Ceann Tra

about Ventry

Oidhreacht agus Gnéithe Eile Suimiúla an Cheantair

This material is excerpted from "The Dingle Peninsula: History, Folklore, Archaeology" by Steve MacDonough, copyright 1993, published by Brandon Book Publishers, Ltd., Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland. Each of its 260 pages is packed with information on the communities of the Dingle Peninsula, and in its entirety, it makes very interesting reading. The book is widely available for purchase throughout the Peninsula.

The countryside surrounding Ventry is perfect for the rambler. From the start of the strand in Ventry one can walk at the water's edge along the sand and across the river, past the graveyard, and on to Caheratrant. But one can also walk up away from the harbour, to the north and the west, and find plenty of interest along the way. A walk along the strand brings one to the graveyard where a church once stood. In Caheratrant a gallán marked the grave of Caol or Cháil Mic Crimthainn, the last of the Fianna to die in the Battle of Ventry.

Different versions of the story of the battle exist in medieval manuscripts. They present a confused and evidently non-historical picture but, significantly, they show a close familiarity with local topography. Placenames which reflect the violent events of the battle survive in the area. There are fields called Cluain na Fola – field of blood – and Cúin na dtréan Fhir – slaughter of mighty men. At Parkmore Point in Cuan is Rinn na Bairce – barque point – to which the traitor Glas pilotted the invaders. The bogland at the border of the townlands of Caheratrant and Raheen was once an oak forest where the Fianna engaged in their favourite occupation, hunting.

The hill immediately behind Ventry, to the north, is Caherard. Taking the road uphill from the Ventry Inn and past the post office, bear left at the top around the foot of the hill and continue to a disused quarry. Inside the gate on the left is a track and from here it is a short walk up to the summit where there is a megalithic wedge grave known as Leaba an Fhir Mhúimhnuigh, the Munsterman's Bed.

To the north of the grave the hill dips down to a saddle where the old road, Bóthar a' Cínn crosses the hill. This is the road on which Peig Sayers and others from the Blasket Islands and Dunquin travelled to Dingle and it is now part of the Dingle Way. If returning to the quarry, one can follow the surfaced road back around the foot of the hill, taking a left turn up to Caherboshina – Cathair Bó Sine, the stone fort of the old cow. North of Caherboshina is Ballymorereagh (locals drop the "more"). On the slopes of the hill above are the oratory and grave of St. Manchan. A settlement of about the seventh to ninth centuries, it never developed into a later church site. It is a relatively well preserved oratory, known as both Teampall Mhanachain and Teampall Geal – the white (or bright) church, and it is very similar in design and construction to Gallarus Oratory. One of the cross-slabs of this early Christian site has both ogham and Latin inscriptions.

At a well nearby a very popular "pattern" used to be held on Easter Sunday, at which a fiddler from Dingle played at the crossroads. Such entertainments came under attack from the clergy from quite early in the 19th Century; priests were not above smashing musical instruments and preventing traditional musicians from earning any kind of living. While some wells are still visited for the purpose of devotions and cures, the "patterns" as entertainments were finally stamped out in the peninsula by about 1940.

From St. Manchan's the walker can strike uphill to the ridge and take in the view to the west while pursuing the line of the ridge. Descending at Maumanorig, near Caherard, there is a cluster of houses. Below the road, about 200 yards from the bend in the road, is Kilcolman, the remains of an early Christian settlement. The roughly circular enclosure of about 148 feet (45 metres) in diameter includes within it the foundations of huts, several graves and gravestones, a cross-inscribed ogham stone, a small cross-inscribed stone, a holed stone and three bullauns. The most notable element of the site is its ogham-inscribed cross-slab, which stands in the southeast corner of the site. The ogham inscription runs up the left-hand side and over the top of the main cross; although very legible, the inscription has puzzled archaeologists, but it is thought it is meant to read: ANM COLMAN AILITHIR – "Colman the Pilgrim".

The bohareen continues towards a junction beside the dramatic ruins of Rahinnane Castle. This is a splendid example of a large ringford having been reused at a later date. The ruined castle was the principle tower-house of the Knights of Kerry; several similar castles were built in the 16th Century, some at least with the help of a £10 grant from the English government. It was captured by Sir Charles Wilmot in 1602 and was later "slighted" by the Cromwellian forces.

Kildurrihy (Cill idir dá shruth, the church between two streams) is the site of a ceallúnach or burial ground and of Templebeg, a small church of which very little remains and which was probably of the eighth or ninth century. The cluster of houses that make up Kildurrihy is a fine example of what is meant by a "clachan". The word, from the Scots Gaelic, is used to describe communities which are smaller than villages and somewhat different in terms of social organisation, reflecting the patterns of land holding and use. It was long the characteristic unit of life on the peninsula, but in recent years it has been abandoned in favour of houses scattered singly.

A holy well at the northern side of Kildurrihy is dedicated to St. Brendan, on whose feast-day it used to be visited. Bedside the well lies a shaped stone, broken in half, a sort of tablet which is said to have been stolen away once but to have made its own way back.

From Kildurrihy a stony road rises to Mount Eagle lake, a delightful place to fish or just to walk or sit. In evening light the steep cliff to the mountain summit looms magnificently. Beside the lake is a zig-zag turf track which provides a walk with excellent view on a fine day; and from the summit there is another track down to the Dunquin road.

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Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland

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