is a small lake located to the west of Armagh City and just 550m
from the Navan Fort. Today it covers an area of just one acre however
an ordnance survey map of the area from 1835 shows the lake to be
surrounded by marsh and four times bigger than it is today. Pollen
analysis carried out in 1987 suggests that at one time the lake
was as big as 8 to 10 hectares. The lake can also be clearly seen
on a pictorial map which was made in 1602. The lake is on private
ground owned by the Acheson quarrying group however it can be viewed
from the top of the Navan Fort.
Loughnashade means ‘the lake of the
jewels’ and there is a very interesting local story as to
how the lake got its name. The High King of Ulster Conor Mc Nessa
lived beside the lake and heard of a plan to steal his jewels. The
king summoned his wise men to see how he should protect his jewels.
They had no answers so the King got very angry. The King was calmed
by the sound of beautiful pipe music coming from outside his palace.
The music was played by a man who was aware of the Kings troubles
and had come to help. He told the King of a far away land called
China – this was the land of the dragons. These were fierce
animals and would be fit to look after the Kings jewels.
The King funded an expedition to China and
the musician managed to persuade the emperor to give him a dragon.
When they returned to Ireland the dragon jumped straight into the
lake behind the palace and disappeared. The king was mad at this
however once again the musician calmed the situation. He played
his pipes and the dragon came out of the lake. The Kings jewels
were then tied to its neck and the dragon returned to the lake.
If the King wanted his jewels the musician piped the dragon out
otherwise the dragon remained at the bottom of the lake looking
after the jewels.
Everything was fine until the musician died.
He accidently slipped of a stone into the lake. No other piper could
tempt the dragon out of the lake so it remained at the bottom with
the jewels. The King then decided to call the lake Loughnashade
– ‘the lake of the jewels’. The world famous Armagh
Rhymers regularly re-enact the story of ‘the Dragon of Navan’.
Some days, one can hear the faint sound of the haunting pipes, yet
the dragon and the jewels remain at the bottom of the lake!
Whilst the dragon may only be a myth the
large decorated Loughnashade Horn or the trumpa creda is very real.
It is the greatest treasure ever to be found in the vicinity of
the Navan Fort and is currently housed at the National Museum in
Dublin. In 1798 some local men digging drains at the edge of the
lake found four bronze horns which probably date from the first
century BC. Nearby they also found human skulls and bones. Three
of the horns have been lost however the remaining one is a masterpiece
of Irish metalworking.
The horn is 1.86m (just over six feet) long
and is made of sheets of bronze riveted together. It is topped off
with a wide bell shape end decorated in the La Tene style. The metal
is just half a millimetre thick and the whole instrument weighs
just slightly over a kilo. The horn comes in two halves and each
half seems to have come from different instruments. It is likely
that the proper other halves are part of the three other horns that
The horn is one of the oldest surviving
Irish musical instruments and a replica of the bell is used as the
logo and trademark of the Irish Traditional Music Archive. The horn
is presently displayed in a ‘C’ curve shape however
it is believed that originally these horns were assembled in a ‘S’
shape and played with the decorated bell end above the musicians