Laois Heritage Guide to The Heath unearths interesting local history and archaeology

Michelle Hogan


Michelle Hogan

Laois Heritage Guide to The Heath unearths local ancient archaeology

Heritage Guide to The Heath: Dave Pollock’s drawing of what a ring barrow would have looked like in use

An interesting new guide exploring the heritage of Laois aims to raise awareness of the heritage importance of archaeology of The Heath.

The Heritage Guide to the Heath by Dr Eoin Sullivan is published by Wordwell Books as part of the Archaeology Ireland “Heritage Guide Series”, funded by the Heritage Council and Laois County Council.

The guide was launched at Heath House on Thursday, August 22 by Cathaoirleach of Laois County Council Willie Aird.

"Eoin is an active member of Laois Heritage Forum and I’m delighted to serve on the Forum with him. He has over 20 years experience of working for cultural heritage in Ireland, as a professional archaeologist and also in his work with the Institute of Archaeologists in Ireland, organising training to ensure the highest standards in the profession. He has also been involved in the production of the Conservation Plan for Fort Protector in Portlaoise and directed the research excavation at the base of the Fort wall in Portlaoise, so he has made a huge contribution to the heritage of the county already.

“I am delighted that this new guide will raise awareness of the enormous heritage importance of the heath, and I am delighted that the Principal of the Heath National School has offered to help in distributing the guide in the area, and a free copy will be going to every family with children attending the Heath School, in September," he said. 

Richly illustrated with map, photographs and an original reconstruction drawing by artist Dave Pollock, the guide aims to explore and draw attention to the importance of the archaeology of the Heath, and in particular the Bronze Age and Iron Age funeral monuments known as Ring Barrows. 

A barrow is essentially a mound of earth over one or more burials.

There are several forms of barrow with the type on the Heath being all ring barrows – with a circular trench around a central burial and an external circular bank.

Barrows can range in date from the Late Neolithic to the Early Iron Age (c.3000 BC-AD 300), though the classic 'ring-barrow' is generally regarded as being of Early Iron Age date (c.300 BC-AD 400).

The Great Heath contains 14 ring barrows, with nine of these easily visible on the surface, and eight publicly accessible on the ground, near the Heath National School and near the GAA pitch.

The drought conditions in 2018 allowed survey of the area by the author of the guide using a drone and several new archaeological features were discovered, including a possible new ring barrow near the golf course.

Together with an early medieval ring fort and the eighteenth-century history of the Great Heath Racecourse, these ring barrows make the Heath a site of great heritage importance in County Laois and indeed nationally.

Catherine Casey is the Heritage Officer with Laois County Council.

“We were delighted to partner with the Heritage Council in supporting the publication of this guide which we hope will be a major source of information for local historians of Laois in the coming years, is likely to inspire and assist in much new research on the county," she said.

Heritage Guide to the Heath by Dr Eoin Sullivan is published by Wordwell Books and Archaeology Ireland. It is available online from, priced at €5.

Heritage Guide to The Heath: A copy of Dave Pollock’s drawing of what a ring barrow would have looked like in use.