After a quick visit to nearby Ballyglass – severe barbed wire unfortunately restricting me to a roadside view, seeing as I was with company (ahem) – I donned my 'tourist hat' (although I'd like to see a tourist wearing my grotty old thing) to take a look at Dún Brist ('the broken fort' in Gaelic). Sounded promising... a fabulous sea stack just off the prow of Downpatrick Head, some 3 miles or so north of Ballycastle.
This headland is teeming with legend and folklore. The prominent secular ruins replaced an earlier church founded by St. Patrick, the statue – not to mention name of the place - kinda giving a clue or two in this direction. It is said that yer man effected the death of Crom Dubh, a local warlord, by causing Dún Brist to detach itself from the mainland, marooning the poor sod on it, no doubt to starve. Apparently Crom Dubh's 'crime' was to refuse to convert to Christianity… need I say more? Thought not, your caring, sharing Christian icon being attributed morals any budding SS officer would have aspired to. For those who might doubt such an occurrence (shame on you!), history records a 1393 CE date for the formation of the sea stack due to… heavy seas. Probably a bit of an understatement there, so there is.
Downpatrick Head also featured in the 1798 rebellion, when 25 men lost their lives within the channel below Poll na Seantainne, a prominent blowhole.
But what has all this got to do with TMA? Well, forgot to mention that the promontory is enclosed by a pretty substantial cross-wall, making this a promontory fort – as I understand, dating from the Bronze Age. There was certainly a Bronze Age presence here since at least one – possibly two – round barrows are also readily identifiable on the headland. Right on!
If historical records are correct this stretch of the Mayo coastline has therefore undergone fundamental changes in the last two millennia, producing an environment of exhilarating, windswept beauty backed with a profoundly rich tapestry of historic and pre-historic heritage. Needless to say the views are superb, and experiencing the cliff line plunging to the sea is not something for those prone to vertigo … so make sure children don't go running on ahead!