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County Londonderry:Hunters and Farmers

Updated on March 1, 2015
Drombeg Stone Circle
Drombeg Stone Circle


Mountsandel in Coleraine is "perhaps the oldest recorded settlement within Ireland".

This new county would comprise the then County Coleraine, which consisted of the baronies of Tirkeeran, Coleraine, and Keenaght; all but the south-west corner of the barony of Loughinsholin, which was then a part of County Tyrone; the North East Liberties of Coleraine, which was part of County Antrim; and the City of Londonderry and the Liberties, which were in County Donegal. The Liberties of Coleraine and Londonderry were requested by the Irish society so that they could control both banks of the mouths of the River Foyle and the River Bann, and Loughinsholin to have access to sufficient wood for construction.

In 1613, this larger area became incorporated into the newly founded County Londonderry, with its county town in the new walled city of Derry (also founded in 1613) on the west bank of the Foyle, opposite the destroyed town of Derry.


Geography and places of interest

The highest point in the county is the summit of Sawel Mountain (678 metres (2,224 ft)) on the border with County Tyrone. Sawel is part of the Sperrin Mountains, which dominate the southern part of the county. To the east and west, the land falls into the valleys of the Bann and Foyle rivers respectively; in the south-east, the county touches the shore of Lough Neagh, which is the largest lake in Ireland; the north of the county is distinguished by the steep cliffs, dune systems, and remarkable beaches of the Atlantic coast.The county is home to a number of important buildings and landscapes, including the well-preserved 17th-century citywalls of Derry; the National Trust–owned Plantation estate at Springhill; MussendenTemple with its spectacular views of the Atlantic; the dikes, artificial coastlines and the noted birdsanctuaries on the eastern shore of Lough Foyle; and the visitor centre at Bellaghy Bawn, close to the childhood home of Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney. In the centre of the county are the old-growth deciduous forests at Banagher and Ness Wood, where the Burntollet River flows over the highest waterfalls in Northern Ireland.

Hunters and Farmers

The families that crossed the Irish Sea from Scotland were in the Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) phase of development.That is,their stone tools and weapons were relatively advanced,but they were still hunter gatherers,living on what they could catch or pick.Their way of life kept them on the move,but traces of dwellings made of wattle (branches) have been found at Mount Sandel,County Londonderry.which show that at times they were able to settle and subsist on a diet of fishes,birds,berries and nuts.Sites have also been identified where they manufactured arrows,spears and hand-axes.

Much more is known about the Irish of the Neolithic (New Stone Age),who farmed the land,domesticated cattle,sheep and goats,wove textiles and made pottery.Excavations at Ballynagilly,in County Tyrone,have uncovered evidence of a square house,made from planks of oak,which dates back to about 3200 BC.But the most exciting find so far,dating from about the same time,was made under two metres of blanket bog at the Ceide Fields in County Mayo:the remains of an entire community.includind a network of drystone-walled enclosures.

Ceide Fields in County Mayo

The Céide Fields are the oldest known field systems in the world, over five and a half millennia old.
The Céide Fields are the oldest known field systems in the world, over five and a half millennia old.

If this suggests that Neolithic society was well-organized and capable of co-operative effort,the thousand or more megalithic tombs scattered all over Ireland leave no room for doubt.The three main types are court tombs,portal tombs or dolmens,and passage graves.All involved one or more interments within a burial chamber that consisted of a stone structure covered by a mound.Many have been stripped of their earth covering in the course of the millennia,so that they,and especially the dolmens ("stone tables"),now rise up from the landscape in a dramatically sculpturesque fashion.However,in scale there is nothing to mach the great mound-covered passage tombs,with their stone-lined interiors and geometric ornamentation;the largest of all,the Newgrange tumulus,is an awe-insipring sight,13 metres high and 80 metres across.

Since the tombs contained many remains and seem to have been used over a number of generations,this was evidently a stable society as well as a formidably organized one.The presence of grave goods makes it almost certain that the tombs were not just memorials,but embodied beliefs about some kind of life after death.

Equally significant ideas must have driven on the Bronze Age Irish who constructed wedge tombs,stone circles and standing stones.They were also miners,finding gold as well as the copper used to make bronze weapons and ornaments.The tin needed to turn copper into bronze had to be imported,but Irish mines were so rich,and Irish craftsmen so skillful,that Irish exports found their way all over Europe.



Watch!Amazon Instant Video

The Celts - The Complete First Season
The Celts - The Complete First Season

1. The Celts - ...In the Beginning:The Celts were the first European people north of the Alps to rise from anonymity. This program looks at who the Celts were, where they came from and what made their culture so distinctive.

2. The Celts - Heroes in Defeat :The heyday of the Celts was the La Tene era. It was tribal, and women were often the leaders: warriors, bards, druids, artists and craftsmen. Their little known settlements as well as their massive hill-torts tell of inhabitants who traded within and beyond Europe. But then the Celts clashed with the Romans and highly developed culture fell apart.

3. The Celts - The Sacred Groves:This program looks at the pagan religion, Druidism, which underpinned early Celtic society and is still practiced today.

4. The Celts - From Camelot to Christ:The slow collapse of the Roman Empire saw the arrival of new cultures which threatened the Celts. The program claims that the British king, Vortigern, invited the Anglo Saxons into Britain to help fight the Picts but they betrayed his trust and gradually took over the island.

5. The Celts - Legend and Reality:From the 8th century onwards the Celts were hammered by invasions by the Vikings and then the Normans. Following the Reformation in the 16th century, Celtic communities in Wales, Ireland and Brittany were marginalised in the push for political and religious unity in England and France.

6. The Celts - A Dead Song?

This program examines the emergence, history, meaning and threats to the Celtic identity. Today the sturggle to define an identiy continues.


Destination Ireland Video

Ireland is a mix of old and new, quiet countryside and exuberant cities. This "Emerald Isle" is truly a jewel of a destination.

Destination Ireland


Lonely Planet Ireland (Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet Ireland (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet Ireland is your passport to all the most relevant and up-to-date advice on what to see, what to skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Slurp oysters and clap your hands to spirited fiddle music in a lively Galway pub, explore medieval castles in Dublin and beyond, or set off amid vibrant green hills toward Atlantic coastal trails; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Ireland and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet's Ireland Travel Guide:

Full-colour maps and images throughout

Highlights and itineraries show you the simplest way to tailor your trip to your own personal needs and interests

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Essential info at your fingertips - including hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, and prices

Honest reviews for all budgets - including eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, and hidden gems that most guidebooks miss

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customs, history, art, literature, music, landscapes, sports, food and drink

Free, convenient pull-out Dublin map (included in print version), plus over 80 colour maps

Coverage of Dublin, Waterford, Kilkenny, Cork, Kerry, Kildare, Limerick, Clare, Galway, Sligo, Donegal, The Midlands, Louth, Belfast, Armagh, Derry, and more


SONG Irish Tune from County Derry "Londonderry Air" By Percy Grainger

Can be referred to as these three names...
- irish Tune From County Derry
- Londonderry Air
- O Danny Boy

Irish Tune from County Derry "Londonderry Air" By Percy Grainger


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