Caherballykinvarga is a stonefort that was built around 500-1000 AD. It’s in pretty good condition for a stonefort. It’s been left alone, so no reconstruction or nice little paths leading up to it. But then, this is the real thing.
It’s what is left of an oval shaped fort, about 165 feet by 145 feet round. The tallest standing point is about 16 feet high and almost 5 feet thick. Remains of large lintels still exist with an obvious entrance. Many of the larger forts we visited had three rings, but this seems to have only one. However, it does have a chevaux-de-frise, like Dun Aonghasa. There are only three or four forts in Ireland with a chevaux-de-frise, so this is pretty special. This a defense system where rocks were placed in a vertical position all around the fort, making it extremely difficult for invaders to make their way to the actual fort. You can see the remains of this in the foreground of my picture.
It was difficult going for us to maneuver around those rocks also. In fact, I didn’t make it all the way, but those with me did. Like most of the forts we found, you can wander around and climb on the walls.
This one isn’t on as high a cliff as most we’ve been to, but it is still a hike through rock strewn fields.
This fort is located in The Burren. I highly recommend visiting this stonefort if you are in that area. You probably won’t see any other tourist here. I don’t think it’s on a bus tour route either. And like a lot of things in The Burren, it’s somewhat difficult to find. We used two guides, one was the map found on http://www.megalithicireland.com and the other was a map we downloaded on our phone, maps.me (It’s awesome, we would have missed a lot of sites without that map letting us know where things were located.)
Still, we almost missed Caherballykinvarga. You begin at Kilfenora and go east on R476. You take “the first left up a narrow road”. Yeah…more like farmer’s road between fields. And for the Irish to say ‘narrow’, well, you know you’re trouble right there. The instructions state there is a gate on the right and that you can see the fort from the gate. We must have driven past that little gate three or four times before we realized IT was THE gate. We thought we saw the fort, but weren’t sure. We pulled over and got out anyway. Seriously, it’s in a farmer’s field; we kept wondering if we would get in trouble for trespassing, but no signs were posted. (Nor were there welcome plaques.)
We had to step over human waste (hikers, please bury your stuff!) and climb another fence. Then the hike uphill, over hidden rocks buried in the grass to get the view we had been looking for. There was another fence to climb over and another field of rocks to hike before we got to the fort. Sadly, that is where I had to quit. (Artificial knee was not happy with all of this.)
The others, however, made it to the fort and were able to take in the view from the walls and see the remains of ruins (huts?) inside.
You will want to plan around weather, as much as possible in Ireland; those fields would be even more treacherous in rain. It was chilly and windy as it was – this in August.
As ever, when hiking in the Irish back country, wear good hiking shoes, bring a jacket with a hood, water and snacks.