Stroll Through Ireland’s History at Craggaunowen

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Ireland has an amazingly vast history for such a small island. Celts, Picts, Vikings, Normans, and the English all called Ireland theirs at one time or another. A stroll through Ireland's history at Craggaunowen takes you from the late Bronze age (1200-500 BC) through the Elizabethan Period (1558-1603) in an interactive history lesson that is both fun and easy to understand.

Walking at Craggaunowen, County Clare, Ireland
Strolling Through Ireland's History at Craggaunowen

Visiting Craggaunowen

Located in County Clare, just east of Ennis, a visit to Craggaunowen can easily be combined in a day trip to visit the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, or Bunratty Castle.

Relying on our sat nav got us close to the Living Past Experience, but it was the signs, sometimes difficult to see, that finally led us to Craggaunowen.

Soay Sheep at Craggaunowen, County Clare, Ireland
“Cute, adorable” Soay Sheep have been around since the Bronze Age.

We were greeted by shaggy ponies, adorable donkeys and Bronze age Soay Sheep on either side of the spacious parking area and it took a few minutes before my daughters were persuaded to leave the “sweet, adorable” animals and enter the small cottage that houses the Visitor's Centre. As I picked up our tickets and received an overview of the Craggaunowen map, the girls kept themselves busy studying the trinkets for sale in the gift shop.

Ireland's History at Craggaunowen

Craggaunowen is set up as a self guided walk. Information plaques and the detailed map provide the history of each point of interest, while costumed characters appear at many points throughout the Experience, providing hands-on history lessons.

Beginning at Craggaunowen Castle, labeled #1 on the map, we set out on our exploration. Though sparsely furnished, you can explore to the very top of the castle, which gives you a nice view of the surrounding demense. Descending back to the first floor, we were greeted by a weaver, who taught my girls how wool was prepared and spun in the 16th century.

Working with wool in Craggaounowen Castle, County Clare, Ireland
Carding and spinning wool in Craggaunowen Castle

Following the numerical map, we discovered Ireland's ancient history. 

Dug Out canoe at Craggaunowen, County Clare, Ireland
Dug out canoe dated appx. 1500BC. After it's life as a water vessel, it was used as a trough at a hunters cooking site.
Crannog at Craggaunowen, County Clare, Ireland
The Celts created Crannogs, small artificial islands, in lakes. Surrounded by a timber fence and approached by hidden walkway below the water or canoe, it was difficult to approach undetected.
Iron Age Road at Craggaunowen, County Clare, Ireland
The remains of an Iron Age road built across a bog in County Longford.
Ogham stone at Craggaunowen, County Clare, Ireland
A standing stone with Ogham markings. Ogham is an ancient Irish writing which used straight lines to create characters, each character corresponding with one of 20 standard letters.
Ring Fort Souterrain at Craggaunowen, County Clare, Ireland
The Souterrain under the ring fort was used for storage and protection. The girls loved it as I didn't want to explore the dark tunnels underground.
Brendan Boat at Craggaunowen, County Clare, Ireland
The Brendan Boat is a replica of the hide boat used by St. Brendan ‘The Navigator” who is said to have discovered America before Columbus. Built in 1976 by Tim Severin, who then made the same journey, proving it is possible that St. Brendan could have made the journey.
Wild Boar at Craggaunowen, County Clare, Ireland
Wild boar, another animal from the Bronze Age, are really cure when they are babies.

We spent nearly 2 hours wandering the grounds, exploring Ireland's history. While Craggaunowen could be toured in less time than that, I wish we had visited earlier in the days so we had more time for historic discoveries.

Craggaunowen Quick Facts

Craggaunowen is managed by Shannon Heritage. Discount tickets may be purchased online at the Shannon Heritage website.

Though paths are cleared, they are not paved. Wear good walking shoes. Some areas may not be accessible to those with mobility issues.

Craggaunowen is open spring through fall; check the Shannon Heritage website for dates and hours.


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8 COMMENTS

  1. When we first started seriously talking about taking our trip to Ireland, I knew I wanted as much “educational” things as possible. I homeschool so I want to have it be integrated into our school year. Ya know?
    Anyway. The only option I thought I had was to do an escorted tour and HOPE we could do as much history/art/music/math/language as we could with a bunch of adults. I realized we would be missing out on too much of our “must see” places (Derry, Causeway, Galway, Cork/Kerry, etc). I had almost given up trying to do it myself. Until I read this post. thank you!!!! Now to figure out logistics… 😉

      Hi Michelle- and thank you for reading! I am so glad you found Ireland Family Vacations and hope it helps you with your planning! I’m always here to offer advice- or if you get overwhelmed with all the options, coaching. We homeschool as well, so I completely understand making travel a learning experience!
      A few other places to add to your itinerary:
      Birr Castle Demense – large emphasis on the natural sciences and astronomy,
      National Museum of Ireland Archeology in Dublin – incredible history or Ireland (Kingship & Sacrifice is a must + the museum has a free Junior Archeologist booklet that is really nice)
      Lough Gur in County Limerick- incredible Celtic, Iron & Bronze Age history
      Slea Head Drive on the Dingle Peninsula – Iron & Bronze age history
      The Inishowen peninsula in Donegal- ancient Celts, Irish famine, and WWII history
      These are just a handful and cover a wide range. Without knowing ages, interests, it’s a rather random selection…

        Thanks, Jody, for this list… I’m trying to add as many historical sites to my list as I can discover in your blog & elsewhere online… the list is getting so long, I’ll have to stay in Ireland at least a month… works for me!!!..

          My last trip was a month- as was the trip before that. So very much to see and experience!

    ptcireland Ah, the weather. I wish I could say for sure… but Ireland is tricky that way.
    You will likely get a bit of rain; it is the spring, after all. Look for temps in the mid-50s Farenheit.
    That said, you may well run into warm, dry days. Be sure to check my <a href=”http://irelandwithkids.com/ireland-vacation-clothing-tips/planning-your-irish-vacation/” target=”_blank”> Packing for an Ireland Vacation</a> post for more tips on the oft changing Irish weather- and how to pack for it.

    Hi,  We are thinking to go to Ireland in the beginning of April next year with 2 children, 2 1/2 year old and 6 year old.Based on your experience what do you think weather could be like? Thank you.

    amymapes Craggaunowen is ‘off the tourist radar”, as it were. Near to so many things but as it is really more of a history lesson, I think it sees more school groups than tourists.
    I hope I inspire you to return soon- that’s really my goal!

    I had never seen or even read about this.  I really wish you would stop suggesting more things for me to see….I might have to go back to Ireland sooner than we planned! 😉

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