Cahergall Stone Fort, or an Chathair Gheal (“the Bright Stone Fort”) is considered an impressive and particularly fine stone fort.
I don’t remember ever coming across Cahergall Fort while doing research on interesting places to visit along the Ring of Kerry, but our host at the Castlemorris House Bed and Breakfast in Tralee recommended that my husband and I visit it. Not only is the fort interesting and historic, but also easy to get to, open to the public with nearby parking and no entry fee. It is also less well known by tourists so it can be less crowded than other more well-known landmarks.
The fort is located just outside of Cahersiveen. To get to the fort (N 51° 57.354 W 010° 15.461), as you are driving on the Ring of Kerry into Cahersiveen, turn right onto Bridge Street (assuming that you are traveling the recommended counterclockwise direction). Cross the bridge and continue on what is now called Castlequin, then turn left at the first intersection. Continue on until you see a small parking area on the right side of the road. It is likely that you’ll have already seen the fort off to the right, so it should be pretty clear at that point which path to follow in order to make the short and easy climb to the fort.
As you skirt the wall of the circular fort, you can see the dry-stone construction. The inner wall face and upper wall portions along with the lintelled entrance were recently reconstructed using the same dry-stone technique used to construct the original fort and many of the stone forts that can be found mainly in the west of Ireland.
The stone forts of Ireland are difficult to date. Some are thought to date to the Iron Age (around 500 BCE to 1200 CE) while others may have been built during the Early Historic period (about 400 CE to 1200 CE). In this case, it is likely that someone of importance lived in the stone building about 1,000 years ago. (I am curious what about this building makes the experts arrive at this conclusion, but the information plaque did not offer any further explanation.)
Although the fort’s wall is about 5 meters thick at the base, it tapers towards the top. I did not know the width of the wall top, so I was initially concerned about climbing the terraced inner wall and walking along the top edge given my fear of falling off of all things high. However, once on top of the wall, I felt perfectly fine, because the walls were still so thick. In fact, I enjoyed the new perspective and the wide-open space.
Our B&B host was not mistaken. We really enjoyed our visit and spent most of the time entirely by ourselves, only passing one family on the way in and a few couples on the way out. But that’s only if you’re counting people. We also passed a large number of sheep and a cluster of cows.