A deserted country lane in deepest darkest Roscommon.
The brooding crest of a drumlin ridge overlooking seven early medieval ringfort enclosures.
An ancient cup-marked standing stone, tapering upwards in hushed red hued glory, still fulfilling its original function. A prehistoric boundary marker. Thus far shall thou go and no further.
Me. A few years ago. On the trail of a 7thC Irish Bishop and his textual landscapes. The earliest contemporary historical reference to an early medieval Irish lios or lis – denoting ‘the space about a dwelling–house or houses enclosed by a bank or rampart; a ringfort, or circular earthwork’. When he had first written it down, 1300 years ago, he had helpfully qualified it as ‘ardd senlis’, i.e. a placename which suggested an early medieval enclosure, probably situated on an ard, or height, and already considered sen, or ‘old’ in his day.
Hence the reason for my being there. On the crest of a drumlin ridge. In a townland littered with seven early medieval enclosures. Looking out towards two of them in a field beyond a field situated on its highest point.
Standing awkwardly on the grassy bank at the side of the country road, I took the picture above – electing to exclude the barbed wire and electrified fence I was carefully leaning over, with its repeated ‘Please
Fuck off Keep Out’ Signs strung out along the property line.
Thus far did I go. And no further.
I trudged back along the country road to a more friendly looking gate on the other side of the lane. No barbed wire. Tied only with string. Half sagging from its neglected hinges. A recent ‘Land For Sale’ sign hanging off it.
I had done my homework beforehand. Pouring over desktop maps and aerial photographs, I had come up with alternative targets in the event of the above. This gate overlooked the opposite side of the drumlin, and the almost imperceptible remains of a ‘ghost road’ – a grassed over boreen on one side of the field – leading down towards a sleepy river valley. Hidden somewhere down there in white-thorny overgrowth was a medieval church ruin.
“I’m interested in this land for sale”, I thought to myself. And vaulted the gate.