CAMP    Historical & other Information

An Cam


HISTORICAL INFORMATION
about Camp


Oidhreacht agus Gnéithe Eile Suimiúla an Cheantair

There are two roads into the peninsula: one in the north and one in the south, each on narrow strips of lowland between the sea and the Slieve Mish mountains. Rising above 2,500 feet (762 metres) in parts, this mountain range was the scene of prehistoric battles, which are recorded in legend as having been part of the "Milesian invasion". The Milesians, meaning "soldiers of Spain", are said in the legends to have been Gaels who came originally from Egypt, settled in Spain, and invaded Ireland in 1700 BC. Their first battle took place here in the Slieve Mish mountains near Camp where Banba, a queen of the Tuatha Dé Danainn – the people of Ireland at that time – opposed them. Magic was employed on both sides but gave way to fighting, in which Scotia and Fás, queens of the Milesians, were amongst those killed. But the Milesians won not only the battle in Slieve Mish but the war for the conquest of Ireland. The three kings and queens of the Tuatha Dé Danainn were killed and their people were driven underground into forts and mounds where they became, in effect, the fairies.

As the visitor enters the peninsula from Tralee towards Camp, the bright expanse of Tralee Bay comes into full view at Derrymore (An Doire Mhór, the large oak wood), where the long strand is a favoured bathing place and caravans punctuate the coastline. In contrast to the largely rocky south and west coasts of the peninsula, the northern coast from Derrymore to Cloghane offers mile after mile of sandy, safe beaches, which also provide some of the best opportunities for bass angling in Europe.

In Derrymore itself there are seven ringforts in various states of preservation, the most notable of which, in Derrymore East, has double banks and fosses. It has an extensive souterrain with several chambers, and there are ruins of stone huts, but it is very much overgrown with briars, gorse and trees.

KILLETON

About a mile from Derrymore on the road towards Camp, a laneway leads up to the left at a driveway to several large, new houses. To the right off this driveway is a narrow track, part of the Dingle Way, which leads to a stream. Beyond the stream lies the abandoned, ruined village of Killeton (Cill Eilthín, St. Eltan's church) where ivy grows profusely on the cluster of buildings, its thick roots clinging to the rough surfaces of the stone walls. Tall nettles bar doorways; holly, fuchsia, ferns, brambles, thistles, honeysuckle and foxgloves abound; butterflies and crickets enjoy the profusion. The hill behind the ruined houses is densely covered with holly; and hawks may sometimes be seen here against the backdrop of the mountains of Caherconree and Baurtregaum.

Once this quiet and deserted place with its magnificent view over Tralee Bay was a community of many families, but they were evicted by the landlord in the 19th Century. Later, three brothers lived here, farming the land around collectively without benefit of fences. But the historical interest of Killeton extends much further back.

On the left at the west of the village lie the ruins of an early oratory. The interior of the oratory measures 5 metres long and about 3.5 metres wide. A particular and evident feature is the plinth at the bottom of the north and south walls, a feature characteristic of a number of early oratories. During restoration in 1984 a holed stone similar to pivot stones at Gallarus oratory was found, and this ruined shell of a building must once have been similar both to the oratories at Reask and Raingiléis, now also ruined, and to Gallarus, which is wonderfully well preserved. The restoration has certainly changed the appearance of the site from its overgrown state of a few years ago, and the height of the walls of the oratory has been substantially increased in the process. The oratory is surrounded by low walls which make an almost square enclosure, within which there are also the scant remains of two rectangular buildings.

 

TRALEE & DINGLE RAILWAY

The road between Killeton and Camp bends sharply at the Curraduff bridge, and just above the road bridge stands the old Tralee and Dingle Railway viaduct. As David G. Rowlands write in "The Tralee & Dingle Railway" (Bradford Barton, 1977), this line had "some of the most frightful curves and gradients ever engineered on a light railway. On Whit Monday of 1893, Locomotive Number One came off the rails and fell 30 feet to the river; 3 men and 90 pigs were killed. To ease the bend here, another bridge was built in 1907 a few hundred yards upstream.

