[Rath, Co. Antrim]

A cross-section and overhead plan of a typical rath or ringfort of the kind found in Co. Antrim. They show a subterranean passage with lateral chambers, and two banks separated by a ditch. The souterrain descends vertically into the mound from its summit, starting near the inner face of the inner bank. From the narrative it appears that this plan may be based on one of the ringforts found in the two parks belonging to Shane's Castle. Barrow remarks that there are not less than fifty of them there.

Inscribed in Image

  • Caption outside of boundaries of image – A B, Section through the diameter.
    C D, Moat, or ditch.
    E F, Original summit of the hill.
    G, Subterranean chambers.
    g, Passage to subterranean chambers.
  • Text within boundaries of image – [clockwise from left, each plan in turn] E C A g B D F G; A B g

Image Details

Genre Scientific or Technical illustration
Subject(s) Antiquities and archaeological sites, Forts and fortifications
Geographical Location
  • Antrim - County
  • Ulster - Province
Keywords(s) Plans, Ringforts, Souterrains
Colour Monochrome
Published / created 1836

Bibliographical Details

Travel Account A Tour round Ireland [Barrow]
Print or manuscript Print
Location of image in copy p. 30
Source copy National Library of Ireland Ir 9141 b 3

Related text from travel account

But before I leave the vicinity of the Lough [Neagh], I must mention to you another object of antiquity to be met with in thousands in this country, and [p. 30] which are in multitudes around the shores of Lough Neagh. These are the raths, or what are usually called – improperly, I should think – Danish forts; as they are found in numbers far exceeding those which the invading Danes could erect, and in places where the Danes never set foot. They are constructed, if such a term can be applied to them, on hills, or little eminences where such are to be found, if not, on the plains. They are all circular, and most commonly complete circles, surrounded by a sort of breast-work, from which they slope down to a moat or ditch that runs round them. A section through the centre would be thus represented: –
[image: Rath, Co. Antrim]
[p. 31] Though usually on the summit of hills, they are not unfrequently, at least in the neighbourhood of Lough Neagh, on the plain. Sometimes they are planted with trees. The word rath is understood to mean safety, security; and the probable conjecture is that, when Ireland was in a more savage and disturbed state than now, these raths served as so many fortified habitiations, in which whole families lived together with their cattle, as places of security against the depredations of their neighbours or some common enemy. Many of them are now disfigured and demolished, but are easily distinguishable rising above the common surface. In the Ordnance Maps they are marked as forts. I am disposed to think that my frend Crofton Croker, who knows more of the history of Ireland than most people, is right when he says, "To me it appears probable that these works were thrown up by the native Irish around their little wigwam settlements, as a defence from any sudden attack from an enemy, or from wolves, and that subterranean chambers or cellars were formed for granaries, or as secure depositories in time of danger for their rude property." Why should not their wigwams have been within the entrenchments? Miss Beaufort mentions something like ruins being found in some of the large ones, which are supposed to have been the castles of the kings or chiefs. The perfect state in which numbers of these raths are found is ascribed by Mr. Croker to the gross superstition of the peasantry, who regard them as the [p. 32] abode of "good people" or fairies, and who believe that some severe misfortune would befal [sic] the person who should be indiscreet enough to disturb them. In the two parks of Shane's Castle there are not less than fifty of these raths, many of them planted with fir and other trees. Some few mounds, such as those we call barrows, were also planted. [pp. 29-32]
Rath, Co. Antrim