Craggaunowen Project is a unique, open-air museum, and a historical experience unlike most others. Set in 50 acres of lakeside woodland near the town of Quin, the project reconstructs several examples of early historic dwelling places. The complex is located near the town of Quin, and provides visitors with a trip back in time by realistically displaying the Celtic way of life in all its glory and struggle. Note: the Craggaunowen Living Past Experience Project is generally only open between the months of May and August. Check the Shannon Heritage website for details.
- The largest attraction in this 50-acre lakeside complex is Craggaunowen Castle, built in 1550 by John Sioda Mc Namara
- The original was built in the style of a fortified towerhouse, the popular form of residence for the gentry of the period
- Refurbished, it now contains many replicas of period pieces as well as originals, along with tools and implements used by the people of the Iron Age and beyond
Other dwellings exist near the castle, such as a crannog, or house constructed on an artificial island on the lake. The word comes from the Gaelic word for tree — crann. Families and their livestock inhabited these dwellings around the 6th century for protection – the only available access was by boat, or later, as times became safer, by footbridge or causeway.
An example of a ringfort is also located here. Ringforts were homesteads where families and their servants lived. They were protected by an earthen bank alongside a trench with a gap for an entrance sealed off by a sturdy wooden gate.
Displays and Exhibits
- The various displays at the Craggaunowen Project are brought to life by costumed characters that explain their tasks as they work on crafts and survival tasks, displaying skills that go as far back as the Iron Age.
- Visitors can see the struggle that early people went through for mere survival, rather than a romanticized version of history.
- One exhibit showcases the Brendan, a leather hulled currach (boat), built by Tim Severin, who, along with a crew of five, sailed it in an eventful journey to Newfoundland in 1976-1977.
- The voyage was made to prove that St. Brendan the Navigator had been capable of doing the same, as recorded, nearly 500 years before the voyage of Columbus.
- Severin’s voyage was not easy; in fact, visitors can see the repaired hole in the side of the boat created when it crashed into an iceberg
- Other exhibits include demonstrations of open air cooking and weaving, as well as daub and wattle home construction
- Period roads made of oak planks with birch runners used for crossing the bogland are displayed. Native animals include Soay sheep, wild boar, and Jacob Sheep