Maigh Leana Ringfort

By February 19, 2019 January 4th, 2021 Research Projects

In the townland of Ballindown (Baile on Dúnaidh in Irish or ‘the town of the fort’), situated 3 miles to the north of Birr Town, Co. Offaly, lies the monument at Maigh Leana (OF035-003).

This ‘ringfort’ comprises a large (85m in diameter) circular earthen enclosure located at the end of a high esker ridge, which is a spur off the Eiscir Riada (an ancient route way across Ireland). The earthwork includes two earthen banks with a significant intervening fosse (width c. 5m x depth 3.5-5.5m). A slight shallow depression, directly outside the outer bank may indicate the presence of a second outer ditch. The enclosure has a 5m wide entrance at its eastern axis, as well as a 2m wide entrance at its western extent, which could be a later addition. The inner bank varies in surviving height from 2.5-5.5m (internal to external dimensions), measuring up to 5m in width. The external bank is less well preserved.

The site is registered on the Sites and Monuments Record as an early medieval ringfort but could also be prehistoric in date. The site’s name links it to the site of the Battle of Maigh Leana, recorded in the medieval text ‘Cath Maige Leana’ (the battle of Mag Leana). Translations of this text record Conn of the Hundred Battles, the High King of Ireland, defeating Mug Nuadat in battle. The text documents the construction of three (burial) ‘mounds’ after the battle, one of which locals speculate could be the monument at Maigh Leana. The battle itself took place much further to the north, closer to Tullamore.

Geophysical survey by Ashely Green (Bournemouth University), the IAFS and the local community was undertaken at the site in December 2016, at the request of the local community. Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), Gradiometry and Resistivity techniques were employed. The survey revealed evidence of several trends, including one that is morphologically similar to a back-filled souterrain, as well as a sub-rectangular ‘feature’.

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Green, A. 2017. Fort Maigh Leana, Ballindown, Co. Offaly: Geophysical Survey Report. Unpublished technical report, available on request.