Cahercommaun was the most difficult ring fort for us to find, but well worth the effort. It is located in The Burren, a place of many ancient forts and tombs, in County Clair. (It’s a great place to get lost, but that’s a subject for another post!)
Cahercommaun, a triple walled stonefort, was built around 800AD on the edge of a cliff. It is most like Dun Aonghasa in style, though Cahercommaun is not in the great condition Dun Aonghasa is.
According to the plaque, 16,500 stones were used for the middle wall alone. It is about 5 feet thick and no mortar was used. It was excavated in 1934. The remains of houses and workshops were found, a few having underground passages, one believed to be an escape route.
This is a massive stonefort. We got lost trying to find it. It was almost sunset when we got to the entrance. We followed the directions on http://www.megalithicireland.com/Cahercommaun
That seemed easy enough – until you drive down narrow, winding, isolated Burren roads. We finally found the house where the entrance is located, north of Kilnaboy. The entrance was a little gate leading to a narrow path beside a farmer’s field. At first the path had a gentle upward slope and it looked like it might be fairly easy going. I have since learned that stoneforts were built in high, remote places for a reason, and are rarely easy to get to. This seeming gentle slope soon turned into a steep path that had us climbing over huge rocks (there was a hand rail) and into a rock strewn field full of cows (and manure).
If I had not been around cows, I might have been a bit frightened. These cows were curious, but not bothersome and easy to shoo out of the way. The path basically ended and you had to find your way through the field. This would have been easier if the sun wasn’t setting. And the field wasn’t full of large rocks, making walking difficult. It says it’s about 1/2 mile, but I personally think it was longer than that. Maybe it was all the uphill climbing.
The picture on the top right is the ‘gate’ to enter the fort. It is a steep step up and narrow, but then you can really see the fort and amazing view. We hiked all around and sat on the stone wall to watch the sun dipping to the west. I let my mind wander to the ancient past – the kings who had this built, the wars, and those people who spent their lives building the fort. It was beautiful and peaceful.
As breathtaking as watching the sun set on the wall of a stonefort was, we realized hiking back down would be difficult in the dark, so we made our way back through the rocks and cows and boulders. We had to use our phone’s flashlight to finish, and it was full dark by the time we got to the car.
If you’re wanting a taste of real ancient Ireland, I would suggest you try Cahercommaun and other treasures of The Burren. Many forts are remodeled, are small, or too far gone to see the grander that they held, but Cahercommaun is a great example of what a stonefort was.
Just make sure you where hiking shoes and allow yourself some time!