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

Part III: Northern Burren

Embarrassed by the wealth of ancient remains, we have examined Inchiquin and the eastern districts of the ancient Corcomroes;.[1] to complete our survey of the principal cahers of Burren it only remains for us to explore that section ‘in the arms of the sea.’ A fresh bright district of warm limestone - ‘the land of the green and the grey’ - lies along the ocean. Its rocks are tufted with samphire and maidenhair, with countless flowers and ferns, and its hills are broken by deep valleys and bright brooks. It ever grows in fascination, whether its terraced hills reflect ‘the glowing embers of the sunset’ or lie shimmering beneath unclouded noon. Its great bluffs look across miles of waves to the Isles of Aran, ‘poised in the golden west,’ beyond which some writers fixed the garden of Hesperides ‘on the west side from Aran, where goes the sun to its couch.’[2] ‘Above, free winds and clouds,

ranging at their will; brightness out of the north and balm from the south, clear in the limitless light of arched heaven and circling sea.’ The ancient inhabitants felt this beauty and sang of Aran in words equally descriptive of the Burren - ‘The sea impinges on her very shoulders, skittish goats are on her pinnacles, soft blackberries are on her waving heather, blueberries and sloes of the dark thorn; her nuts hang on her forest hazel boughs, and there was sailing of long galleys past her; the seagulls, wheeling round her grand cliffs, answer one the other.’[3]

In this beautiful district an important series of early settlements lay; the cahers and middens alone remain with a very few cromlechs, and the buildings form the subject of this Paper. Few of the cahers equal in interest or preservation those of our former explorations, but many are most instructive and several of importance to the general result of our conclusions. We commence our survey at the extreme north-eastern promontory of Black Head, and then explore valley by valley eastward till we meet the field of our former work at Berneens. Thence we purpose following a westward line till we return to the sea near the cliffs of Moher.

General Map of the Neighbourhood of Lisdoonvarna
General Map of the Neighbourhood of Lisdoonvarna
Click on the map for larger version