KERRY ANTIQUITIES

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

The vestiges of antiquity scattered over the county are very numerous, though the most common are the traces of the military struggles of which it has been the scene. It had formerly three of the ancient round towers, of which the one that stood near the cathedral of Ardfert fell in 1771; of another, at Aghadoe, there are about 20 feet remaining; and the third is still standing nearly entire at Rattoo. Staigue fort, in the parish of Kilcrohane, is an extraordinary circular building of the most remote date: there is another stone fort with seats around it, about three miles distant, but in ruins, from the inferior solidity of its workmanship; and a similar enclosure is likewise to be seen in Iveragh, on the opposite side of the river from Cahirciveen.

Perhaps of a remoter age are the Ogham inscriptions near the church of Kilmelchedor, near Smerwick harbour; where there is another inscription in a running character of various ancient letters. At Ballysteeny is likewise a stone with an Ogham inscription; and, in the ruined church of Aghadoe, another. Among the most curious of the ancient fortifications is the circular enclosure at Caherdonnel, which is attributed to the Danes; and on the mountain of Cahirconree, or "the fortress of King Con," is a circle of massive stones, also piled in the manner of a Danish intrenchment. There is also a Danish camp, called Caher Trant, on the shores of Ventry haven; and another at Rathanane, in the same vicinity. Clee Ruadh, or the Red Ditch, is a singular line of defence, commencing at a place called Caher Carbery, near Kerry Head, and carried eastward to the Cashen river, beyond which it re-appears, and proceeding over Knockanure mountain it enters Limerick county, where all traces of it are lost: it is conjectured to have been an ancient line of demarcation between the principalities of Thomond and Desmond.

The most curious of the minor remains of the more remote ages is the bronze instrument, resembling a kettle-drum, found at Muckross, and now deposited in Charlemont House, Dublin. Eighteen religious houses are said to have anciently existed in this county; and there are remains of those of Aghamore, or Derrynane, Ardfert, Ballinaskellig, Innisfallen, Irrelagh or Muckross, Killagh or de Bello Loco (in the parish of Kilcoleman), Lislaghtin, O'Dorney or Kyrie Eleison, and Rattoo or Rathtoy.

There are also the ruins of the ancient cathedrals of Ardfert and Aghadoe; a ruined religious building, called Monaster in Oriel, in the parish of Kilgarvan; chapels or cells, built entirely of stone with arched roofs, on Skellig and Blasquet Islands, from the former of which the abbey of Ballinaskellig was removed to the main land; a curious church and cell, dedicated to St. Finian, on an island in Lough Currane, in the parish of Dromod; a stone-roofed cell at Fane, in the parish of Ventry; one also at Kilmelchedor; one near Gallerus, at the bottom of Smerwick harbour, which is very perfect and curious; Mac Ida's chapel, near Ballyheigue; and an anchorite's cell in the solid rock near Kilcrohane church. Ruined parochial churches are found scattered over the entire county; but their features are generally very simple.

The old castles still remaining in a more or less perfect state are those of Ardea, Barra, Ballybeggan, Ballybunnian, Ballycarbery, Ballyheigue, Ballymalus, Ballinaskellig, Beale, Cappanacoss, Carrigafoyle, Castledrum, Castlefiery, Castleisland, Castlelough, Castlesybil, Clonmellane, Doon, Dunkerron, Dunloh, Fenit, Gallerus, Killaha, Kilmurry, Lick, Listowel, Littur, Molahiffe, Pallis, Rathanane, and Ross, which, as well as the modern castles and seats, are noticed in the parishes in which they are respectively situated.

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