Rathmichael Wood

The area around Rathmichael is home to a wonderful array of historic sites that span thousands of years. With spectacular views over Bray Head and the Irish Sea, it is easy to see why this has been such an important place for millennia. 

Rathmichael Hillfort

The earliest visible evidence of human activity here is the hillfort that encloses the summit of Rathmichael Hill. It may date as far back as the Late Bronze Age. This large enclosure has a diameter of between 120 and 140 metres. The circumference is marked by a stone and earthen bank with a ditch or fosse outside this. Hillforts are thought to have been important places of gatherings, celebrations and ritual in late-prehistoric Ireland, and a fine socketed spearhead that was discovered here reflects the high status of the site. The elevated site, of course, would have commanded a strategic position overlooking the surrounding countryside. At the centre of the hillfort, a smaller enclosure is thought to be a ringfort from the early medieval period. The name Rathmichael means Michael’s rath or fort. It is interesting to note that the nearby church is dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel.



Rathmichael Church

Rathmichael Church has been a place of worship for centuries, and this important church site is a National Monument. It is believed that Comgall of Bangor, an influential early Irish saint, founded the first monastery on this site some time in the sixth century. Part of the ancient monastic enclosure can still be seen in the gently curving stone walling to the north-west of the church. Other evidence of the early phase of the monastery here is in the form of the stump of a round tower that once stood here in around the tenth century. The remains of the tower became locally known as ‘The Skull Hole’ as in more recent centuries it became the repository for all the disturbed and disarticulated skulls and bones from the graveyard.



Rathdown Slab

Rathmichael also has a number of unusual gravestones known as the Rathdown Slabs. These graveslabs bear abstract decoration that is believed to be influenced by Viking art. Also within the graveyard you can see traces of an inner monastic enclosure, and a depression that may mark a souterrain – an underground stone-lined chamber that served as a place of refuge and a cool dark place ideal for food storage. The remains of the church that you can see today are believed to date to around the thirteenth century and it possibly stands on the site of an earlier church.



Puck's Castle


Puck’s Castle was probably originally constructed in the fifteenth century, at a time when King Henry VI gave a generous subsidy of £10 to anyone who would build a castle within ten years to help to fortify The Pale. This tower house was built by Peter Talbot, the owner of the manor of Rathdown, to defend the territory of the Pale from attacks by the O’Tooles.  During this time south Dublin would have been very vulnerable to attacks from the native Irish tribes of the Wicklow Mountains. Puck’s Castle was one of a string of fortifications  built in south Dublin and northern Wicklow during this turbulent period. According to local tradition, King James II sheltered within the castle for a night during his flight southwards after his defeat by King William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. The unusual name ‘Puck’s Castle’ may derive from the Irish word Pooka meaning a ghost, perhaps suggesting an old belief that the castle is haunted. The castle is also associated with the mysterious and unexplained disappearance of a local young woman, Jane Sherrard, in the nineteenth century, who was last seen picking flowers in the area.



Text and Photos: Abarta Heritage

Link to Rathmichael Wood Recreation Site and Map.



Archaeology Sites in the Dublin Mountains

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10