Magical Sites uisneach-girl-from-teh-past-lauren-burke Image Name: Magical Sites uisneach-girl-from-teh-past-lauren-burke
Magical Sites maynooth-jonah-higgins-and-aaron-collins Image Name: Magical Sites maynooth-jonah-higgins-and-aaron-collins
Magical Sites knocknarea-cast-2 Image Name: Magical Sites knocknarea-cast-2
Magical Sites kells-two-leads-erika-and-keeley-2 Image Name: Magical Sites kells-two-leads-erika-and-keeley-2
Magical Sites Athgreany cast (6) Image Name: Magical Sites Athgreany cast (6) Description: Magical Sites Athgreany cast (6)

Press Release


15 x 5 minutes

RTÉjr beginning 31st October 2016 at 2.45pm and 4.30 pm


A second series of RTÉjr’s ground-breaking programme about Ireland’s archaeological heritage, ‘Magical Sites’ returns to introduce a further fifteen of our National Monuments to the youngest audience. This new season covers a whole range of important sites from relatively unknown monuments like the Standing Stone at Craddockstown in Co. Kildare to the magnificence of Jerpoint Abbey in Co. Kilkenny and the Neolithic cairn at Knocknarea in Co. Sligo.


Each programme in the series shows contemporary children exploring a significant monument. Suddenly, someone from the place’s past magically appears and there’s an engagement between the children from the ancient and modern worlds during which the viewer gets to understand a few things about the site’s original purpose.


‘Magical Sites’ was devised to meet the abilities, needs and interests of children aged under seven years and accordingly everything in the series is age-appropriate – and told from a child’s point of view. It is made by the multi-award-winning RTÉ Young People’s Programmes production unit which makes several hundred hours of programmes for children every year.


Inspiration for the original series came from a passion for history and archaeology shared by RTÉjr Controller, Sheila de Courcy and Executive Producer of Young People’s Programmes, Stephen Plunkett. “We are delighted to bring more of the heritage sites of Ireland to our youngest audiences. Drawing on the success of the first series, we are excited to again be recreating the past for our young viewers. The first series gave us a chance to explore the idea and this second series has allowed us develop that idea and take it to a different realm.  It’s exciting for us – but most of all for our viewers!” says de Courcy.

The series provides a springboard for further exploration of the structures, culture, history and topography of fifteen fascinating archaeological locations all around Ireland. As well as airing on RTÉjr and RTÉ2 television channels, the series will also be available after its first broadcast on the RTÉ Player, RTÉjr App and RTÉjr website; plus, this year, primary school teachers will also be able to make use of dedicated, comprehensive resource packs for individual programmes in the series.


Niamh Guckian is the director of the series. ”This year I really wanted the audience to engage with the history of each individual site. While this is not intended as an “educational” series we do want the audience to come away with some key learning points from each programme. It may be something very simple such as understanding that each carving in Jerpoint Abbey was done by the hands of skilled stonemasons and that each of the carvings tells a story”.


As happened during the first series, this year’s team faced a whole range of Irish weather during the shoot – sheltering from hailstones at Maynooth Castle and, a few days later, trying to avoid sunburn in the garden at Rothe House in Kilkenny – and then there was the trek up to Queen Méadhbh’s Cairn at Knocknarea in Co. Sligo and working with live birds at the dovecote in Fore Abbey, Co. Westmeath… never a dull moment as the crew worked its way around the country!


RTÉjr was delighted this time around to be able to work with the Centre for Experimental Archaeology in UCD. Professor Aidan O’Sullivan and the team there provided the series with replica artefacts that were used as props. The costumes were designed to be historically accurate, employing natural dyes and materials that would have been appropriate to the period of the story and site featured in each episode. Factual accuracy is very important, according to the series’ researcher, Sheila Ahern: “Our very young audience deserves the same high standard and attention to detail as any other audience. It was particularly exciting to see the costumes and the various artefacts in action. The children who took part really loved getting dressed-up in their Iron Age or Medieval costumes and we all had lots of fun, for example, learning how to play a Viking board game!”

