Where is the highest mountain in Kildare?

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Dún Ailinne, Co.Kildare
Dún Ailinne from Old Kilcullen churchyard

So here’s a question: What is the highest mountain in Co. Kildare?  And the answer is: Cnoc Ailinne – at 183 metres above sea level, it lies southwest of the village of Kilcullen.  Normally, it’s not accessible to the public but last Sunday, for once in a blue moon, we were allowed to visit.

Ok, so it’s not quite a mountain but there’s an incredible view in all directions from its ‘summit’ so perhaps this was the reason that it became the ancient ceremonial site of the Kings of Leinster -ie- Dún Ailinne.

It is similar to the other ancient royal sites in Ireland – Tara, Rathcroghan and Navan Fort, and it felt just as wonderful to be there.

photo of Dún Ailinne from the air. source Monumental Ireland
Dún Ailinne from the air.  photo: Monumental Ireland

As our guide and chief archaeologist Susan Johnston said: “People have been coming here for one reason or another for 6000 years or so – and heck, ain’t that something?”  There is evidence of its earliest use from the Neolithic period (4000-2500 BC), continuing through the Bronze-Age (2500-500 BC) and into the Iron Age (500 BC – 500 AD) when activity at the site reached its peak.

As with the other royal sites, Dún Ailinne does not seem to have been a permanent residence but instead, was mostly used for some form of ritual or ceremony. Although a stone axe was discovered there last Sunday, most finds are evidence of feasting:  large amounts of bone from cows, sheep, pigs, deer, and even horse.

(We had our special Tuna sandwiches, with tomato, onion and mayonnaise)

photo by eoin maclochlainn of susan johnston at Dún Ailinne
Archaeologist Susan Johnston at the dig on Dún Ailinne

The site consists of a massive circular enclosure, ringed by an earth bank and ditch known as a “henge”. In fact, it is the largest henge in Ireland with a circumference of 1.45km.  Needless to say that constructing a henge like this with rudimentary tools would’ve been a huge logistical operation so… (ahem) heck, ain’t that something!

By the way, since this ancient site is on private farmland and you can’t normally visit, the best view of it is from the churchyard in Old Kilcullen (where there’s a round tower and some remnants of high crosses).

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Old Kilcullen round tower
Round tower in Old Kilcullen churchyard

And finally, my regular readers probably noticed that I didn’t write last week. That was because we were caught up with the dreaded Covid. Now, luckily we weren’t too bad but I’m thinking of taking it easy for now, maybe only write fortnightly for a while, we’ll see. I hope you don’t mind…

In the meantime, keep an eye on the Olivier Cornet Gallery website – all sorts of interesting things happening there.

https://www.facebook.com/monumentalireland

https://www.oliviercornetgallery.com/

16 comments

  1. Hi Eoin. Hope you and Fionnuala are over the Covid. Myself and my son Finn also had it last week. All good now. I visited part of Kilcullen myself recently, and it is quite a place indeed. Thanks for your blogs; but yes, do take it easy old friend

    Niall Mac

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  2. Heck! Ain’t that something?!
    Is it worth a photo?!

    🙂

    Go bhfága Dia an tsláinte agaibh…

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  3. As one of your regular readers, I was concerned for your welfare. So relieved you have weathered the COVID and are on the mend.

    And that Dun Ailline is definitely something and a lot more!!

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  4. Hi Eoin, Sorry to hear the dreaded Covid finally caught you. I hope you are feeling much better. Once a fortnight for summer anyhow. Take care. Niamh

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