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Archaeology of the Burren: Prehistoric Forts and Dolmens in North Clare by Thomas Johnson Westropp

Part II: Kilcorney and the Eastern Valleys: Glensleade: Poulnabrone; Cahercashlaun

Glensleade (O.S. 5, Nos. 15 & 16; O.S. 9, No. 4)

Poulnabrone (O.S. 9., No. 4).
In a rocky field lying east of the main road is a beautiful cromlech, noteworthy for the airy poise of its great top slab, which, contrary to the usual practice, slopes towards the west. This measures 13 feet long, from 6 feet to 10 feet wide, and a foot thick, and rests on three stones 5 to 7 feet high, the others having fallen. The structure forms a chamber, 9 feet 3 inches long, tapering eastwards from 4 feet 3 inches to 3 feet 9 inches internally; it stands in the remains of a mound, and is unaltered since 1862.

Not far north from this cromlech there is a long grassy glen very suggestive of a river-bed, and running back into the plateau under the ridge of Cragballyconoal from near the grassy mound and fragments of wall which mark the O’Loughlin’s castle in Glensleade. If we follow up this glen by a painful walk along very broken crags, full of avens, gentians, and long hartstongue ferns, we pass a well-built, small, and low ring wall, about 60 feet in diameter; it lies on the north crags, and the adjoining enclosures are all modern. We then come in sight of two lofty knolls, crowned with cliff forts, and forming a striking view as seen from the glen.

Cahercashlaun (O.S. 5, No. 16) in Poulnabrone is a natural tower of regularly stratified limestone rounded to the west, and falling in jagged cliffs towards the north-east. This rock rises 70 to 100 feet from the glen in even a bolder mass than does Cashlaun Gar.[19] The top is roughly oval, and is girt by a dry-stone wall, 4 to 5 feet thick, and at the most 6 feet high, most of it being nearly levelled, and clinging to the very edge of the crags with needless care. The garth measures internally 152 feet east and west, and 75 feet north and south; and contains a souterrain 80 feet from the west. This cave is formed out of a cleft about 7 feet deep, 27 feet long, and 4 to 6 feet wide; five long roofslabs remain over the middle. The gap of the ruined eastern gateway leads down into a second and lower enclosure, [20] surrounded by a coarsely built wall of much larger blocks than the upper fort, many being 5 and 6 feet long; in parts the wall is 5 and 6 feet high. The enclosure is 70 feet deep, making the entire length of the fort 240 feet from east to west. The entrance was through a regular cleft, sloping upwards through the crag-ledge; it was about 4 feet wide, and roofed by lintels, now fallen; it must have resembled the cleft under Carran cliff fort. This second wall was intended to protect the only easy ascent, and resembles one I recently found hidden in hazel scrub on the north slope of the knoll of the similar, though more massive, Cashlaun Gar.

Cliff fort of Cahercashlaun, from the North
Cliff fort of Cahercashlaun, from the North