Monday, November 4, 2013

Dunbeg Fort, Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

Dunbeg Fort dates back to the Iron Age, i.e. back to 500 B.C. The fortifications were built probably to resist invaders or at least to provide shelter for locals. This particular fort is the "promontory style" meaning it is built on the edge of the sea. The back of the fort is not protected by a wall but by cliffs dropping down into the sea.

Unfenced cliffs

More unfenced cliffs

View from the front wall of the fort

The front of the fort is protected by an outer wall as well as four lines of embankments and five fosses (ditches).

Embankments and fosses

First entrance with J and L ready to guard it!

The first entrance through the outer wall is flanked on the inside by two guard chambers which we discovered are large enough to stand inside, though the entrance hole is tight.

Looks more like the entrance to an oven, if you ask me

L with plenty of room to spare

A large clochan or stone hut (referred to as beehive huts because of their shape) stood inside the outer wall. It is quite spacious inside but the roof had caved in long ago, leaving only the wall around the edge.

Stone hut without a roof

The family seeks shelter

The path from the embankments through the outer wall and into the clochan is covered with large stones because a souterrain or underground tunnel connects them all. Large stones cover the underground path now.

Exit from the inner clochan

Exit through the main wall (L's guard room is to the right)

A water drain runs off to the east of the enclosure. People aren't sure if it was used back in the day, but it does make some nice waterfalls currently.


The fort had two major periods of use. Archeological finds from the 8th and 9th centuries indicate the area was used for cooking over fires with many animal bones in the debris. The second period, from the 10th and 11th centuries, shows most of the activity inside the beehive. The excavations did not reveal definitely what the locals used the site for. No weapons were found, so it seems not to be a military fort. It could have been defensive, or ritualistic, or even regal. Perhaps future archeology will tell. Archeologists better hurry, because a great deal of the site has already fallen into the sea!

When we visited, our first stop was the visitor center where we watched a brief video on the history of the fort. The video claims that one reason locals think that it has survived the millennia is that the fairy folk were protecting it. Or at least, if locals messed with the forts, the fairies would curse them with bad luck. The ticket lady asked L if she had ever seen any fairies and L said yes. Later, as we were walking down the path to the fort, we asked her when she had seen fairies. L said, "You know, like we took to get to Ireland." Oh...ferries! Whoops!

Visitor center

Path down to the fort

L reads about ferries or fairies

J and L began their own conservation project, putting small stones into the wall to help reinforce the longstanding structures. They worked together nicely. Even nicer, they didn't take any stones out.

Learning to build our own fort back home

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