Opened in 1891, the 3-foot gauge railway, with a branch line to Castlegregory, was extraordinarily slow and accident-prone. Undulating between sea level and 680 feet (207 metres) above, trains were often stopped and sand spread on the tracks to give sufficient grip to tackle gradients. In 1939 the Castlegregory Branch was closed; in 1944 the Tralee-Dingle goods service ended, largely because of the wartime coal shortage; and from 1947 until closure in 1953 the only business was the cattle train for Dingle Fair on the last Saturday of each month. Less than a mile along the road to the east from the viaduct bridge, the water tower at Knockglassmore is all that remains of Castlegregory Junction; on the opposite side of the road Fitzgerald's, or the "Junction Bar", was much frequented by railwaymen and passengers alike and was the cause of many delays.


CAHERCONREE PROMONTORY FORT

From the bend beside the bridge a road signposted "Scenic Route to Inch" leads south into the valley of the Finglas River and through wild hillside country to the southern shore of the peninsula at Aughils. Known as Bóthar na gCloch, the rocky road, it leads through some impressive scenery where the Slieve Mish mountains tower steeply above to the east, Tralee Bay lives to the north, and Castlemaine Harbour, the Kerry mainland, and the Iveragh Peninsula are spread out to the south. Even on a cloudy day, or when the evening air is thick, the countryside here has a unique and lonely splendour.

The promontory fort of Caherconree in the townland of Beheenagh occupies a commanding position, at a height of 2,050 feet (625 metres), above Bóthar na gCloch and the Finglas Valley. It stands at a physical frontier, where the Slieve Mish range ends, a frontier between the peninsula and the mainland, between east and west; it stands also on the boundary between the baronies of Corca Dhuibhne and Truich an Aicme and it marked an ancient tribal boundary.

A large projecting spur of the mountain, visible from many miles away to the west, is cut across on its north-eastern side by a wall 350 feet (110 metres) long, forming a triangular enclosure protected on its north-western and south-western sides by steep cliffs. The area enclosed is about two acres. The dry-stone wall stands to a maximum height of nearly 3 metres. It is massively thick and in sections of it the inner face features three distinct steps.

This was the fortress of Cú Raoi Mac Daire and it features in the "Red Branch" sagas of the Ulster heroes. A respected tribal chief and demi-god, perhaps even the sun-god of the Belgae , Cú Raoi possessed many magical powers: he could adopt many forms, often terrifying to his enemies, and even when absent he could defend the fort at night by setting it spinning. In one story, the three champions of Ulster – the legendary Cúchulainn, Conall and Laegaire – resorted to him to resolve their dispute as to which of them was worthiest. They were instructed to take turns in guarding Caherconree, and there Cú Raoi attacked each of them in the form of demons. Conall and Laegaire were pitched over the wall by the monsters; but Cúchulainn stood his ground. However, he thought that the other two had jumped the wall as proof of their prowess, and decided to emulate them; he succeeded in an epic leap, but only just. On a later occasion a disguised Cú Raoi again intervened in events that established the superiority of Cúchulainn.

Where the stream crosses Bóthar na gCloch at Beheenagh, posts painted white and red have been erected on the right-hand side of the glen, indicating a route to the fort. Another, rather less safe route is to climb up the ridge at the left of the glen; it is steeper, but gives a fine view of the "gate" – a gap in the projecting rocks of the spur that looks for all the world like a made gateway. On the spur below the rock "gateway" at the apex of the triangular promontory are large, deep gashes and holes in the hillside. These are the consequences of a major geological "fault," or rupture, called the Caherconree Fault, which may be traced from here to Minard Head, 15 miles away. Some of these holes possess unusually rich growths of mosses and ferns. Walkers who encounter mist, which descends very rapidly, should exercise extreme caution.


Thanks to the late Steve Mac Donough for allowing us to reprint from his book
"The Dingle Peninsula: History, Folklore, Archaeology", ©1993.
A new revised (2013) edition of the book is available from the Dingle Bookshop.



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