Known in Old Irish as Emain Macha, the Navan Fort is celebrated as the ancient royal seat of the Kings and Queens of Ulster. It is a significant site that’s fascinating for archeologists – it has featured on the Channel 4 programme Time Team – but provides a stimulating step back in time for any visitor.
Here, in the walk-through exhibition in the centre, is a chance for children to learn about their ancestry and the history of Ireland – from mysterious myths and legends in the “Vanished World” to the “Real World” of archeology, packed with artefacts. Celtic costumes are available for children to dress up in. Outside the centre is a replica dwelling, showing how our Iron Age and early Christian-period ancestors lived. Celtic characters bring all this to life – explaining and demonstrating the different parts of day-to-day life, from farming to weaving. There are models of the weapons the inhabitants would have used, and it is even possible to taste the food they would have eaten. Indeed, this is a multi-sensory experience, with not only authentic sights and sounds, but smells too. The fort itself – a circular hill, thought to have been used for pagan rituals and ceremonies at one time – is a ten-minute walk away. Visitors are permitted to climb the hill – at the top, the views across the beautiful, green countryside are spectacular. There are daily, guided tours of the fort: times vary by season. Signs located around the perimeter of the fort give a brief history of the site.
Accessible parking is available by the visitor centre. One manual wheelchair is available to borrow, but in the busy summer months, it is sensible to book in advance. To access the fort, there is a narrow gate to negotiate, although – by prior arrangement – a wider gate nearby can be opened to allow wheelchair access. The indoor exhibition areas are completely flat and accessible, with space for up to fifteen wheelchairs. While the surfaces are less smooth in the reconstructed dwelling, it is accessed via a gentle slope from the centre, and has an entrance and exit suitable for wheelchair users. In the exhibition, headset guides are provided, but don’t rush you from display to display – it is possible to pass through at your own pace. To mount the fort, a steep climb and steps can’t be avoided, so access isn’t possible for everyone. There is however, parking and a great vantage point at the bottom of the hill, limited to three cars at any time.
Food & drink: There is a restaurant on site serving a range of meals, sandwiches, scones and Starbucks coffee. For eating al fresco, there is a picnic area with tables and chairs outside the centre and also plenty of grassy areas dotted around to relax on.