Clare County Library
Clare History
Home | Search Library Catalogue | Foto: Clare Photo Collection | Search this Website | Copyright Notice

Ring-Forts in the Barony of Moyarta, Co. Clare, and Their Legends
by Thomas Johnson Westropp

Part I.—From Loop Head to Carrigaholt

Forts in Moyarta Parish (O.S. 65, 66)

This parish presents a bewildering profusion of forts—at least 115 are known to have existed, and over 100 remain. It is, however, a comparatively modern division. The neighbouring parishes, Kellroyse, Kellmolihegyn, and Kelliheheragh, appear in the list of 1302; and the first has a history back to the sixth century; but Moyarta only appears in post-Reformation documents. It probably owed its importance to the establishment of Carrigaholt as the chief’s castle in the late-fifteenth century. The name means “plain of the churchyard” (Magh-fhearta), and is not found even in the O’Brien’s rental, usually dated 1390. The church itself, of which only fragments remained even in 1816, is entirely removed; it stood on an ancient ring-fort, the fosse and platform of which are still well marked at the north corner of the graveyard, and commands a beautiful view of the harbour, village, and tall ivied keep of the lords of Clare, with the broad Shannon and diapered hills of north Kerry beyond. Down the road, southward, is another nameless Liss with high earthworks. The bank is 9 feet high outside and 5 feet inside, and encloses a garth about 90 feet across; the fosse remains to the north. It is planted with wind-beaten trees, bending away from the western gales.

The principal group in the west crowds into a square about two miles across up the stream-valleys at Carrigaholt. There are four in Bellia, two cut through by roads, three in Killinny, thirteen in Moyarta, and as many in the Rahonas and the adjoining fields. We may notice Lisnagreeve in Killinny, a small fort about 80 feet across the garth, with two wide rings and ditches measuring 250 feet over all; Bellia liss is larger but similar; Carrownaweelaun (sea-gull quarter), a two-circled fort, [49] near the last and Lisduff (with a high bank and a rock-cut fosse) in Moveen are described below. Five other small, low earth-forts lie near the last to the east, and two to the south, all fairly perfect. Lissagreenaun and two other perfect forts lie in the valley of the Moyarta River; the first two have steep fairly high rings, the second has two rings—the inner high and covered with furze—between them as a fosse; the entrance faced the south. Near these was a much larger fort, perfect in 1839, but now quite defaced, and not marked on the new maps; it was about 350 feet long by 270 feet wide, of irregular plan; a very steep little ring lay near to the south-east. South of the river, beside the cross-road, is a low earth-fort of two circles, with very slight traces of a fosse fed by a rill, and about 250 feet over all.