Poulaphouca Reservoir (or Blessington Lakes)

poulaphouca Reservoir
Poulaphouca Reservoir

This is a huge man-made reservoir was created by damming the Liffey Valley in the 1940s. The waters rose first in the Liffey Valley and then into the larger, adjoining, King's River Valley, a tributary of the Liffey. As there are two valleys involved, Poulaphouca Reservoir is commonly known as the "Blessington Lakes". The reservoir provides vital water and electricity for Dublin city.

Poulaphouca was originally the name of a small, deep lake located in the Liffey Valley. "poulaphouca", pronounced "Powel-a-Fooka" is Irish meaning "Pool of the Pooka". The Pooka was a terrifying male demon, much like the female Banshee (Bean Sí). These beings are part of the Irish fairy folk, and much different to the English concept of fairies, which are tiny benevolent magical sprites.

Irish fairies are often associated with areas with rich archaeological heritage. Underneath this reservoir there are the remains of many houses and some small villages from the early 20th century, and almost certainly undiscovered archaeological remains from much earlier periods.

Today the Poulaphouca Reservoir is popular as a venue for water sports and a very important habitat for wildlife, especially waterbirds. On rare occasions saw-billed ducks such as the Smew and Goosander have been reported, and Ospreys, which are quite exotic birds-of-prey.

Archaeology

Beneath the waters of the Poulaphuca reservoir lie archaeological mysteries.

During the two recent cold winters the reservoir water levels have dropped for unusual amounts of time. Archaeologists have recently found many stone artefacts from tracts of land that would usually be submerged in water. These finds include Bann Flakes and saddle querns, and also a cup and ring decorated pebble.

The Bann Flakes are particularly interesting because very little evidence has been found in the Wicklow Mountains for Mesolithic occupation. The cup and ring pebble was found close to a Neolithic house in the Baltyboys Upper. Also close to Baltyboys Upper's Neolithic house numerous saddle querns were found, an arrow head, and a hollowed out scraper. There seems to be a main occupation date from the Neolithic, however there has also been an Iron Age behive quern and a rim of Bronze Age pottery found. At Carrigacura there is the remains of what seems to be a wedge tomb. It is on the shore of the reservoir and was in danger of destruction by the waters that would sometimes lap againts the monument.

Although through excavation there was no burial found, there was a charcoal date from the Iron Age period. The dating of the monument is uncertain, and if there was any evidence for burial in the chambers, than it has probably been washed away by the reservoir. As you can see the waters of the Poulaphuca mask a rich archaeological history that we are only witnessing briefly before they are swallowed again into the cold, dark waters

How To Get There:

From Dublin it is best to travel directly to the town of Blessington by car on the N81 national primary route. Blessington is located directly on the Poulaphouca Reservoir. Blessington is also served by Dublin Bus, so if you are staying in Dublin it is simply a matter of catching the No. 65 bus from the city centre to Blessington, a journey of 1 hour.