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Where Ireland's mythical heroes lived, fought and died

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Myths and Legends
Iron Age Burial Site
Navan Centre
In name, it sounds like a medieval stronghold. In appearance, it looks like nothing more than a mound of earth. In reality, Navan Fort is neither of these things. It's an ancient place, steeped in myth and legend. Every story of Ireland's prehistoric past seems to involve it in one way or another. Often the fables are supernatural, or contradictory. Even today, nobody understands the whole truth about what happened here.
One thing we do know is that this site was in use long before the birth of Christ. It was owned by a King called Nuadh Of The Silver Hand. The name wasn't metaphorical; after losing a hand in battle, he really did use a prosthetic one made entirely of silver. Back then Navan Fort was treated with extreme reverence. It served as both a palace, and a military headquarters. Either way, it's easy to see how the mound would have given its rulers a huge sense of importance. They could stand on its 40-metre peak and survey the vastness of their territory.
The fort's original name is Emain Macha, which translates as "Macha's brooch". She was supposedly a goddess, and the High Queen of Ireland. She wanted a new palace, so she drew out its boundaries with her brooch. Then she forced the sons of her conquered enemies to build it for her.

Did You Know?

Haughey's Fort is another significant prehistoric site less than a mile from the Navan Fort. It dates from around 1,000BC and consists of a wide oval enclosure surrounded by two concentric ditches.
This tale of Navan Fort's origin is just one of the many legends that took place in this beautiful stretch of the countryside. There are poets and druids, great warriors and doomed lovers. Many of these heroic characters may never have left. Archaeologists have uncovered an Iron Age burial site, where prehistoric humans were laid to rest. Actually, for archaeologists a trip here is more exciting than Christmas. Over the years they've unearthed countless relics and artefacts that have revealed precious secrets about Ireland's past.

Photo Jon Sullivan
The discoveries to date are explained at the Navan Centre. Boredom is kept well and truly at bay with a mix of hands-on activities and video presentations. Sometimes the characters from Emain Macha's past make an appearance, to teach visitors about cooking, weaving and general life in the Iron Age. Of course, you can also see plenty of the real objects that were dug up out of the ground, over 2000 years after they were made. Buildings like the carefully reconstructed roundhouse give an even clearer picture of how people lived back then.

The Navan Centre.
Photo Henry Clark

The reconstructed Roundhouse.
Photo Henry Clark
Thanks to the nifty skills of historians and archaeologists, we know a lot about what took place at Navan Fort, and when it all happened. Nevertheless, it still seems that there are lots of mysteries yet to uncover. Perhaps even things that science wouldn't be able to explain.
Visitor Information
The Navan Centre is open daily, 10am to 7pm (4pm in winter). Entry costs around £5 for adults, £4 children. 81 Killylea Road, Armagh, BT60 4LD. Tel: 028 3752 9644

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