Ballynastaig Souterrain is an ancient underground structure that dates back to the Iron Age, and is located within the Ballynastaig Stone Fort, near Gort in Galway. A souterrain (from French ‘sous terrain’, meaning “under ground”) is a name given by archaeologists to a type of underground structure associated mainly with the Iron Age. It is believed that they were used to store food or act as a hiding place during times of strife. Souterrains are usually found near or within stone forts or ringforts, which were circular enclosures surrounded by stone or earthen walls.
The Ballynastaig Souterrain is one of the best-preserved examples of its kind in Galway. It can be accessed through a narrow alley way that leads to five steps which lead down into the souterrain. Once in the narrow doorway, the souterrain widens out to about 2.5 metres and stretches back for at least 7 metres. The roof is lintelled with tightly packed stone beams running width-wise. The manner in which the souterrain has stood the test of time, is testament to its builders.
The Ballynastaig Stone Fort, where the souterrain is located, is also worth exploring. It consists of 2 metre high (in parts) walls which are now overgrown with grass and trees. The wall is missing in several places and so it is impossible to identify where the original entrance to the fort once was. Inside the fort, there are traces of building remains and a souterrain which is partially covered by some trees. The whole fortress is around 50 metres in diameter.
The Ballynastaig Souterrain and Stone Fort are not well-known or signposted, so you might need to ask for directions from the locals. The Souterrain and Fort are located on private land, so please seek the local landowner’s permission before visiting the site, and also please respect the site when exploring.
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