Crucial to making ‘Magical Sites’ was the continued support of both the Office of Public Works (OPW) and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).

EPISODE 1 – Jerpoint Abbey, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny

RTÉjr – 31st October 2016 at 2.45pm and 4.30pm

A medieval stonemason and his son in RTÉjr’s Magical Sites

Press Release

A second series of ‘Magical Sites’ about Irish archaeology for a young audience begins on RTÉjr on 31st October 2016. This RTÉ-produced series will introduce Ireland’s National Monuments to the youngest viewers, those aged under 7, and their co-viewers.

The first programme in the new series was filmed in the beautiful setting of Jerpoint Abbey in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, in May of this year.  The Cistercian Abbey is famous for its magnificent stone carvings.

They are on a treasure hunt to find some special carvings – the man with the sore belly, the monkey, and the angel with a baby in his tummy. One girl hears the sound of the chisel on stone and follows it. She spots the boy working the stone and is intrigued. She asks him what he is carving. He tells her the story of the carving, that his father is a stone mason and that some of these carvings are his work, and that he wants to be a mason too. The girl is impressed and tells him he’ll be just as good as his father some day.

She also reveals that her mother is a painter and that that’s what she wants to do when she grows up. She says she’s going to paint a picture of his carving. They say goodbye and she rejoins her friends, saying nothing to them.

The props, including stone mason Philip Cullen’s costume, were supplied by UCD’s Experimental Archaeology  Department. OPW staff at the Visitors Centre at Jerpoint, among them Guide Supervisor Breda Lynch, were on hand to help out during filming.



EPISODE 2 – Céide Fields, Co Mayo

RTÉjr – 1st November 2016 at 2.45pm and 4.30pm


The third programme in the new series was filmed in the beautiful setting of Rothe House, Kilkenny, in May of this year.

Meanwhile a group of modern-day children arrive in the garden, chat about the history of the house and talk about who lived there. They come across signs in Braille and, as one of the girls in the group, Annabelle, is visually impaired, she can read Braille. The sign describes the vegetables that were grown in the garden. She stays to continue reading the sign when the other children run off to look for plants.

Annabelle goes looking for her friends and bumps into the girl picking herbs for the mistress of Rothe House. She explains the purpose of the different herbs like camomile, lemon balm and oregano. Annabelle says her mum puts oregano on spaghetti but the ancient girl has never heard of spaghetti.

Annabelle returns to her group of friends and shows them a purple sage leaf. They ask her to read another Braille sign.

The staff at Rothe House, among them manager Grace Segan, were on hand to help out during filming.




EPISODE 4 – Glendalough Caher Co. Wicklow

RTÉjr – 3rd November 2016 at 2.45pm and 4.30pm


This episode was filmed at the ancient caher which is located at the Upper Lake in Glendalough. The caher is one of the oldest structures in the site and is a circular stone enclosure some 20m in diameter.


We hear the sound of other children in the distance, and move over to see a group of present-day children exploring the area. They check out the Reefert Church and next they find the caher and start running around it, wondering what it is. They think it might be a fort.

One of them, a boy, wanders over to the lake to wash his apple and sees the ancient girl shouting. He watches her in amazement and tries to see who she’s shouting at. Eventually he asks her what she’s up to.

She says she’s trying to wake up the monster in the lake. She says there’s a huge monster – like a worm – in the lake and that St. Kevin put it in there to get rid of it. This monster can kill people and dogs.

She points to the cave where St. Kevin lives, up in the cliffside. St. Kevin is so powerful he could have killed the monster, but he loves animals so he decided to banish it instead.

The boy joins her in throwing stones – he likes the idea of awakening the monster too!




