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hidey holes

Top 5 heritage Irish sites to escape the apocalypse*

*If you are reading this, it probably hasn’t happened so far this morning.

AS ANY CONNOISSEUR of apocalyptic aggravation knows, one of the vital jobs you have after the apocalypse begins is to find appropriate shelter to wait out the rampaging undead or saucily dressed motorcyclists that wish to steal your petrol.

If we can learn anything from George A. Romero’s zombie horror classic ‘Dawn of the Dead’ its that modern shopping malls are deathtraps, so don’t be enticed to hide out in Liffey Valley! Instead consider some of the ancient monuments of Ireland. Walls that kept out Viking raiders a thousand years ago could keep out bands of Mad Max style motorcycle nutters, or can they?

Here are my suggestions of the top five sanctuaries to consider during today’s supposedly impending apocalypse:

The Rock of Dunamase, Co Laois

Image: Abarta Audioguides

This fortress is perched 45 metres above a flat plain in County Laois. The site was extensively refortified after the Norman invasions of Ireland and was said to be part of the dowry given by Diarmuid MacMurrough when his daughter Aoife married the leader of the Norman Invasions, Richard de Clare (Strongbow). It was granted as a wedding gift again when Aoife and Strongbow’s daughter married the famous knight William Marshall.

He carried out extensive works at the Rock and lived there from 1208 – 1213.

In the fourteenth century, the Rock of Dunamase was given to the O’Moore family butit was left abandoned. It is likely that the site was ‘slighted’ (basically blown up) by Cromwellian Generals Hewson and Reynolds in 1651.

There are advantages and disadvantages to the Rock of Dunamase as a sanctuary following the aftermath of a zombie-style apocalypse – on the plus side its commanding position high above the flat plains of Laois give it excellent views, you will certainly see the shambling hordes of undead approaching. The still-steep ditches will also offer some protection. However the enclosing walls are in a ruinous state, so you won’t be able to hold back the tide of brain-hungry zombies for long!

Dunmore Caves, Co Kilkenny

Image: Olivier Bruchez/Flickr/Creative Commons

Just north of Kilkenny you can find the Dunmore Caves. These stunning limestone caves are today open to the public and are a popular attraction for school trips and those wanting to dig a little deeper into Irish history and geology. Handily enough they could also make a good hideout during the worst of the days following the apocalypse. Just getting in can be daunting enough: in folklore the cave entrance is described as ‘the mouth of a huge beast, with ten thousand teeth…’

The deep and dark cave could be a good location to discretely hide yourself, and if you can manage to develop a taste for bats then you may not go hungry. Be warned though, Dunmore Cave once failed a group who sought refuge in its inky blackness. The Annals of the Four Masters record that in 928 AD, a group of a thousand, mainly women and children, were massacred in the cave, and human remains discovered in the 18th century provide archaeological evidence of this grizzly event.

Trim Castle, Co Meath

Image: Abarta Audioguides

The mighty Trim Castle was constructed between 1176 – 1206 AD by the powerful Norman Lord Hugh de Lacy and his son Walter. This is the largest Norman castle in Ireland, with its large enclosing walls and deep moat surrounding a unique cruciform-shaped central tower known as a ‘keep’ or ‘donjon’. At the time it was constructed Trim Castle was the height of medieval defensive technology, and still over 800 years later this building would be almost ideal for a small group to escape the coming zombie apocalypse.

There is only one entrance to the keep so as long as you have a strict door policy it should be easy to hold back the hordes. Even if they manage to get inside then the staircases are designed for defence. They are narrow spiral stairs that only allow one person to ascend at a time. They also wind to the top in a clockwise direction favouring right-handed defenders.

The downsides to hiding in this ancient fortress is that its water supply is a well outside of the keep, unless you remember to bring a bucket to collect the rainwater. You may however get sick of the taste of pigeons.

Dun Aonghasa, Inis Mór

Image: Abarta Audioguides

Where better to wait out an apocalypse than in the stunning setting of Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands? The island itself would offer great protection, with the stormy Atlantic serving as a huge moat, protecting you from all but the most seaworthy zombie. The prehistoric fort of Dun Aonghasa is towards the west of Inis Mór, and is superbly protected by a series of massive drystone walls and 100 metre high cliffs to the South.

The fort was first constructed in around 1,100 BC with activity continuing throughout the Bronze Age and into the Iron Age. Radiocarbon dates suggest that the fort began to become far more defensive and fortified after 500 BC. This also ties in to a building boom of coastal promontory forts along the western coast of Ireland. Surely this suggests that it was a time of great social upheaval, possibly indicating a war, an invasion, a famine making people desperate or some combination of the three – or even perhaps a killer zombie invasion of the past?!

Skellig Michael

Image: Andreas Juergensmeier/

If you have access to a boat and the necessary skills to use it, there would be no better place to hold out during the post-apocalyptic zombie invasion after today’s Mayan mayhem, than the World Heritage Site of Skellig Michael. Located nearly 12km west of the Iveragh Peninsula in Co Kerry, the island boasts some of the best preserved monastic remains in Europe. The monastery was founded here between the 6th – 8th centuries AD, and it would be the perfect location to spend your days, safe in the knowledge that zombies would never be able to reach you.

Unless of course, they are zombie Vikings, as the Vikings successfully raided Skellig Michael in 824 AD, but come on, who actually believes in zombie Vikings? Ahem…

Neil Jackman is the director of, a newly launched Irish company that provides audioguides to some of Ireland’s wonderful heritage sites. You can find Abarta on their website at or on iTunes, Eircom Music Hub, Sony Quirocity and Amazon as well as Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Neil doesn’t really believe in zombies (although he is a big Walking Dead fan), and he certainly doesn’t believe that the world will end today. Otherwise he will be annoyed that he has already bought some Christmas presents.

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