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

Part III: Northern Burren: Glenarraga or Ballyvaughan Valley:
Knocknagroagh; Dangan; Cahermoyle; Ballycahil; Cahernahooan

Knocknagroagh (O.S. 5, No. 3) has, besides the foundations of the levelled Ooanknocknagroagh (which is called on the key-map, but not elsewhere, ‘Boenknocknagroagh’), a better preserved, though defaced, caher near the same bohereen, a straight-walled moher to the north of the last, and a small levelled fort with a souterrain on a slightly rising ground near Wood village. The foundation blocks of the destroyed Caherwarraga remain on a low knoll in a field adjoining the townland, but in Newtown or Ballynua. From its name it is probable that an eanagh or market was held near it, as at Eanty and Ballykinvarga, in this county, and Emania and other noted sites in other parts of our island. Dr. Macnamara suggests, however, that it contains the compound found in the local name of the valley of ‘Glenarraga.’

Dangan (O.S. 5, No. 4)
The eastern sides of the valley abounds in fort sites, though only two are of any great interest owing to the hand of the destroyer, whether road-maker, farmer, treasure seeker, or, the worst reputed of the foes of our ruins, the rabbit hunter. The townland of Dangan forms a grassy nook among steep, bare hills, with bold terraces and caves, and extends to their summit, over 1000 feet above the sea. No ancient structures are found up the crags; but there are three levelled cahers of small size, and a fourth, named Cahermoyle, is the largest and in better preservation.

Cahermoyle is probably the ‘Cahernagree’ in Dangan, named more than once in documents of the seventeenth century.[43] It rests on a low grassy knoll, and is hidden from view to the north by an abrupt craggy hill, ending in a ridge covered with coarse grass and bracken.

It is a ring wall, enclosing a garth 84 feet in internal diameter; the wall is 7 feet to 8 feet thick, and reduced to 7 feet high to the north and east, being levelled almost to the foundation at the west. It had a terrace paved with large thin slabs, 4 feet and 5 feet by 3 feet; this remains along the northern and southern segments, and in the former place is well preserved, being 3 feet high and 2 feet 6 inches to 3 feet wide. One recess, with a projecting block or step about 18 inches above the ground, still remains. The masonry to the north is coarse, of long, thin blocks, like the outer wall of Cahercommane; but there is much better though more irregular masonry to the east. Large field boulders, probably left in situ, are embodied on the wall. The filling is of small, round, field stones, and the base blocks, as usual, are the largest now apparent, often 4 feet long.

Cahermoyle – Dangan
Cahermoyle – Dangan

The gateway faces the east, where the wall is 7 feet 8 inches thick. Its inner passage through the terrace is 3 feet 6 inches wide, and its outer 2 feet 6 inches; it was flanked on each side by three posts, 4 feet high and 12 inches to 15 inches square. There are two large lintels - the inner, 8 feet 10 inches by 1 foot 6 inches by 10 inches; the outer, 8 feet 4 inches by 1 foot 6 inches by 12 inches; but they have been removed to admit cattle;[44] for it was peopled by sheep and bullocks on the day of my visit, and now (as probably two and a-half centuries since) deserves the name ‘Cahernagree.’ There are no hut foundations or ‘traverses’ (cross walls) in the garth.

The garth contains two ‘caves’ at right angles to each other, which I believe join into an L-shaped souterrain, though not fully accessible; the bones of sheep and other animals thrown into these in recent times warn us to caution in dealing with ‘finds’ in forts. One passage lies nearly north and south, and is at least 15 feet long, 4 feet wide, and at present is 3 feet high; the other lies at right angles, and it is the same size and (if it joins the first) about the same length as the other; the sides incline, and are of small stonework; both ‘caves’ are roofed with large slabs.

The fort, despite its secluded position, has a lovely view across Galway Bay, which is seen through a gap in the craggy ridge; it has an unimpeded outlook to the west to the Rath of Ballyallaban and into the Aghaglinny valley. There is a very massive, but evidently late, house near the fort, and a hut of doubtful age lies on the crags at some distance from its northern side.

Ballycahill (O.S. 5, Nos. 3 and 7)
This townland [45] adjoins Dangan to the west. It once possessed a dolmen and seven cahers; one at the summit of the boldly-terraced bluff is shown on the map as partly levelled, and as 824 feet above the sea; another, on the slope, is an irregular moher; two, near the site of the cromlech and near the farmhouse, are small and levelled; two others, to the north of the bohereen, are quite overthrown and crowded with sloe and thorn bushes. It only remains to note briefly a less dilapidated fort.

Cahernahooan is a small ring wall, about 100 feet across, and lying on a grassy ridge. The wall had a facing of unusually rounded field blocks, with a filling of small, rounded stones, in consequence of which it has mostly collapsed. A short stretch to the east is about 5 feet high, and is from 5 feet to 6 feet thick; most of the wall in the northern half is defaced and overgrown. A late house-site and a deep hollow, with stone walls, probably a dug-out ‘cave,’ appear in the garth, and account for the defaced state of the caher. In a wall not far to the west is a hollowed block of limestone, resembling an ancient corn-crusher. I have seen similar ones since then at Moheramoylan and near Caheraneden. Further eastward, near the bohereen, is curious ‘boat-shaped’ enclosure, of doubtful age, with five large blocks to the east and four to the west.

 

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