This is my favourite fort on the ring of Kerry as it's located up near the mountains and has an amazing view down towards the ocean.
Cathair Na Stéige (Staigue Fort) is located in Castlecove on the Sneem-Parknasilla road. Approx three miles from Sneem, just off the main road. Here you will find the imposing monument that is Staigue fort.
Staigue fort is one of the largest and finest ring forts you are likely to see in Ireland. (there are others in relative close proximity Leacanabuaile in Cahersiveen, lohar stone fort and Caherdaniel stone fort). It is about four miles off the main road. Not too many people take the fairly long one-lane drive up to this fort -- but this should not deter you from visiting.
This is my favourite fort on the ring of Kerry as it's located up near the mountains and has an amazing view down towards the ocean, the road is narrow, but that is typical Kerry for you! Be prepared to go around blind bends and reverse a few times and Keep an eye out for the sign though, it is on quite a sharp turn to the left, but the fort is worth it!
You walk through a sheep pasture on the way to the fort, so remember to close the gate behind you when you go. The setting is spectacular and the views are amazing. There are no guards or ticket booths -- at the entrance gate (which is not locked), there is a small box to deposit 1 Euro to see the site. Be sure to do so -- this money helps in preserving the site. There are toilets on site, which are very clean
Staigue Fort is one of the largest and finest ring forts you are likely to see in Ireland. It stands on a low hill in an amphitheatre of rugged hills open to the sea on the south.
The fort is believed to have been built approximately 300 to 400 AD as a stronghold. This ring fort (as with others throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland) was built without any form of mortar -- the stones are shaped and placed so perfectly on top and against each other that they stay in place after all these centuries.
It is simply amazing to walk through the very small opening into the fort itself, and see and touch with your hand lightly the stones and how they are so beautifully placed. Though there are steps to go to the top of the fort, there are multiple signs that say to not climb up.
Be sure to follow these signs, there is a reason to not climb on the fort (stability, preservation, etc). Once inside there is a historical sign that gives some information on the fort, and just take the time to walk the grounds of the fort -- which is approximately 90 ft in diameter.
The wall is up to 5.5m (18ft) high and 4m (13ft) thick, surrounding a circular area of 27.4m (90ft) in diameter. Inside the wall are two small chambers about 2.1m (7ft) high, oval in shape and waterproof, with a corbelled roof of the type also used in the much earlier passage grave at Newgrange.
The interior of the fort is reached through a 1.8m (6ft) high passage roofed with enormous double lintels. Access to the ramparts is gained by a series of steps in the shape of the letter X.
The fort is surrounded by a large bank and ditch, still very obvious on the north side. Staigue Fort shows great skill in building. No mortar was used, the stones were not dressed and it is similar in style to the Grianan of Aileach in Co. Donegal using just stones placed at a slight angle, lower on the outside than the inside to allow water to run off.
Several near-vertical masonry joints are visible in the wall, and these may indicate that the fort was built in stages rather than in one continuous operation. The fort was entered through a narrow, lintel-covered passage in the wall. Inside is an elaborate network of stairways leading to terraces and corbelled cells in the wall reached by passages.
It is in excellent condition. It is thought that this structure was built in the first century B.C. and so it is over two thousand years old. Little is known about its builders or indeed what is was used for. It may have been built for religious reasons or to protect cattle.
According to Pádraig Ó Loingsigh ("Staigue Fort", Oidhreact na Stéige, 1989), it may also have been an amphitheatre intended for some spectacle, a place to secure stock at night, a place of religious worship, an observatory, a symbol of wealth and status, or a place of defence and security.
During the 19th century its construction was in turn assigned to such unlikely groups as Phoenicians, Cyclopeans, Danes, and Arch-Druids, while equally implausible theories were put forward concerning its purpose.
Local lore has it that the inhabitants were small in stature and they came here in search of ore. There is evidence that copper was excavated in the surrounding countryside and it appears to be a place of worship, an observatory and a place of defence.
Nearby, down the N70 road to Waterville, there is another fort called Caherdaniel, overlooking the Kenmare River.
PS: As you leave the fort and turn onto the main road, take a stop in Bake My Day, fab sandwiches, lovely cakes, great owners - cash only.
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