HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS Many names on the map of the Irish Midlands have strong historical associations. One with links to early Irish history, and with a place in Irish folklore as well, is the Rock of Dunamase, that rises out of the Laois countryside east of Port Laoise, the county town. The rock is an ancient site, included on Ptolemy’s famous map of AD 140, which has seen many battles for possession of the fortress on its summit. The Vikings plundered it, the Anglo-Normans built a castle on it, and the O’Moores, who had been clan chieftains in the area before the time of St. Patrick, built another, called Masg 167 The Emerald Isle ABOVE: The Rock of Dunamase is a large limestone outcrop with the ruins of a fortified castle on top in Dunamase, County Laois. Most of the surviving ruins date from the late 12th and early 13th centuries AD , but evidence for earlier activity also exists. The first known inhabitants on the rock were early Christian settlers who were pillaged by the Vikings in 842. OVERLEAF: Colorful rowing boats on Lough Ennell near Mullingar, County Westmeath.