Ringfort Relic – Walsh Island, Ireland - Atlas Obscura

Ringfort Relic

Walsh Island, Ireland

An unassuming historical marker for an iron age fort leads you to an oddly adorned cemetery for unbaptized children. 


One could be forgiven for driving right by the unassuming roadside sign in County Offaly that reads “Ringfort Relic,” tucked as it is behind a hedge and across from an equally unassuming suburban farm home.

If you are driving slowly enough to spot this site though (which you should do, given the narrow and uneven twistiness of roads here, which are lined with high hedgerows and towering trees that can block out even the midday sun), you may notice something different about this “Ringfort Relic.” 

Ringforts are farmsteads from the early Christian period (roughly between the 5th and 11th centuries) that were enclosed by a ring of stones covered in dirt, and are a common sight in Ireland, especially along the western coast. But the stone memorial at the start of the gravel path here will certainly clue you into the fact that this is no simple fort, but instead a burial ground for unbaptized children.

Pausing to read this and not seeing any headstones, you may be encouraged by the hair on your neck to return to your car as quickly as possible. If you aren’t the kind of person who spooks readily, you’ll continue down the path noticing first a partially crumpled blue ball sitting on the recently mown grass, followed then by several abandoned and moldy foot-powered plastic vehicles, sitting empty as if to lure children into play.

Further into the wooded path is another plaque that talks about how the children were buried here “in the dark” and “mourned in shame” during “pre-enlightened times.” The area is now cleared and maintained by neighbors and relatives to honor their short and mysterious lives.

Know Before You Go

Simply park across the street in what appears to be a large turnout for vehicles, but is likely just additional parking for the house. There are also several picnic benches along the gravel path should you want to stay and linger with your lunch. 

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