A few miles outside Carlingford is a brown sign that points to a “Deserted Village” and “Court Tomb”. To describe it as a village seems inaccurate. It is more like a collection of homesteads, eight to nine buildings in total.
The entrance way reminds me of Ballynoe. A trail through the gorse opens up onto a huge hillside with a mound on the top. Sheep roam between the abandoned buildings. Hawthorn trees grow at random points. Gifts left on the trees link the site with the fairies.
The fairly folk, or Síde (from which the term Banshee comes), were known to live in mounds and to defend them ferociously. The hawthorn and blackthorn trees are signs of their presence.
There is a chamber towards the highest homestead on the hill. A stone, clearly different from the stones of the buildings, is placed at the entrance. The tone of the rock and the deliberate placement played in my imagination. Perhaps the stone was there to prevent evil spirits from entering or leaving the chamber, as is done with quartz.
The court tomb sits in a field of its own nearby.
I stopped at a rock nearby to make some notes. It is a distinctive rock, with views over Carlingford Lough to the Mournes and across the Irish Sea. Scotland is just about visible. Geocachers should look out for this stone. A horse slept among the gorse in the distance.
It was a steep ascent from here to the top. I found a throne made of stones along the way. This had by far the best view over the land itself. And, of course, show me a throne, and I’ll sit on it!
Not far from the throne was a family of horses. Two black and white adults and two younger horses; one black and brown male and one smaller, white female. I stopped and talked to them. I let them sniff my hand and they let me stroke their noses. The two adults were very friendly, the younger horses were a bit more timid. The small, white horse would not come near at all. The young brown and white one stood near and chewed on a gate post. A group of hill climbers were approaching in the distance, so I said my goodbyes and left.
The ridge was only a short climb from this point. There was a triangulation station and a view onto the next mountain. It was eerie. A cloud passed along the top making it look like a pathway to Mordor. To the other direction were more stunning views across the lough and the Mournes.
The homesteads were mostly hidden by gorse at this height. I walked back down the hills reflecting on the gorse. This really is the time of year for it. It crops up all over these sites. At the Kempe Stones near Ards the gorse has almost covered the stones completely. It’s lovely to look at and gives off a beautiful scent, but it’s spiky to touch and easily ignitable. When we were children, we would pick the yellow flowers. My granny would use them to dye eggs. We’d then throw the eggs down the hill until they were all smashed up to celebrate Easter.
A few days after my visit I got a call from a man who works at the visitors’ centre in Carlingford. I wanted to talk to him about the souterrains found at King John’s Castle. He said the souterrains were found in 2008, but, until recently, there had been trouble sourcing funding to properly excavate. The souterrains are expected to open to the public in 2018.
We talk about the “Deserted Village”. He agreed it was more like a collection of homesteads. He told me he had been visiting that area for years and only within the last couple of years had he seen people leaving gifts on the tree.
Perhaps it is not a site linked with the Síde, or perhaps it had been forgotten. Perhaps the pre-Christian ways of Ireland are returning. People are rebelling against destructive foreign churches, and against the religion of the state which offers little meaning to life. The fairies are reemerging.