Archaeological Sites in the Omagh Region

An overview of sites of archaelogical interest in the Omagh region

Historic monuments are relics of a cultural heritage extending back over 9000 years. They are a unique part of the historic environment to which people relate in a variety of ways. They have inspired poets, painters and writers for centuries, and local communities have a strong sense of ownership of their own particular sites.

Such features also provide a resource for education and tourism. They can be included in walking and cycling trails, used as marketing logos, or as emblems for particular districts. Monuments come in various materials—large stones, earthworks, masonry ruins—and all have a contribution to make to the landscape. In mid-Ulster, we are fortunate to have many fine examples of these structures. Outlined below are just a few to whet your appetite.

Creggandevesky Court Tomb

Creggandevesky court tomb sits on a low rise with commanding views over the surrounding countryside. It was excavated between 1979 and 1982 when the surrounding land was reclaimed from bog. The tomb is orientated northwest southeast, with a semi-circular forecourt at the southeast end. The remains of at least 17 individuals, together with flint, beads and pottery, were found in the tomb. The dead were both cremated and buried. It was built between 5000 and 6000 years ago in the late Stone Age.

Cregganconroe Court Tomb

This court tomb is 18m long and 12m wide, and is situated 3km south of An Creagán. It has two main chambers and is thought to have been a burial place for a group of people living and farming in the area between 3000 and 2000BC. This tomb has not been excavated, thus making a good contrast with Creggandevesky tomb, which is in the same area.

Relignaman Women’s Graveyard, Carrickmore

The name Relignaman comes from the Irish relig na mban, meaning women’s graveyard. It is a small sub-rectangular enclosure, approximately 19m across, surrounded by a grass covered stony bank. According to local tradition, it is located sufficiently far from St Colmcille’s church in Carrickmore so as the ringing of the bell will not wake the dead.  Another tradition is that the saint decreed that no living woman or dead man should enter it. It probably dates to the early Christian period.

Aghascrebagh Ogham Stone, Greencastle

Ogham is a script that consists of a series of notches and strokes to represent different letters of the alphabet. The inscription usually consists of personal or tribal names and is the earliest form of the Irish language. It is usually carved along the edges of a large upright stone, beginning at the base and running upwards and over the top if necessary. The inscription here is badly worn but probably reads Dotetto maqi Maglani, meaning ‘Dotetto son of Maglani’. It was most likely erected a few centuries after the birth of Christ in the late Iron Age.

Dunmisk Enclosure

This site was probably originally a prehistoric earthwork, which was subsequently modified and used by an early Christian monastic community. It sits on the prow of a gravel ridge with a commanding view of the Camowen valley. When it was excavated in the mid-1980s, more than 500 graves were found, as well as the foundation trench for a rectangular timber building, probably a church. Evidence was also found of glass making and iron smelting.

Mullaghslin Rath

Mullaghslin rath sits on a small sandy hill with a view over the Camowen river valley. It consists of a roughly oval central area surrounded by two substantial earthen banks and ditches. A rath was an enclosed farmstead of prosperous farmers and aristocracy of the early Christian period. Most raths have only one enclosing bank and ditch, so the presence of two at this site indicates that people of high status might have owned it originally.

Athenree Portal Tomb

Situated near Carrickmore, 7km south of An Creagán, Athenree is a portal tomb or dolman. The tomb collapsed when one of the two stones broke, causing the large capstone to slip and swing forward. This is reputed to be one of the largest capstones on a portal tomb in Northern Ireland.

Loughmacrory Wedge Tomb

Located 3km from An Creagán, this burial chamber has a front chamber and a doorway marked by three stones, double walls made of large upright stones, and a roof constructed of flat stones. It is known as a wedge tomb because of its unusual shape and is believed to have been constructed around 4000 years ago.

St Colmcille’s Bed, Chair and Holy Well

There are few parishes in Ireland in which there is not at least one holy well and written references indicate there were once at least eight wells in the immediate vicinity of the village of Carrickmore.

Wells were often venerated in pre-Christian times, not only as dependable sources of water, but because they were believed to relieve various afflictions. The Christian church resented form of paganism at first, but as this worship was attached to long held beliefs, church authorities soon began to bless the pagan wells and other objects such as stones and trees. Because of its location on top of a rock, it is unlikely that surface water could supply St Colmcille’s holy well, yet it reputedly never dries up.

Copney Stone Circles

On the slopes of Copney Hill are eight complete or partial stone circles only recently dug out of peat. Each circle is filled with set stones, in some cases concentrically, and some with a central small cairn. There is also an alignment of low stones running down the hill. To the northwest is a cairn some 3m in diameter and 1m high with its large capstone still in place, and 100m further east is an arc of eight low stones.

Dun Ruadh

Dun Ruadh, meaning ‘Red Fort’, is situated near the site of Crouk School, about 7km north of An Creagán. This is a large circular burial cairn surrounded by a ditch and bank. The cairn is made of a ring of stones with dry walling between them, and inside there are 13 cists or burials. This cairn was built around 4000 years ago in the Bronze Age.

Beaghmore

Discovered during peat cutting in the 1940s, the site at Beaghmore consists of seven stone circles. All of the rings are associated with cairns, and a stone row runs towards these cairns. Some irregular lines and heaps of boulders resembling field fences or field clearances may predate the ritual structures. At some stage peat started to form over the site, and it may be that the cairns and rows were erected in a futile propitiatory attempt to restore fertility to the soil by attracting the fading sun.

Sweathouses

There are sweathouses at Creggandevesky, Rousky, Granagh and Copney. They appeared approximately 300 year ago for medicinal and curative benefits.

Cappagh Old Church, Dunmullan

This site consists of the substantial ruins of a church to which a south transept was added at a later date. Both gables survive. On the southeast corner there are finely carved chamfered quoins. The main body of the church dates to the sixteenth century, but this site may have been used as a church site since the early Christian period. A bell associated with this parish, known as the Cappagh Bell, is in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

Dromore Church

This ruined church is situated on a rocky promontory on the outskirts of Dromore. It was probably built in the early seventeenth century. It consists of a rectangular nave 20m long by 7.5m wide, with a 7m square transept projecting from the middle of the south-facing wall. A number of architectural details survive, including several windows. The building is surrounded by a disused graveyard.  At the base of the promontory below the church is a spring, known locally as the Eye Well. It is believed to have curative powers.

Lackagh Old Church and Stone Carving

This church probably dates to the early seventeenth century, but almost certainly is on the site of earlier medieval churches. There is a stone carving in the graveyard to the southeast of the church building. One face depicts two figures in profile, apparently wrestling. They may represent Jacob wrestling with the angel, a scene that appears on a number of high crosses. According to local tradition, the stone is supposed to mark the grave of Siamese twins. It may date to the early Christian period.

For further information, please contact the An Creagán Visitor Centre, Omagh, on +44(0) 28 8076 1112 or email info@an-creagan.com

© Omagh District Council 2004

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