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Uncovering the Past – The Geology and Archaeological Heritage of South East Ulster Area

Uncovering the Past – The Geology and Archaeological Heritage of South East Ulster Area

This region is a unique place of great beauty and fascinating history. People have lived here for some 6,000 years and surviving today is a rich inheritance of Pre and Post Christian historical sites to be explored. The area contains the remains of twenty or so large stone tombs or Dolmens. Many of them, such as Ballymacdermott, are situated in prominent positions with magnificent views over the surrounding countryside. The South Cairn on the summit of Slieve Gullion has the distinction of being the highest surviving Passage Tomb in Britain and Ireland and an outstanding example of a portal tomb can be found at Ballykeel. Excavations at several of these burial monuments have uncovered stone tools, pottery and human remains. Many more historical attractions are waiting to be explored such as Killevy Old Church and the 17th century Moyry Castle, built as an outpost to guard the gap of the North.

The geological and natural heritage of the region is just as captivating. It is characterised by the undulating countryside known as the Ring of Gullion, a series of low-lying hills that encircle the heather-clad Slieve Gullion Mountain. This complex owes its dramatic mountainous origins to massive volcanic forces, which occurred around 60 million years ago. The ring of small mountains and hills encircling Slieve Gullion are technically known as a ring dyke. The Ring of Gullion is claimed to be the most spectacular example of a ring-dyke intrusion in Western Europe. Over the years this site has attracted geologists from all over the world and featured in a number of new theories that have been put forward to explain the unusual rock relationships identified. Some of these theories have now become an accepted part of geological science.

This is in contrast to the neighbouring Mourne Mountains, which were formed over 56 million years ago. They are comprised of 12 peaks over 2000 feet high, including Ulster’s highest mountain, Slieve Donard. The Mournes are unusual in that their summits are grouped together in a compact area only 7 miles in breadth. Valleys intersect at varying width and depth while the mountain slopes descend to the sea and low-lying drumlin topography to the west and north.

The South East Region of Ulster has been marked out as a special place by the people who have lived in the area over the years and their feelings about the landscape have been expressed through the ages in local literature, poetry, music, folk, history and art. This thriving heritage has survived until the present day and offers a warm and friendly welcome for those wishing to experience the unique culture of the area.

There are a very limited number of hard copies avaiable from the Ring of Gullion Officer in the Tourist Information Point in Crossmaglen or in Tí Chulainn Cultural Activity Centre, Mullaghbawn.

Lottery Funded
NIEA DoE N&M DC Biodiversity

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Ring of Gullion AONB
Crossmaglen Community Centre,
O’Fiaich Square,
BT35 9AA.

Tel: +44 (0)330 137 4898


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