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Belderrig Valley Experience

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Belderrig, Ballna, Mayo,
Mr Declan Caulfield

Archaeological Holidays in the West of Ireland. Telling the story behind the Céide Fields and the people that first farmed them.

Experience the excitement of discovery and of hands-on research for one, two or three days in North Mayo in the most intensely researched thirty kilometres of the entire Wild Atlantic Way. Based at the Belderrig Research and Study Centre you will be introduced to the excitement of discovery in the outdoor ‘laboratory’ which is Belderrig Valley and Céide Fields and in the indoor laboratories in the Research Centre.

You will be invited to try your hand at cutting turf with a traditional turf spade and then invited to bring one of the sods you have cut to the Centre to identify some of the billion grains of botanical information (pollen) contained in the sod.

Walk among the stumps of a five thousand year old forest where you can see the evidence of ancient storms and forest fires and then return to the laboratory to examine the ring patterns of the trees for knowledge of the age of the tree when it died, whether blown down, burnt or died of natural causes.

Walk between the four thousand year old cultivation ridges on which barley was grown, then walk between the modern experimental ridges close by where a similar strain of barley is now growing and return to the centre to grind wheat and barley on primitive saddle querns and the more advanced rotary querns.

Hear the story of the fifty years of personal research, the inspiration for the research in local knowledge in particular that of the tutors’ father/grandfather in 1934 and of even older environmental research in Belderrig valley over a century ago.

In Belderrig Valley and Céide Fields immediately to the east in North Mayo are the remains of intact fields and farmland dating back almost six thousand years. Field boundaries of such a great age are unknown elsewhere in Europe if not the world, preserved intact by the protective blanket of bog which has grown over them, in places up to four metres high.

For the last fifty years, archaeologist Seamas Caulfield has been centrally involved in researching the prehistory of his native Belderrig Valley and its hinterland. Using local knowledge, his own experience of growing up in the valley, his decades of research and the research findings of many former students and other researchers, he has a unique insight into the world of our early farming communities. His son Declan, with a background in Agricultural Science now farms a sheep farm in Belderrig on the land where the prehistoric farms excavated by his father in the 1970s are located.