Craggaunowen – The Living Past Experience, Ireland

Ireland’s award-winning ‘Living Past Experience’ pre-historic Park is situated on 50 acres of beautiful Irish woodland and lake land in County Clare. The place can be described as a Celtic Ireland recreated in a scenic setting. This place really is off the beaten track in rural southwest of Ireland but well worth the effort to navigate those winding country roads.

What Makes it Special ?

The park boasts a stunning collection of full-sized replicas of archaeological monuments from different periods of Ireland’s history. Here you can step back in time and experience life in Ireland, up close and personal, in the Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age and medieval period. Young or old there’s something for everyone here. Whoever said the Romans built the best roads should come at Craggaunowen to see one of Ireland’s earliest roadways built in 148 BC, that’s over 2000 years ago! You will also discover here, contrary to popular belief, Christopher Columbus was not the first European to set foot on American soil. Some nine hundred years ago an Irish monk named St Brendan the Navigator set sail across the Atlantic in a simple hide boat. The “Brendan Boat” built by modern-day explorer Tim Severin sailed from Ireland to Newfoundland in the 1970s, re-enacting the saint’s treacherous journey. The boat is now housed in a glasshouse in the park which is intended to symbolise the many icebergs which Brendan, and later Tim, encountered during their arduous voyages.

The park displays an impressive reconstructed ringfort and a crannóg. A crannóg is a lake-dwelling or artificial island which was approached by boat or by sunken secret causeways and stepping stones. A ringfort was an enclosed settlement where a rich famer and his family resided. Ringforts and crannógs were the dwellings of high status Christians during the early medieval period over 1000 years ago. Explore their quaint thatched houses and see how these people undertook daily tasks like cooking and pottery production.

You will find guides dressed in the fashions of the time which is an extra special bonus. There is also a reconstructed souterrain which dates to the early medieval period. This is an underground passage with chambers which was probably used as a hiding place and for food storage as they maintain a cool constant temperature of 4°C despite the temperature above ground. Kids are sure find it very interesting and will spend hours exploring the passages and playing hide and seek. But stoop low and watch your head and back to avoid injury! And if you’re claustrophobic be sure to steer clear. The castle is an authentic monument and not a replica. It was built in the mid-sixteenth century and is a typical fortified Irish tower house. Animal lovers can enjoy the company of some rare ancient breeds of animals, including the lovely Soay sheep and wild Irish boar.

Craggaunowen is a great place for a family picnic but if you’ve forgotten to prepare your own sandwiches, not to worry, the charming farmhouse tearoom has an excellent selection of local homemade treats. Enjoy the peace and fresh air of your surroundings on the tranquil walking trails which surround the lake. The park offers you the opportunity to escape the noise and burdens of everyday life.You really could spend all day enjoying the sights and scenes in Craggaunowen.

At €8 for an adult ticket and €4.50 for a child aged 5–16 years it really is a great deal! Reduced rates are available for senior citizens, families and larger groups, while under-5s go free.

How to Reach ?

The Park is a 2 ½ hour drive from Dublin City and driving really is the easiest way to get there. For those of you lucky enough to fly into Shannon Airport it’s just a 30 minute drive. Be warned the park is only open for a few months every year, usually April to September but this is subject to change. So get planning and enquire ahead before setting out to experience a day of Celtic Life !

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