Friday, April 24, 2009

Heritage and Archeology in South Kerry

Along the Ring of Kerry on the Iveragh Peninsula you can find a wealth of witnesses from the past. Standing Stones, Stone Rows and Circles, Boulder Burials and Wedge Tombs, Stone Huts or clocháns, Ring Forts and monastic or ecclesiastical buildings.
There is evidence that people inhabitated this part of Ireland as early as the Mesolithic Period, after the last Ice Age, although most of the above mentioned constructions date from the Bronze Age, 2500-400 BC, and after.
With rich findings of metal ore new tools were used to build bigger and more elaborate constructions.
Cahers on elevated sites were built to protect small farming communities. These earthen or stone ring forts enclosed a number of dwelling huts, storage huts and animal shelters. Three very fine examples are to be found in South Kerry, two of them north of Caherciveen, Cahergal and Learcanabuaile and Staigue Fort near Caherdaniel.

An impressive Stone Row which points towards the setting sun on Winter Solstice is situated in Eightercua right outside Waterville on the Sneem road.

Valentia Island is dotted with Standing Stones and Stone Crosses, Megalithic Tombs and Clocháns. The Transatlantic Cable connected Europe from here to New Foundland in North America. On top of that fossilized Tetrapod footprints were found down at the sea near Valentia Radio Coast Station. During the summer months visitors can find out more in a delightful little Local Museum in Knightstown, Valentia Island.

With Christianity came some famous monastic settlements in the 6th century, the most amazing and awe inspiring of them on Skellig Michael. They began as small isolated eremitic communities also on Church Island in Lough Currán near Waterville and on Illaunloughán in the channel between Portmagee and Valentia Island.
Later, in the 12th century some of these monasteries became Augustinian Priories and Abbeys, the Skelligs were left for Ballinskelligs Abbey, Church Island got Romanesque Art added, and Inisfallen, founded as a 7th century monastery near Killarney became the Augustinian Priory of St. Mary, where monks lived and studied and created the famous Annals of Inisfallen.

Two castles in South Kerry stand out as remnants from the past and are easily accessible,
Ballinskelligs Castle on Ballinskelligs Beach and Ballycarbery Castle in Caherciveen.

For more pictures go to my website´s heritage/ buildings photogallery.

The Ordnance Survey Ireland, Discover Series Map, No. 83, will give you detailed information about the location of many of the above mentioned.

To read more about the History and Heritage in South Kerry two books are essential,
the small but very informative Antiquities of the Ring of Kerry, by Jason Bolton, published in 2008 by Wordwell Ltd.
and the heavyweight The Iveragh Peninsula, An Archeological Survey of South Kerry, by Ann O´Sullivan and John Sheehan, published in 1996 by Cork University Press.

And finally, there are three books that will go straight to your heart by Ballinskelligs´ own Michael Kirby,
a fisherman, painter and writer of books in his native Irish language and, good for us, three books in English
  • Skelligside, 1990,
all published by Lilliput press,