Annagassan - Lisnarann

Since it was first published by Wright in 1748, this drawing of Lisnarann - literally ''the fort of the promontory' - has occupied the imagination and writings of Viking-period archaeologists and historians. For by a co-incidence of preservation, the remains at Annagassan are most often mentioned in relation to a series of entries in various Irish Annals for the year AD 841. Amongst these the the following entry has received particular notice: 'there was a naval camp [longport] at Linn Duachaill from which the peoples and churches of Tethba were plundered [by the heathens]' (Annals of Ulster). The deduction is obvious: the remains at Lisnarann must be those of the Viking longphort. Or are they?

The surviving enclosure is D-shaped, its flat side running along a steep scarp which drops into the River Fane. It is oval on plan (73m by 34m max.) and is delimited along its landward sides by a slight bank and fosse. Unfortunately no trace survives of the curving embankment which Wright shows extending eastwards from the enclosure along the scarp, as if forming a protective arm around a possible berthing place for ships at the river mouth.

Today, Viking scholars are much more cautious as to whether Lisnarann is a Viking monument. Research through archaeological survey has shown that some Early Historic period (AD c.400-1100) residences of well-to-do families were built on cliffs and promontories. While nowhere as common as the ubiquitous ringfort, they are nevertheless part of the range of secular habitation sites of the 1st millennium AD. Thus Lisnarann may be no more than the residence of an Irish family, a proposition which gathers weight when one considers that there is a local tradition of a souterrain (see Donaghmore - Souterrain) beneath the fort.

What is not in doubt is that the Vikings did over-winter in this part of Louth in the mid-ninth century as is evidence by the finds of objects bearing runic inscriptions at Greenmount which lies only 5km to the west of Annagassan. Perhaps the Vikings simply occupied a pre-existing site at Annagassan for a time, utilizing the sheltered mouth of the River Fane in order to beach their ships.

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