'Corlea Ancient Trackway' : Visitor Centre

Grid RefN 103 625
Longitude7° 50' 39.69" W
Latitude53° 36' 44" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownLongford (13.2 Km)
OS Sheet40
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192
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Visit Notes

Sunday, 21st September 2003

This place should be held up to the world as a shining example of how to preserve and present pieces of heritage.

When, during peat cutting, another buried wooden trackway was uncovered it was recognised as something special. Excavations began and shortly a criss-crossed network of upto 57 different tracks spanning from Neolithic hurdle tracks to the main attraction - a 1km long wooden track dating back to 148bce (dendro dated). This track proved to be a large enigma. It is the widest of its kind so far uncovered in Europe, but its purpose remains a mystery. It traverses a section of raised bog from one edge to an 'island' of higher ground - Corlea - or the Grey Mound.

The trackway is wide enough to take carts, but saw very little use, having hardly any signs of wear upon it. This prompted a few questions, not least of which is ... Why was it built if it wasn't used? Was it a ceremonial track? Here we go again, "Can't Quite Understand" = "Ritual Site", but you have to admit upon consideration it does seem peculiar.

Once the excavations were completed an 18m length of the track's timbers were preserved. A purpose built centre was erected over the original location and then the trackway was put back exactly where it was. It was constructed by laying tree trunks along the route and then placing transverse oak planks across these: This gives the impression of a train track upside down. Mortices were then cut into the ends of most of the planks and pegs were driven down into the bog to stabilise it.

Oddly no piles were erected to support this massive structure and so it sank below the surface of the bog within 10 years. This adds to the theory that it could have been built for a one off use or at least just a limited period of usage.

Sadly, because this is built 'in situ' the centre is remote. This makes visitor number very low. Newgrange sees 1000s of visitors every day, Corlea gets just 6000 during the 6 months it is open each year.

As someone wrote in the guestbook - "This is Ireland's best kept secret." Well, one of them anyway.

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The centre is only open from April to September inclusive.

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About Coordinates Displayed

This is an explanation of (and a bit of a disclaimer for) the coordinates I provide.

Where a GPS figure is given this is the master for all other coordinates. According to my Garmin these are quite accurate.

Where there is no GPS figure the 6 figure grid reference is master for the others. This may not be very accurate as it could have come from the OS maps and could have been read by eye. Consequently, all other cordinates are going to have inaccuracies.

The calculation of Longitude and Latitude uses an algorithm that is not 100% accurate. The long/lat figures are used as a basis for calculating the UTM & ITM coordinates. Consequently, UTM & ITM coordinates are slightly out.

UTM is a global coordinate system - Universal Transverse Mercator - that is at the core of the GPS system.

ITM is the new coordinate system - Irish Transverse Mercator - that is more accurate and more GPS friendly than the Irish Grid Reference system. This will be used on the next generation of Irish OS maps.

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