Welcome to the Avondhu Heritage Archive

  • The Avondhu
  • Settlement
  • Activities

The Avondhu is where the very first Irish set out on a long journey as early stone age hunter-gatherers to become our first farmers. It is where the spiritual and mystical druids embraced Christianity and went on to contribute to European Enlightenment in the Dark Ages. It is where we absorbed waves of invasions, taking the best from each to emerge as a people distinct in Europe.  It is where armies of thousands gathered to take on the Might of Napoleon at Waterloo and later the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy in the Great War.

The Avondhu, The Cradle of Ireland, is where Ireland started, where the very first Irish set out on that long journey more than 10,000 years ago.  It is the mother land for millions around the globe.

The richness of the valleys has made this area one of the first areas in Ireland to be settled. During the last Ice Age, the Avondhu was not glaciated and the very first settlers in Ireland are likely to have crossed from the Iberian Peninsula on a land-bridge along the coast over 10,000 years ago. On arriving, it is very likely that they would have made their way up the Blackwater River and spread out up its tributaries.
According to archeologist Peter Woodman, the majority of Mesolithic activity in Munster has come from the Blackwater Valley. Carbon dating of wooden platforms at Ballyoran Bog, just south of Fermoy were put at 8,280-7,965 B.C. This date, being the earliest on the Island of Ireland is, however, problematic for archaeologists as it is a singular discovery and needs others in the same area for verification. Another site at Gortore, just north of Fermoy on the Funcheon River is classified as Early Mesolithic, 8,000-7,000 BC. These sites establish the Avondhu as one of the earliest areas to be settled in Ireland.
The arrival of Christianity in the seventh century is seen throughout the area. Again the early monks travelled up the same waterways and valleys as the earliest settlers. Wherever you find an ecclesiastical site, you can invariably hear the sound of running water. Today there are remains of over 150 ecclesiastical sites in the Avondhu. About 75 have been catalogued in this site, to date. (See Sites in the menu above). Many of these sites are build on or close to pre-Christian pagan sites. This demonstrates the almost seamless transition from paganism to Celtic Christianity that was so successful in Ireland.
After the arrival of Christianity and the introduction of education, farming and building technology, the area thrived to became prized lands to be gifted by a succession of monarchs to warriors down through the ages. Waves of Norman invasions, two Plantations of Munster and the Cromwellian Conquest have all left their mark on the landscape. It is said that there are more Norman castles in the Avondhu than there are in Normandy.

There is a story behind every castle, church ruin, grand house, hill fort and cillĂ­n waiting to be told. It's part of our heritage and if you can trace your roots back to the Avondhu, the Cradle of Ireland, it's part of yours.


Today there are many reasons to visit the Avondhu, the scenery, the heritage, the fishing, the people. Just being there will awaken something in you.

The landscape of the Avondhu is probably the oldest in Northern Europe. This is because, during the last Ice Age, the great northern ice sheets never scoured the Blackwater Valley. When the first settlers arived, the landscape was already thousands of years old. The fertile valleys were refuges of plenty.

The Blackwater Way (the combined Duhallow and Avondhu Ways) is a 168 km walking route that stretches from the borders of County Waterford alond the Blackwater Valley to borders of County Kerry. It runs along the paths long ago used by the earliest settlers. Stunning scenery will greet you and like the Johnny Cash song, you will stare in wonder at the "forty shades of green".

Canoeing is an amazing way to discover the Blackwater Valley river system. Long stretches of these rivers look the same as they did 20,000 years ago. As you travel along the very same waterways, discovered by the very first explorers, you will experience their excitement, their wonder. Your genetic memory will tell you that you belong here, it is where you sprang from, you will feel at home.