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Archeological Heritage PDF Print E-mail

There are over 130 archaeological monuments in the parish of Courcies. These cover a time span from the Neolithic (late Stone Age) 4000-2400 BC through to the post medieval period.


The most numerous monument found in the area is the early medieval ringfort found in 50 instances throughout the parish. These date from the 7th – 12th century and one of Ireland’s largest ringforts is the tri-vallate Ballycatten Fort just outside the village of Ballinspittle. Ringforts for the most part are thought to be medieval farmsteads; however the larger tri-vallate Ballycatten denotes royal status. Most of the other ringforts in the area are single valled, with a couple of examples of Bivallate forts referred to by various names including Rath, Lios and Dūn.

James Fort built in 1603 at Castlepark is the largest monuments in the parish, a visit here should include The Blockhouse situated on the headland below the fort. This was used to house munitions and dates from the mid 16th century.

There are several castles/tower houses at the Old Head. A castle of De Courcey’s stands in splendid isolation, fortified by a curtain wall and high cliffs at east and west sides. Other castles of note include Ringrone and the 15th c. tower house of Kilgobbin built by the native MacCarthy Riabhach on the site of an earlier De Courcey castle. Other sites in the area include Fulachta Fiadh from the Bronze Age 2200-600 BC.

Other Bronze Age monuments include standing stones associated with ritual burial and possibly boundary associations. The reference to Dūn Cearmna comes from medieval literature and this promontory fort situated at the Old Head was very important at the end of the pre-historic period (Iron Age) according to our sources. Another promontory fort with its huge bank remains at Rochestown.

Souterrains are generally found in conjunction with larger ringforts and occasionally at early church sites. Their primary function was storage and sometimes refuge. Defensive features often include a creep; these date mostly from the 9th – 10th century. There are five in the area; however there are several more as yet undocumented.

Other important sites include holy wells; some examples include Tobarīn an Domhnaig at Kilmore, Tobar Rūadhān at Courtaparteen. The surfeit well at Rathout (also called Tobarīn Masauis), other wells not considered holy wells also provided cures such as Tobar Enaich at Lispatrick tower. Mass rocks are found at Cūl na Muice, Fiall na Aifreann Beag, Cablac na Aifreann and An Neidīn or Carraig an Oighn in Gortnacroise. These are but a sample of the numerous of wells and mass rocks in the parish. The post medieval period is well represented with the walls, house and estate at Garretstown and several more large houses dating to the 18th and 19th century, the signal at the Old Head also dates from this period. This is but a brief sketch of the archaeological heritage of the area.



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