The Ceide Fields (pronounced something Kerrger) are probably the most extensive neolithic farming community in Ireland (possibly Europe). The site consists of fields marked by stone walls, mostly hidden below the peat bog, that cover 12 square kilometers. As well as the fields there are many hut sites, which seem to be located every second 'strip' of fields. From this the archeaologists have deduced that each family looked after two strips of land, maybe leaving one fallow each year. The main 'product' was dairy based with some crops of barley and wheat.
There is now a visitors centre here, not surprisingly built to resemble a pyramid (Why this seems to be trendy I do not know. In years to come we will look at these and say "That's so 2000!"). Anyway, the visitors centre is quite good, with lots of info boards and representations of what they think life would have been like.
I paid my Ä3.10 and went on the tour, which was quite informative but the fog really didn't help. Or did it? There's not a lot to see here really, because they left most of the remains undisturbed below the peat. The tour takes you around one 5 acre field. This field has two internal features. After the layout has been explained to you the method of investigation is demonstrated, this is a non-destructive probing technique that involves some very technical equipment - i.e. a long metal pole and some bamboo canes. This approach was used to minimise invasion into the delicate eco-system of the bog.
The main feature within the field is a hut site. This is surprisingly large with a 30m diameter. The other feature has been assigned the role of an animal pen, although some specualtion about it being a ritual site has not been ruled out, because it is unique to the area. I think this latter may be pandering to the New Age visitors though - it's an animal pen!
I was expecting to see the whole field system exposed and just seeing the tiny amount of exposure was a little dissapointing at the time. On reflection though I came away happier that so little damage has been done to the terrain. This is quite refreshing, but I can't help thinking that it was purely because of financial considerations and not due to caring for the bog. If it were undertaken in today's money driven tourist industry I am sure the excavation may have been more extensive. Then again I may be being over cynical.
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.