Cahervagliar Ringfort.

GPS:  51.793065, -8.997053 - On private land, please ask permission


Just outside the village of Cappeen is Cahervagliar Ringfort, Its Irish name probably derived from Cahair Mhac Laoire, meaning The Fort of the Son of Leary. This ringfort has not, and probably cannot, be accurately dated, but what you see was most likely constructed within a hundred years of 1000 ad. You will appreciate that it is unlikely that it was initially constructed by O'Learys because they did not arrive here, we are told, until around 1172. The style of construction tells the experts that it is probably of the same age as a round tower associated with the nearby monastery and diocesan centre of the small Diocese of Kinneigh, long defunct. An early monastery was usually patronised and protected by a high status person and that person would have inhabited a high status home. It is believed that this was that home, or one of them. It is also almost certain that in its later history it was inherited or otherwise procured by O'Learys, hence its name.

What was a high status home? Simply one that could be effectively defended against the ever present bands of thieves and cattle rustlers who roamed the countryside relatively freely. A larger and more complex fort would be needed to defend against a determined army.

Most ringforts would have been entered through a gap in the wall closed by a heavy wooden gate, but here we see a tunnel built of cut stone with evidence of two, or maybe three, sets of gates to be entered in sequence.

The common ringfort was surround by a bank and ditch, the bank topped by heavy sharp pointed stakes. In the case of Cahervagliar there are two banks and two ditches. So it was the home of an important person, however not a king, he would probably of had three banks and ditches.

Some ringforts had a lookout/defensive structure built above the entrance gate, as illustrated below in a picture of a reconstructed ringfort at The irish Heritage Centre, Wexford

The inner diameter of the structure is 39 metres, the diameter of the outer defences approx. 75 metres


Kinneigh Round Tower

GPS: 51.764126, -8.975555


The Kinneigh Round Tower stands five kilometres from Cahervagliar by road and seems to be associated with the same ancient community.  Kinneigh was, in ancient times, the centre of the small Diocese of Kinneigh and site of a monastery. The round tower was part of the monastery of St.Barthlomew which was created around 617 a.d. by St.Colman, later destroyed by Norse raiders and moved to this new site in 916 a.d. The tower was built around the beginning of the 11th century and is the only surviving part of the monastery.

There are around 64 round towers in Ireland, but only two in County Cork, the other being in Cloyne. The Kinneigh example is unique for its hexagonal base. It is built of dressed slate, the craftsmanship being exemplary.  In the early nineteenth century the tower was extended to 67ft high, the top portion being fitted out to carry the bells of the adjacent present church.

Although such towers are often known as Cloigtheach - bell house, there is no historical evidence of this use although they are always associated with ecclesiastical buildings.  Another  feature is the elevated entrance door, usually at least 12ft above ground level. It has been suggested that they formed a refuse for monks and valuables in the case of raids, but their chimney like structure would present a great danger in times of attack.

 

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