About the Ring of Gullion
Human habitation in the Ring of Gullion is said to have occurred for at least 6000 years and a rich inheritance of historic monuments survives to mark the duration of that settlement. The area contains the remains of 20 or so large stone tombs and the King's Ring at Clontygora, and the Ballymacdermot tombs are two of the best examples of Court Tombs in the Northern Ireland. The monument at Ballykeel is also an outstanding example of a Portal Tomb while the South Cairn on the summit of Slieve Gullion has the distinction of being the highest surviving Passage Tomb in Britain or Ireland.
During the eighteenth Century, the last great age of Irish language literature, the Ring of Gullion was known as the District of Poets or District of Songs. Well-known poets associated with the area included Seamus Mor MacMurphy, Art McCooey, and Peadar O'Doirnin.
Places to see and a brief history
From the Irish Doirse, which means 'Doors' or 'gates', this Iron Age earthwork is located at Dorsey on the western edge of the Ring of Gullion. The structure consists of two roughly parallel massive earth bank and ditch ramparts over a mile long lie astride an old routeway to Eamhain Macha (Navan Fort, near Armagh - the ancient capital of Ulster). Recent evidence dates part of the monument to around 100BC, contemporary with a major phase of activity at Navan and lending support to the tradition that the Dorsey was once the 'gateway' to Ulster.
The function of the Dorsey is a matter of debate. It has been suggested that it was a defensive enclosure related to the Black Pig's Dyke whilst others suggest that it was simply to serve as two lines of linear embankment and was not an enclosure at all. Otherwise, it has been speculated that the site had a ritual function, however, its true purpose has yet to be determined.
From the Irish Cill na Sagart for Church of the Priests, this 2.8-metre pillar stone is held to be possibly the oldest dateable stone monument in Ireland. An inscription on the stone reads "In loc so Taninmarni Ternoc mac Cernan Bic er cul Peter Apstel", or that Ternoc the son of Cernan Bic put the place under the protection of Peter the Apostle. As Ternoc's death is recorded in the annals of 714 or 716, the stone can reasonably be dated to around AD700.
The stone marks the site of an early Christian cemetery and a church was probably located close by. Excavations at the site in 1966 and 1968 revealed an early Christian graveyard with graves oriented radially around the pillar and facing towards the rising sun. The stone stands on the ancient road which ran from [Tara] in County Meath and through the Moyry Pass to Dunseverick Head on the North Antrim Coast (Sighe Midhlachra), and close to the modern border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
From the Irish Cill Shléibhe for Mountain Church, this site held one of early Christian Ireland's most important early monoastic sites. Founded by St Monnina in the 5th century, the site at the foot of Slieve Gullion is largely restricted to two adjacent churches, a graveyard, the reputed grave of St Monnina’s grave, and a small holy well still visited by pilgrims on her feast day, July 6th. The West Church dates from 11th Century. It is the smaller and more ancient of the two with an impressive lintel doorway. The East Church dates from the 15th century and has an impressive arched window with angel carvings still visible.
Following plundering by the Vikings in 923, monastic life continued and the site was occupied by the Augustinian Nuns until 1542 with the dissolution of the Monasteries.
Just to the south of Jonesborough lies a strategic mountain pass known as Moyry Pass or the 'Gap of the North', above which Lord Mountjoy built Moyry Castle on a rocky
outcrop in 1601, a year after his capturing the area for the crown. The pass itself market the most favoured ancient route between the provinces of Ulster and Leinster as it was said to be the widest route through which an army could pass while under attack. Now ruined, the castle was built as a three storey tower with rounded corners and gun loops and can be clearly seen from the modern railroad line (laid in 1852).
The area in which the castle is located remains mountainous and boggy although no longer heavily wooded and little remains of the stone bawn wall which once surrounded the castle bar one stretch to the south east.