on-line contest

What's New

Most Popular


Story and photos by

Dry stone entranceway to stone fort at Cahergall
Dry stone entranceway to stone fort at Cahergall
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Ireland has thousands of stone forts. They range from Iron Age forts (500 BC to 400 AD) to Early Historic period (400 to 1200 AD) farmsteads.

When our Ring of Kerry tour arrived in Cahersiveen, County Kerry, our guide, Frank Walsh, explained that caher means "ring fort" in the Irish/Gaelic language.

He drove us to Cahergall, a few minutes northwest of Cahersiveen, just past the road to Ballycarbery Castle. The name Cahergall comes from the Gaelic words, Chathair Gheal, which mean "the Bright Stone Fort."

Ring fort

Entering Cahergall through the lintel doorway, we found ourselves surrounded by a circular dry-stone wall, built without mortar. The excellent condition of the reconstructed 8th to 9th-century ring fort astounded us.

"We call these stone structures forts, but they weren't defensive," Frank Walsh explained. "They were Celtic habitations. Residents often used the circular stone walls as corrals for animals."

As we examined a round dry stone building in the center of Cahergall, he noted that houses inside ring forts were usually made from timber. Stone houses, like the one in Cahergall, indicated status.

Visitors explore Cahersiveen stone fort.
Visitors explore Cahersiveen stone fort.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Climbing the stone steps on one side of the stone fort brought us to the grass-covered top of the 10-foot (three-meter)-thick walls. We looked down into what was likely the dwelling of a petty king or tribal leader during the Early Medieval period.

"The Celts lived under a tribal system," said Walsh. "Every family had a leader, which they called a Taoiseach. Today, we still call the Prime Minister of Ireland a Taoiseach."

Adolf Packeiser plays Irish harp.
Adolf Packeiser plays Irish harp.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Irish harp

As we time-traveled in our minds back more than 1,000 years, the magical melody of Greensleeves arose from the ring fort. Descending the stairs and following the notes, we discovered the source of the music on the opposite side of the round house.

Adolf Packeiser, a German musician who has lived in Ireland for three decades, was sitting on a ledge in the dry-stone wall, plucking the strings of his homemade Irish harp. (Packeiser, the founder of the Kerry Orchestra, performed for us in Cahergall.)

Mesmerized by the enchanting music, and its resonance off the walls of the stone fort, we gathered around as he played a selection of harmonies culminating in Danny Boy.

Shivers climbed our spines. Here in this Irish ring fort in Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry, we felt like we had discovered the pot of gold at the end of the leprechaun's rainbow.





Tourism Ireland: www.discoverireland.com

More things to see and do in Ireland:

Abbey Island - Derrynane National Park - Co. Kerry Ireland

Irish Breakfasts at Ireland B&Bs

Bodhran Lesson - Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry Ireland

Sheepdog Trials and Training Border Collies - Kells Ireland

Puck Fair Festival - Killorglin Co. Kerry Ireland