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A Survey of Monuments of Archaeological and Historical Interest in the Barony of Bunratty Lower, Co. Clare by William Gerrard Ryan

Part 2: Chapter 18: Tomfinlough Parish: Ballycar Townland

Site C: STONEFORT (See photographs)
6” O.S. Sheet number : 42 (Co. Clare)
Reference : 0.7 cm South; 37.9 cm East
Height : c. 105’ O.D.
Shape : circular nature

Description of site:
Ballycar Lough, which forms the divide between Ballycar and Carrownakilly townlands, has a number of interesting archaeological sites in its immediate vicinity. Probably the most interesting of these is Cahernacalla, a stonefort on the west shore of the lake, in Carrownakilly townland. The site now under discussion, Ballycar C, is also interesting, built as it is on a natural rise to the immediate south of the lake. The ground here falls quite sharply to the north, from 100 ft. O.D. to 70 ft. O.D. in a short distance. Thus from the site’s interior one has a view over the full ½ mile long lake.

What are the main features of this stonefort? An examination of the relevant 6” O.S. sheet shows trees in the area about this site. Field work found, however, that such trees also grow within the site and around the single stone wall. In the interior they are especially concentrated in the centre and along the wall to the west. The concentration is so heavy here that one cannot examine the features of these areas. Over other areas the covering is, fortunately, not as dense. Thus while their presence hinders movement it does not fully restrict it. Obviously the root systems associated with such trees have been responsible for the damaging, if not full destruction, of site stratigraphy.

The single stone wall can be traced over the full site though as stated above is covered by trees to the west. This wall averages only 30 cm in height by 1.80 to 1.90 metres in width. For once one can state the original width of a fort wall. How? The foundation blocks were large slabs with straight sides. In many areas to the north-east these can be examined and measured. Other layers of rocks were built upon these, some of which survive in part. These large foundation blocks possibly came from the large area of outcropping rock below the site, to the west.

This wall is now quite low as most of the loose stone has been removed and used in the erection of some of the many local field boundaries.

Such a low wall makes it difficult to decide on, or locate, the area of the original entrance. However due to the sharp drop in slope to the west this area must be ruled out. Field work did suggest that the original entrance may have been from the east/north-east. Here one finds stones with straight sides turned in towards the interior, with a 1 metre opening in the wall. Unfortunately cattle sheltering in the interior have damaged this probable entrance area.

Due to the depth of the permanent vegetation covering to the centre and west it was not possible to measure the sites interior accurately. I thus suggest an internal diameter of some 35 metres, north-south and east-west.

Ballycar C: Foundation of site’s single stone wall, to the north-east
Ballycar C: Foundation of site’s single stone wall, to the north-east

Ballycar C: Photo across the eastern interior of the site, showing the wall foundations to the right (east)
Ballycar C: Photo across the eastern interior of the site,
showing the wall foundations to the right (east)