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

Part III: Northern Burren: Killonaghan; Craggagh; Ballyelly; Derreen; Crumlin

Between the road and the sea is a large rock called Dermot and Grania’s bed, under which is an artificial cave not a dolmen.[14] Not far away are the foundations of three nearly levelled cahers. The caher of Craggagh, near the foot of the hill, occupies (like Balliny), a low craggy knoll, and is defaced by the neighbourhood of modern houses. Its walls are much gapped and overgrown. An old-looking bohereen leads from it to Killonaghan church.

A group of cahers stands far up the hillside, behind Balliny and near Faunaroosca. The first and most northern fort is a circular caher nearly levelled; it measures 57 feet externally, and its wall is only 4 feet thick, carefully built without filling. The second caher is circular, 78 feet externally, and has no gate; the wall is well built, and best preserved to the south. The third caher is a ring-wall of coarse, large masonry, 77 feet internally; the wall 8 feet thick and high; the jambs of the north gateway remain, the opening being only 34 inches wide, with parallel sides. The foundations of a late oblong building and an ancient circular hut lie in the garth; the latter lies to the south-west side. The fourth caher lies 60 feet to the west of the last down a steep slope. It is a scarcely traceable ring of small filling and mossy stones. The fifth caher is gapped and much defaced; it lies farther up the slope. Finally, the baun of Faunaroosca castle appears to be a straight-walled ‘moher,’ being of massive dry stone-work; the walls 5 feet thick. It was probably much modified when the later turret was built at its south-east corner.

This now treeless slope once possessed among its oak trees thirty-three forts, of which twenty were in the two townlands of Derreen - ‘numerous its cahers, unnumbered its raths and fortified strongholds’[15] - but all that I have examined or seen are in the last stage of ruin. A fort named Liscoonera lies up the hill, 730 feet above the sea. There is a nearly levelled fort, D-shaped in plan, near the lower road in Derreen East; three are nearly levelled, five more ‘rings’ have been more or less rebuilt as folds, but I think are of ancient origin, and three sides of a rectangular ‘moher’ also remain. Above these, beyond the upper road, four ring-walls, about 100 feet in diameter, lie in the townland of Knockauns, three have been levelled; the fourth, near the road, is nearly gone. The 1839 map shows two others, which seem to be only late folds.

This townland, besides the venerable church of St. Columba, possessed five cahers; the first is oval and overthrown; the second is a small and, I think, a late ‘ring.’ To the east of these a straight walled enclosure, measuring from 160 to 200 feet long, and about 140 feet wide. An old bohereen leads past it to the upper road, and a ‘cave’ remains outside, and near its northern angle. On the hill south of the church is Caherduff, possibly so named as being on the shady side of the hill, while Caher na Grian lies on the opposite slope; these belong to Killilagh parish, and are reserved for further notes.

The upper road passes through (and of course defaces) the ring of Cahernagree (‘the fort of the herds’), on the borders of Crumlin and Knockauns mountain. The fifth site in Crumlin lies to the south-west of the last, and not far from the road; it is, as usual, almost completely destroyed. The road past Faunaroosca branches to the south-east, from a point lying to the north of these forts, and leads by a steep and difficult way across deep gullies and a boggy plateau. The latter is devoid of antiquities, and extends from Knockauns mountain to Elva. The deep-cut streams, rich marsh plants, and fine open view southward over Lisdoonvarna to the hills of Inchiquin and Callan and the bays of Liscannor and Bealaghaline alone give interest to this road till we pass the venerable church of Kilmoon and emerge on the main road from Lisdoonvarna to Ballyvaughan.