EPISODE 5 – Knocknarea, Co Sligo

RTÉjr – 4th November 2016 at 2.45pm and 4.30pm

This episode was film on the summit of Knocknarea where the neolithic cairn is believed to house a passage tomb. The mound is known as Queen Méadhbh’s Cairn and offers stunning views of Sligo bay.

One of the children notices some other people arriving. It’s a group of modern children who have walked up to investigate the amazing, huge conical cairn. A young girl from the current-day group walks over to a girl of roughly her own age in the ancient group, who wears face paint, and they begin to talk. She asks what they’re doing and they say they’re getting ready for a ritual, a tradition.

They exchange names and the ancient girl is surprised to hear that the modern girl is called Méadhbh. She tells Méadhbh that this is the sacred place where Queen Méadhbh is buried and that the queen is her ancestor. They are there to honour her.

The girls realise they might be cousins! The ancient girl puts some paint on Méadhbh’s face, telling her this will show they’re from the same clan.

Maedhbh goes to show her friends who are having their picnic. Maedhbh has missed the picnic lunch! She tells them the paint is because of the ritual for Queen Méadhbh.

Her friends shake their heads and they finish up their lunch. One of the kids says they mustn’t forget to each place a stone on the cairn for good luck.



EPISODE 6 – Drimnagh Castle, Dublin

RTÉjr – 7th November 2016 at 2.45pm and 4.30pm

The Medieval kitchen boy gathers vegetables… and a banana!

On the outskirts of Dublin city, just off the present-day Long Mile Road, a boy in medieval rags carries a basket of freshly-harvested vegetables from the garden of Drimnagh Castle towards the castle itself.  The sound of other children playing is heard off-camera.

We go to them, a group of present-day children who are getting ready to head off and sail their paper boats on the moat around the castle.

One of the modern children, a boy, has lost his boat and goes to look for it. He finds the medieval boy carrying the basket and they talk about the castle and the garden and the vegetables they like to eat!

The modern boy offers the medieval boy a banana: he has never seen or tasted a banana before and he has no idea how to eat it. Do you eat the skin?

The modern boy hears his friends nearby and heads away to join them. As the group disappear, we see the medieval boy eating his banana delightedly.





EPISODE 7 Rock of Dunamase, Stradbally, Co Laois

RTÉjr – 8th November 2016 at 2.45pm and 4.30pm

Press Release

Dunamase Castle is set high on a hill overlooking Strabally in one direction and Portlaoise in the other. The buildings date from the early Norman period and offer breathtaking views of the valleys below and of the Slieve Bloom Mountains.

We hear noises off and move to a group of modern children arriving at the castle and beginning to explore.  One of the modern children, a girl about the same age as the elder Norman, happens upon the ancient pair and remarks on their beautiful clothes.

They exchange names. The present-day girl is called Aoife and the Norman girls tell the story of another Aoife, who is going to marry the Norman lord, Strongbow. They also tell her the castle belongs to their uncle Diarmuid who is the King of Leinster.

Aoife eventually heads away to find her friend and tells them about the girls she has just met – and about the preparations for the wedding of Strongbow and Aoife!



EPISODE 8 – Glendalough Round Tower, Co. Wicklow


RTÉjr – 9th November 2016 at 2.45pm and 4.30pm

This episode was filmed in the beautiful, ancient monastic settlement at Glendalough.

We move to a group of present-day children who’ve just arrived and are checking out the site and particularly the old headstones, trying out reading names and dates.

One of them, a girl, comes across the ancient boys.

They are startled and ask her if she’s a Viking because of her strange dress. She replies that no, she’s Irish, and she’s here with her friends.

The boys explain that Vikings have been spotted approaching by a watchman up in the tower, and they’re hiding valuables there. They are also worried about being taken away as slaves. They advise her to find her friends and be safe.

They scurry off, and she picks up a beeswax candle that’s been dropped. She finds her friends but can’t quite explain what just happened.

As the modern kids head off, we see the ancient group making safe, throwing a sack of valuables up to the safety of the tower door.