Corlea Trackway (Togher), Co. Langford
18 m of excavated and conserved timber trackway from 148 BC
Modern boardwalk above the remaining 80m of buried trackway
Bog Yew Sculpture
Location: 3km from Kenagh Village and accessed from the Longford-Kenagh Road R397 (15km from Longford) or from the Mullingar-Lanesboro Road R392.
Description: Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre (Longford) In 1984, at Corlea near Keenagh, Co. Longford, removal of peat by Bord na Móna's production machinery revealed a great timber roadway which had lain buried in the bog for centuries. Tree ring analysis carried out at Queen's University, Belfast revealed the trees used were felled late in 148 B.C. or early in 147 B.C and identified the roadway as the only known example in Ireland of an Early Iron Age road.
In 1985 the roadway at Corlea was excavated under the auspices of the National Monuments Branch of the Office of Public Works.
While the Iron Age road at Corlea lay hidden under the peat which had engulfed it, the ancient timbers were preserved in the bog's watery anaerobic environment. But the discovery of the roadway exposed the waterlogged timbers to the atmosphere where they would rapidly deteriorate without conservation measures. The techniques required to preserve these timbers are highly specialised and costly. Nevertheless such was the importance of the archaeological remains that the Office of Public Works approached Bord na Móna with a view to preserving a 20m section of the road, together with an adjoining 4 ha of intact raised bog in which a section of the trackway would remain undisturbed in waterlogged conditions. Bord na Móna transferred its interest in the site and carried out work to preserve the raised bog remnant. The main feature in the conservation of the raised bog was the insertion of a plastic membrane around its perimeter to prevent seepage of water and to maintain the moisture content of the bog at around 95%.
Inside the building, an 18 metre stretch of preserved road is on permanent display in a specially designed hall with humidifiers to prevent the ancient wood from cracking in the heat.
There is a nice exhibit area, the preserved trackway is impressive and a 17 minute audio-visual presentation is informative. The center houses a tearoom and toilet facilities. The picnic area is adjacent to the ample carpark. The center is open from 10 am to 6 pm during the season.
Comments: The Visitor's Center may be a bit off the beaten track (pun intended) which is probably why it isn't crowded as are some of the more well-known tourist sites. Because we had read about these trackways, we made a special effort to visit the day before it closed for the season (April through September) and were rewarded with having the entire facility to ourselves. We were treated to an extended and personal tour of the exhibits, the preserved trackway and the boglands outside. Noel, our guide, was extremely gracious and quite generous with his knowledge of not only the trackways, but of the wonderful variety of autumn-blooming plants in the bog.
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