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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

Kilcorney Valley and Ridges; Baur; Caherliscolmanvara

The Kilcorney Valley (save for its venerable church and the alleged site of Kilcolmanvara) only possesses an earthen tumulus 53 feet in diameter and 9 feet high, with a slight bank round the top. It lies to the south-west of the church, and commands a fine view of the cave-pierced cliffs.

The conspicuous cairn of Poulawack stands on the southern ridge near Poulcaragharush. It is a shapely pile of flat stones, about 200 feet in girth and 12 feet high, in good preservation. A kerbing of slabs set on edge girds its base; and an attempt has been made to break in on the northern side. The sea is visible from its summit; this, with the bright, fresh outlook, and its contiguity to Eanty, the probable site of ancient fairs, recalls the legend of Amalgaid, [6] who ‘dug’ tumuli and made his cairn, ‘to make round it an annual meeting place for the clan,’ ‘to watch there for his vessels,’ and eventually to make it his resting-place. Gloom seldom surrounded the ancient chieftain’s grave; it lay on a fair site, and was regarded as a place of repose and comfort, so that a pagan king could sing:-

‘ My mound - my protection after parting with my army,
My pure, bright haven, my tomb, and my grave.’[7]

From the west end of the valley, a long ascent through rocks covered with mountain avens brings us to Lissylisheen caher, a small ring wall, 8 feet thick. The gateway faces the east, has doorposts at the inner corners, and is only 3 feet wide. The neighbouring castle still shows a large well-built rectangular court and a lofty block of masonry. From its grassy summit we get a most extensive view: the huge peaks of the Galtees and Mount Brandon rise to the far south. A pretty range of cliffs stand out against their belt of foam in Liscannor Bay; behind us rise the great hills of Slieve Elva and Northern Burren; the church and forts of Noughaval, seem very near; and Cahermacnaughten [8] lies about a mile to the north.

Plan and Elevation of Cromlech, Baur South
Plan and Elevation of Cromlech, Baur South

Baur
On the north cliffs of Kilcorney two cromlechs lie among heathy tussocks in the townlands of Baur, beside the steep road leading to Glensleade. Neither of these are marked [9] even on the new Survey. The one stands in the west boundary wall of Baur North and was once a noble specimen; but its cracked blocks bear marks of fire.[10] The top has collapsed, and only the south side is fairly perfect, being 16 feet 3 inches by 5 feet 10 inches. The upper edge was hammer-dressed. The cist tapers eastwards from 9 feet to 5 feet 9 inches, and had low stones at the west ends, as at Tobergrania, &c. The other cromlech lies in Baur South, in the S.W. corner of the field marked 12.543 on Sheet 9, No. 3 of the new Survey: it is a very perfect little cist, covered with a low mound. The dimensions are given in the plan.

It is noteworthy for having an internal cist, 3 feet from the west end, and about a foot lower than the outer box. A somewhat similar arrangement existed in the huge cromlech of Derrymore, near O’Callaghan’s Mills in this county, and other internal cists were found by Mr. Borlase at Tregaseal in Cornwall, where a layer of charcoal, human bones, and broken pottery lay on the ground, and little heaps of bones on the shelf. Several such cists occur in the dolmen of Karleby in Sweden, and contained crouching skeletons.[11] The Baur cromlech, however, has long been open and a shelter for goats. There were, at least, five defaced cairns along the edges of Baur and Poulnaskagh, and one near the end of that deep gully occupied by the glebe of Kilcorney. They average about 20 feet across, and are seldom more than 4 feet high.

Caherliscolmanvara lies in Poulnaskagh; its wall is levelled to within 2 feet of the field. The descent to the valley near this fort has three waterworn loaf-shaped rocks, about 8 feet high, across its pass. East of this, on the ridge near Caherconnell, are three very defaced cahers in Poulanine. Caherlisnanroum, on the cliff edge, is of good masonry, and has long lintel blocks and a side enclosure; its name (like that of Lisnanroum [12] on the southern hill near the road to Noughaval) is said to have been derived from the ‘drum’ or long ridge on which the cahers stand.

 

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