map in hand – plus a picnic (you can’t rush through six millennia in such tranquil and beautiful surroundings).
So you take your time, literally: wandering back to c. 2,500 BC at The Giant’s Grave megalithic tomb; imagining ancient rituals amid the 113 standing stones of Grange Stone Circle, the largest in Ireland; roaming the early Christian forts of Carraig Aille. You can dream over medieval castle ruins beside the lough and visit St Patrick’s Well, a place of veneration to this day. So many people have been captivated by this mysterious, magical landscape and now here you are at its heart – seeing, touching, feeling thousands of years of human living… You’ve become part of its story too.