Fairy Castle | Two Rock Mountain
Two Rock Mountain is one of the most popular hikes in the Dublin Mountains where walkers are rewarded with superb panoramic views. Like the other hills, it is filled with archaeology, history and folklore. Ballyedmonduff Wedge Tomb, perhaps one of the finest of its type in Ireland, lies on the south-eastern slopes of the hill. The summit of Two Rock itself is crowned with a large cairn that is believed to cover a Neolithic passage tomb, known locally by the evocative name of Fairy Castle. The sub-circular, flat-topped cairn measures some 27 metres in diameter and is 3 metres high, and has never been excavated. It is the easternmost of the complex of passage tombs found on the summits of the Dublin and Wicklow mountains. An important aspect of these mountain-top passage tombs is that they are inter-visible with each other. From Two Rock Mountain, the passage tombs to the west on Montpelier Hill, Tallaght Hill, Saggart Hill and Seahan Mountain can all be seen.
The name ‘Two Rock Mountain’ likely comes from the large granite rock outcrops, known as tors, on the slopes of Two Rock Mountain, created by erosion and weathering of the rock. The old name of the site has not been confirmed, but archaeologist Christiaan Corlett believes it may have been Sliab Lecga, or Lecca Cenn Sléibe, meaning the ‘the Mountain of the Flagstones’. This may be the same Sliab Lecga that features prominently in the Togail Bruidne Dá Derga (the Destruction of Da Derga’s Hostel), as the last stage of the reavers’ journey before they attacked Da Derga’s Hostel. It may also feature in the old set of poems in the early medieval The Metrical Dindshenchas: “Mount Lecga, the next spot/ prepared against ruses and pillage/ is the fifth bright “knot of testing,”.
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Fairy Castle on Two Rock Mountain • Dublin
The Escape of Red Hugh O’Donnell
Dublin Mountain Way • Dublin
Hugh Roe O’Donnell, better known as Red Hugh O’Donnell, was the leading claimant to the title of Lord of Tyrconnell in Donegal. In the turbulent years at the end of the 16th century, the English captured Red Hugh and imprisoned him in Dublin Castle to prevent him from forging an alliance with the Earl of Tyrone, as the English feared that such an alliance would threaten their hold over Ireland.
No-one had managed to escape the dark depths of Dublin Castle, but this did not stop Red Hugh from trying, firstly in 1591. It is said that during this escape, he crossed over Two Rock Mountain to seek refuge with Felim O’ Toole who had his stronghold at what is now Powerscourt. O’ Donnell was recaptured not long after, but made a second successful attempt in January 1592. This time he succeeded in reaching Fiach McHugh O’Byrne in Glenmalure, although his fellow escapee, Art O’Neill, perished from exposure in the freezing mountains. O’Donnell’s escape is still regarded as a key event in Irish history. He returned to Donegal to become leader of the O’ Donnell clan and forged an alliance with Hugh O’ Neill in the Nine Year’s War which came so close to overthrowing England’s hold over Ireland.
Ultimately all their efforts ended in failure after the Battle of Kinsale in 1602. Like many other Irish leaders, Red Hugh left Ireland in the Flight of the Earls, and went to Spain in the hopes of returning to Ireland with a large Spanish army. His dream was never to be realised and he died in 1602. An English spy, James Blake, claimed to have poisoned him, though that is the subject of debate. He was buried in Valladolid’s Chapel of Wonders – the same church where Christopher Columbus was interred almost a century earlier. Archaeologists are currently seeking his final resting place, and his time spent in the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains may just be the thing that allows them to identify his remains. According to accounts, he lost the big toe of each foot to frostbite in the freezing mountains.
Upper left: a walker takes in the view from the summit • Lower left: the cairn on the summit of the probable passage tomb • Right: the trail to the summit
Top: a walker takes in the view from the summit • Middle: the trail to the summit • Bottom: the cairn on the summit of the probable passage tomb
Fairy Castle & Two Rock Mountain Visitor Information
An enjoyable hike to a Neolithic passage tomb and an excellent opportunity for an escape from the bustle of the city.
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