I arrived at 11:00 at Dún Ailinne.
So far I have found little information about this rath only that it was the place at which the Leinster Kings were coronated. It is one of the 5 main centres in Ireland each of which are related to their “Cuige” Irish for “ province” when Ireland had five and not four as it has today.
I arrived on a road that I could barely get a glimpse of it from, but straight away I could tell there were ancient satellite mounds nearby that could be seen from the road that were quite big in themselves.
But Dún Ailinne is not easy to find. I could not even find access to it at first. I had very little time and I decided to try and walk straight to it across the fields. Straight away I could get a sense that this was the biggest rath I had ever seen in ireland in my life. It was a fairly steep hill and when I approached the edge of the rath itself it was completely surrounded by a dense hedgerow full of what I would soon discover to be dense brambles, thorns fencing and barbed wire.
I got to the lip of the very deep and wide trench which. There I saw a solitary rabbit sitting there in the glorious sun of the day. She was not perturbed by my presence and seemed to indicate that this place was full of burrows and hidden features. Indeed I was to discover in later research that there are stories of tunnels that go under this mound .
I eventually made my way through this wide and steep trench up to the higher inside edge of the next incline. There through the hawthorns I caught my first glimpse of the rath’s peak. It was a fair distance up to it but I began to realise why it was called Dún Ailinne which can be translated, as one interpretation goes, from the Irish as “Beautiful Fort” There a quite a number other interpretations of the name though, which I outline below. But I certainly caught a very beautiful and far reaching view of the surrounding country. I found myself to be quite high up to get such a panoramic view overlooking the Curragh to one side , a wide plain that the Celts in ancient times kept and raced their horses upon. a tradition that continues to this day as anyone that has visited the curragh races knows .
Then I came across the three large rocks that were up at the top in a hollow beside a small mound . I wondered if this was once a dolmen and I wondered if the mound beside the three rocks hid its large missing capstone ? One of the three large rocks had shallow post holes drilled into it as if someone had once stuck their staff into the rock there. This is a feature call a cup mark which is found on numerous rocks at theses ancient sites that there has been much speculation about. Some say that people made fire by drilling wood into these cup marks. In other centres these cup marks are often surrounded by concentric rings giving the impression that it may represent a star or planet in a greater scheme of design often found on these rocks.
Straight away you began to wonder if the stones were pointing at significant peaks in the surrounding landscape . I felt that the alignment of the rocks emphasised certain peaks on the skyline . There was one distinct pointed mountain in a south easterly direction that seemed to be framed by the position of the rocks. But perhaps the important alignments to be discovered probably related more to the night sky than the day . In fact you can see all of the Dún makers world looking quite like it was at the time it was originally constructed. The entire countryside can be seen north, south, east and west without obstruction. This immediately grants the viewer immense perspective and creates a feeling of completeness , capturing a moment in time perhaps a moment that encourages a transition also within the viewers own experience, a feeling of seeing something from afar symbolically as well as physically . The world below is less important in its smaller parts now seen here as an immense encompassing of everything into oneness. The ritual meaning of the landscape here and the long roads that lead to the Dún can be seen in all directions as a microcosm of the entire world beyond its local horizons. When you look closer at the etymological meaning of the sites name there is much more to be understood. See more in Part 3