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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

The Ridge above Glensleade:
Cragballyconoal; Poulbaun; Ballymihil

The Ridge above Glensleade (O.S. 5, No. 16)

Cragballyconoal
We leave Lisaniska, ascend the stony pastures, cross the bohereen from Caherconnell to Poulaphuca, and enter this townland. Though it is in Oughtmama Parish, it so closely adjoins and is so nearly surrounded by the forts of Kilcorney, while so many miles of mountains, nearly devoid of antiquities, lie to the east, that we must describe its forts along with those of Ballymihil. It appears as part of Oughtmama in Petty’s map of 1686; but the name is not given.

The ridge is about 700 feet above the sea. It slopes southward to Eanty, and falls westwards in steep bluffs into Poulgorm. Eastward extends a bleak and featureless plateau to the valleys of Turlough and Rannagh. Nearly all the forts are small, oval, of light masonry, and nearly broken down to within 3 to 5 feet of the ground.

An ancient disused road runs along the ridge in a nearly straight line, north and south, from Ballymihil cromlech to Lisananima: this forms the bounds of the parishes and townlands for most of its course. In Cragballyconoal, on the very bounds of Ballymihil, we find (1) a cromlech in a green mound; the top has been removed since 1862; the sides are about 6 feet high to the west; the top edges have been hammer-dressed; they slope towards the east, and, being coated with white lichen, form a conspicuous object across the valley.[14] (2) A circular stone fort lies behind the Mackies’ house, lately the scene of a night attack; the southern segment has been destroyed, and the house built on its site and with the material; the rest is mostly about 8 feet high, and a souterrain forms an S-curve under the wall. This ‘cave’ is of the usual type, with side walls 3 feet apart, and roof slabs level with the ground. (3) Northwards lies a larger fort, D-shaped in plan, with the straight side to the south. It measures 120 feet internally, and contains a defaced circular cloghaun in the centre of the garth and measuring 12 feet internally, and a straight souterrain, 3 feet wide, leading under the wall. The gateway faced S.S.E., and had three lintels, 7 feet 3 inches, 7 feet 4 inches, and 9 feet long, and from 3 feet to 2 feet broad, and 9 inches thick; one side-post still stands, but the width of the entrance cannot be accurately fixed. (4, 5, 6) Three nearly-levelled cahers lie a short distance to the east. This close grouping recalls the ‘grianans and palaces’ outside the royal dun, or the groups of ‘caher, courts and castles’ seen by Ossian in Tir-na-nóg.[15] (7) A second cromlech lies in the remains of a mound on a heathy moor. It is made of three very thin slabs, 3 inches thick, and scarcely 4 feet high; the ends are removed; the dimensions are given on the plan; it slopes and narrows eastward. Near it, in Ballymihil, is a craggy field, set with upraised slabs, small stone ‘piers’ and heaps; a slab, rudely shaped like a cross, is set in one wall; another rude cross, of greater size, lies southward down the slope. (8) Farther, to the N.E of the cromlech, is a small circular caher, 59 feet internally. The gateway faces the south, and is 4 feet 6 inches wide, with two pillars on each side; the lintels have been removed, and the wall is only 4 feet thick and high. This fort commands, through a depression in the ridge, a striking view of the summit of Turlough Hill, rising to the N.E in three terraces, and crowned with its conspicuous cairn - another instance of the sacrifice of a more commanding site to a more attractive or extensive view.

The Southern and Northern Cromlechs, Cragballyconoal
The Southern and Northern Cromlechs, Cragballyconoal

Passing into Poulbaun (9) we find a caher on a rising ground, with a fine outlook over Glensleade to the sea; the round castle of Doonagore and the cliffs of Moher in the distance. The defaced gateway looks to the S.W., and is 4 feet 10 inches wide, with parallel sides of coursed masonry. The garth only contains a curved souterrain, 3 feet wide, lying to the N.E. On the crags below it, lies a heap of large slabs (10), most probably a fallen cromlech; the top and largest slab measures 12 feet from east to west, and is 8 feet wide.

We now enter Ballymihil, and find a fallen cromlech (11) on the bluff overhanging Poulgorm; the top is 11 feet 6 inches long, tapering eastward from 7 feet 7 inches to 6 feet, and 10 inches to 12 inches thick. The sides lie under it where they fell, and a rude dry-stone pier has been erected on the top to support a flag shaped like a round-headed cross, or rude human figure. We could learn nothing of its age or object; but a somewhat similar, though smaller, slab lies in the cist at Coolnatullagh.

Southward lies a straight-walled garth (12), only 3 feet or 4 feet high, enclosing a curious rock; still farther south is a ring-wall (13), quite levelled in parts, but with sections to the N.W. and S., still 9 feet to 11 feet high; and, like Cahergrillaun, it shows smaller masonry on top from about 8 feet above the ground. Near it is a circular modern enclosure on the edge of the slope. In a valley far below the level of the plateau, but still in Ballymihil, a small ring-wall (14) lies on a projecting spur; its wall is much gapped, and it only contains a modern sheep-fold.

 

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