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The Burren: Cahercommane Triple Fort

Following the windings of the glen for about half a mile, we find on the edge of a lofty and steep cliff, opposite which another huge dome rises, a large and very interesting fort, remarkably like Dun Aenghus, though its cliff overhangs a narrow gorge instead of the vast swirling abyss of foam-flecked sea beneath the Aran fortress.

The outer wall is entirely destroyed for 24 feet from the cliff, both on the east and west sides, much of it is 7 feet or 8 feet high, and 8 feet thick. It has two faces, well bonded, with several upright joints. Near one of these, to the south, the inner face has been rebuilt, the stones being laid slope-wise, with flat blocks here and there to prevent their slipping. The wedge-shape of many of the stones helps this arrangement. Similarly we see a course like a flat arch in the inner caher. Against the wall were built several small huts of uncertain date; and the foundations of an oval cloghaun, 27 feet x 18 feet, lie 54 feet outside, and S E of the fort. The enclosure between the outer and second wall varies, being 54 feet west, 50 feet south, and 60 feet east. It is crossed by several radiating walls much overthrown. The southern runs from the central caher to the outer wall, where is a very small hut or kennel. It enclosed a round hut in the second enclosure. A parallel wall forms a passage with it across the latter space only, and a second hut is built to the left of the opening against the outer face of the second rampart. The second radiating wall runs across both enclosures; the third and fourth are parallel, forming a passage 6 ft. wide from the second to the outer rampart, the more northern crossing the second enclosure to the caher, and in every case the walls are sufficiently perfect to show that no gate existed at either passage.

Lord Dunraven suggests that the northern one was covered; but it only ran along the surface, and there are no traces of flags or corbelling, so it remains a problem. Perhaps these huts and cross-walls may represent the work of herdsmen long after the caher was deserted. The district for five hundred years has been much used for grazing. The outer rampart runs for 60 feet north of the passage, about 18 feet from which the ground sinks into a regular area from the inner caher for at least 100 feet outside of the fort.

The second rampart is 5 feet thick, and 3 feet or 4 feet high; it lies 30 feet from the caher, is better built, and seems to have been disused and partly demolished when the outer rampart was constructed. The central caher is massive and imposing, whether seen from the road or from the depth of the glen, rising like a great knoll of rock against the sky. It is 12 feet high at the east, and 14 feet to the south, being there fairly perfect, but leaning out. It is of rude masonry, from 20 feet to 22 feet thick, and had at least one terrace, which has a recess, probably for a ladder, whence shallow steps built of flags led to a second platform, or to the summit. The north side has fallen down the cliff, but a rock-cut passage, 3 feet wide, crosses its base, and probably formed the only gate of the caher. The enclosures measure respectively - the inner, 85 feet north and south; 113 feet 4 inches east and west internally; 130 feet and 157 feet externally. The second 175 feet x 230 feet externally, the outer about 350 feet along the cliff x 245 feet deep.

On the opposite ridge lie two circular enclosures, one coarsely built and nearly overthrown, the second, of very regular masonry, called Cahereen-moyle, its wall only a few feet high. It is scarcely possible to conceive surroundings more desolate and melancholy than those of Glencurraun. The pale flat ridges shutting out the more distant view; the dark glen and ghastly sheets of grey rock, rendering more dismal the storm-worn ruins - homes of tribes, forgotten with the kings and rulers of the earth - 'Qui ædificant sibi solitudines.'

Thomas Johnson Westropp, 1896.

Extract taken from Thomas J. Westropp, 'Archaeology of the Burren: prehistoric forts and dolmens in north Clare'. Ennis, Clasp Press, 1999.

Plan of Cahercommane, T.J. Westropp, 1896
Plan of Cahercommane,
T.J. Westropp, 1896

Masonry Cahercommane
Masonry Cahercommane

Masonry Cahercommane
Masonry Cahercommane

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