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The Burren: Ballykinvarga Fort

Ballykinvarga ('of the head of the market'), 135 feet × 155 feet. The old name seems to have been 'Caher Loglin' in east Ballykenuarga, (Book of Distribution, p. 189). This very fine fort, possibly the 'Cathair Fhionnabhrach,' reserved to the King of Cashel in the Book of Rights, appears in O'Brien's Rental, about 1380, as 'baile cin mhargadh.'

When perfect it must have been a beautiful specimen; now the vandal country lads, rabbit-hunting and tearing blocks out of its wall, must soon bring it to complete ruin. It is well built of large blocks, 3 feet to 5 feet long, and where most perfect to the east, is 15 feet high. The wall consists of three sections; the central 4 feet thick, the others 5 feet; it probably had another terrace, 4 feet 6 inches thick, as it is 19 feet 6 inches thick in other parts. The walls have several upright joints. The gate faces S.S.E., its lintel, 7 feet 9 inches × 1 foot 4 inches × 3 feet, resting on side walls and corner posts; its outer face was blocked; and, as I saw it, the space was occupied by a colony of hedgehogs. A walled and sunken passage led eastward through the chevaux de frise, probably, as in the Greek and Esthonian forts, to compel assailants to advance with their shield arm away from the wall. The inner enclosures extend in a fairly regular band round the western edge, where the wall is 7 feet high.

The chevaux de frise is in two sections: the inner, about 46 feet wide, thickly set with pillars about 3 feet high, with smaller spikes between, and still nearly impassible, save to the south. A second band extends for 50 feet more, but is less thickly set with stones; it has a border mound set with large blocks, one nearly 7 feet x 2 feet 7 inches x 1 foot. A large hoard of silver coins 'of Edward II.' were found at the foot of a pillar and, much more precious to the occupants, a streamlet wells out on the southern side. Several groups of blocks remain in the adjoining field. I am not satisfied that any one was a cromlech. A small rude fort, overthrown for 95 feet, crowns the ridge 235 feet to the N.E. Two curved walls cross its garth, and a two-doored cloghaun stood in the northern loop. From its roughness and choice site it may be the older fort of the two. There must have been some danger apprehended from this direction as an addition seems to have been made to the chevaux de frise at the same side.

Thomas Johnson Westropp, 1897.

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

Gateway, Ballykinvarga Fort, T.J. Westropp, 1898
Gateway, Ballykinvarga Fort, T.J. Westropp, 1898

Ballykinvarga showing Chevaux de Frise
Ballykinvarga showing Chevaux de Frise
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