The Great Road of the Fews (Irish: Beala Mór an Feadha) is an ancient road between Dundalk (Irish: Dún Dealgan) and Navan Fort (Irish: Emain Macha). It is thought to be over 2,100 years old and branched off, or was a part of, the Slige Midluachra, the old northern road sometimes known as the High Kings Road which ran from the Tara to Dunseverick on the north coast of Ireland.
I have researched and tried to find a map of the Great Road of the Fews for some time now, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of information available.
However, there are some clues. It seems much of the original route still exists as modern-day roads and minor lanes, but in places the road has disappeared.
What I have done is to try and map the route, using the information which still exists and substituting roads which run near and parallel to those which have been lost.
A list of the points I have used are:
1. The road ran from Dún Dealgan at Dundalk to Navan Fort.
2. It most likely passed through the Dorsey Embankment, via what is now Bonds Road.
3. Just south of the Dorsey, at Carnally, a narrow farm lane is believed to be part of the course of the road.
4. "Bealach Mor an Fheadha traversed the barony of Upper Fews along the line of the present road which passes near Beal Atha an Airgid (Silverbridge) and through Newtown Hamilton, and ended at Eamhain Macha (the " Navan Fort"), near Armagh" (taken from www.jstor.org/stable/25514310).
5. Blackbank Barracks (1700 to c1733) is believed to have been built on the old road, plus a long stretch, now named Ninemile Road, still exists.
6. Johnston’s Fews Barracks (c1733 to c1770) is thought to be on the old road.
7. The road continued north towards Armagh, then turned west to Navan Fort.
8. In turning west to Navan Fort, it would have had to cross the River Callan. The ancient crossing point of the river is where Callan Bridge not stands. From here three old roads diverge: two of these (St Patrick’s Road and the Old Road) run west towards Navan Fort.
9. Coffin Bridge (Bellews Bridge), northwest of Dundalk is believed to be on the route of the “Old Road” from Dundalk to Armagh.
The map below shows the route I've plotted from the information I've found, but I can’t be sure how accurate this is..
The route south from Silverbridge has got arguments for both forks as they continue south to Dundalk. Maybe, archaeologists, historians and others can provide more information on this.
In addition to places connected with the Great Road of the Fews, I have also added some other points of interest which can be seen or easily accessed, or seen, from the road. This way, anyone who wishes to spend a day driving, or cycling the route, will have a choice of extra things to look out for and to visit.
You can download GPX maps for:
1. Driving at www.mapmywalk.com/routes/view/5471453110
2. Cycling at www.mapmywalk.com/routes/view/5471470993