When you arrive in the village TURN RIGHT and walk through the
village, and a short distance on the other side TURN RIGHT again, cross a
field (stay to the edge please), and you head for Farranamanagh (“land
of the monks”) Lake. This beautiful spot is reminiscent of Gougane
Barra, where St. Finbar
founded an island hermitage by a lake; did Finbar’s monks come here too?
As you start to walk along the shores of the lake, to your left (north) atop a low ridge are the ruins of the O’Daly bardic clan castle. After you cross the stone bridge and walk above the seashore, the walk moves up to your left, and eventually you come by a group of ruined houses overlooking Dunmanus Bay. These are part of a bardic school run by the O’Dalys, chief poets (“ollamh” in Irish) to the O’Mahonys. The school flourished here in medieval times (from the 10th century onwards), and legend has it that the King of Spain sent two sons here who accidentally drowned in Farranmanagh Lake.
Robin Flower in “The Tradition” gives a good description of how these bardic schools operated.
“… poetry was an hereditary profession, and the students gathered in some remote place far from the resort of people, and worked in a large structure divided up into cubicles each furnished with a bed, lying upon which in complete darkness they composed their poems on themes set by the master. The poem composed, lights were brought and they wrote it down and presented it to the master for criticism in the main place of assembly.
For weekends and holidays they were entertained by the gentlemen and
rich farmers of the neighbourhood, who also provided the provisions for
the subsistence of the school. They worked only from Michaelmas to the
first of March and the full course lasted six or seven years….So between
November and March the poetic scholars pursued their mysterious task,
mastering the poetic language, the management of complicated metres, and
the seanchus, the accumulated lore of Irish history and legend.”“Irish
glimpses as we get of them (the poets) show them wandering about the
country and haunting the courts of kings, attended by a band of
followers with a panegyric in one hand and a satire in the other,
mercenaries of the God of Poetry as the fianna, the roving warrior
mercenaries of the God of War.”
One of the most infamous of the Kilcrohane O’Daly poets was Aonghus who wrote the satire “The Tribes of Ireland”. This poem, perhaps commissioned by Carew or Mountjoy, describes the insulting hospitality afforded to the poet on his trip through Ireland. Some of the verses are:
To Roche’s country of the clear roads
I came (and that was my mistake)
Just as well for me I don’t like butter
For if I did, I didn’t get it.
Dunboy of the sour old wines
That the fool’s of Ireland praise;
Than that of Dunboy, I bet you,
Hell is a hundred times better.
Three reasons why I skipped
The country of Bantry and Beara,
Soft tasteless lumps of dumpling
Long-divisioned out of milk and water.
Easter I spent in the house of Mac Donough,
A friend indeed, my belt he tightened;
His people and feasts were as mean
As if Easter were another Good Friday.
The old rags of O’Keeffe of Clarach
Are no shelter against the wind,
Although there is a grey head on his shoulders
There is no shortage of lice in his clothing.
Little robin, there on the bush
Though little enough food would do you,
If you spent one night in O’Keeffe’s house
Your chest would meet your back.
A large fire in the house of Meagher,
Men and meat beside it;
A large cauldron of fermented winegrapes
Under which is O’Meagher’s cow, calving.
A servant of O’Meagher stood up and said that Aonghus should never satirize any Meagher and with that he made a fierce thrust of a knife in the neck of the poet so that Aonghus began to throw up his heart’s blood; but before he died he said:
All the false judgements I have passed
Upon the chiefs of Munster I forgive;
The poor servant of the grey Meagher
Has passed this false judgement on me.
(Translated by Uilliam O’Dalaigh).
Aonghus was killed in Tipperary in 1617, but his house can still be seen in Cora, two miles west of Kilcrohane.
The Walk then goes past two farmhouses, and on the gable of the western one can be seen a medieval square-headed window that dates from the time of the Bardic School.
The Walk then goes down the main road, TURNS LEFT, then a quick RIGHT, and through some fields, past the Poet’s Well (Tobar na n-Duanairidhe), and onto the old Kilcrohane to Ahakista road. Along this road is a fine example of a traditional dry stone wall.
Alternative Route: Slí Bhrán
This Path goes from the Sheep’s Head Way at Rosskerrig on the south side, uphill to the top, crossing Brán Mountain and the Windy Gap, east of Seefin, and then descends north to Gortnakilly on the Goat’s Path Road.
This is steep, tough climbing. Not for the inexperienced or in bad weather conditions. From Rosskerrig to the top of the hill about 1.30 hours, and from the Four Corner Stone to Gortnakilly about 1 hour descending.
The Walk then goes by some houses, continues past a B & B and just before it comes to the main road again, TURNS LEFT and up a path to the stone circle in Gorteanish (“field of Aonghus” – the O’Daly poet).
By Paul Walsh, Ordnance Survey, Archaeologist
“It would appear to have originally consisted of eleven stones, most
of which are now fallen. The occurrence of a boulder burial immediately
outside the circle to the south is very significant. Usually these
monuments are found within stone circles. There are only two other known
where they stand in close proximity to multiple stone circles; at Bohonagh, Co. Cork and Uragh, Co. Kerry. It is possible that the other boulder within the circle is also one of these but in the absence of further information it is impossible to be certain.
Multiple stone circles usually have two tall “entrance” stones in the northeast sector of the monument with an opposing axial stone in the south-wet sector.”
There also appears to be a huge 17 foot fallen standing stone to the
east of the stone circle, and there are other stones near the circle
which may relate to this monument. Stone circles are from the late
Bronze Age, about 3000 years ago; they are thought to have been places
of ritual, where some kind
of ceremony was performed. These types of multiple stone circles occur only in Cork and Kerry.
Some archaeologists feel that there is line from the entrance stone
to the axial stone that looking west will point to the sunset of the
winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. That same line, looking
east, will point to the sunrise of the summer solstice, the longest day
of the year. Birth, death,
and the renewal of the sun and of life in general may have been symbolically important to these people, and/or the solstices could have been important for the planting of crops.
It could also be that the copper mined from the nearby sometime before these stone circles, mixed with imported tin produced the “wealth” of bronze, which allowed for the time and leisure for the construction of these monuments.
Looking at the distribution map of these monuments in Cork and Kerry
one is struck by how often they occur near the sea or on a waterway
leading to the sea. Many of these sites also have a commanding view of
the sea. Did these people come from the sea? How important to them were
that unfold in the sky during the length of the calendar year. Again, make up your own mind.
The Walk then crosses some rough land and onto a county council road,
where you TURN RIGHT and after a few hundred yards TURN LEFT and onto
the hill again. Along here are lovely views of Dunmanus Bay, and below
you (to your right, south) you will pass Rossnacaheragh (“promontory of
stone fort”) school and church. Nearby is a ringfort.
The Walk then comes onto a county council road where you TURN RIGHT,
which winds its way to a larger road where at a T-junction you TURN
LEFT. Just before coming to this larger road you may notice, in the rock
to your right, a large foot-print. This is the Giant’s Footprint (and
there is another
one further up the hill) which was formed when two Giant’s were having a battle. One Giant threw a stone at the other, who ducked, and the stone flew past him and landed past Roaring Water Bay, and it is known as the Fastnet Rock today.
You then take your FIRST LEFT and head up north for about half a mile where you TURN RIGHT and cross some boggy ground where you meet an old Board of Works road. TURN LEFT and onto the “green” road and follow it to the end near a lake.
The Walk goes north again to a county council road where you TURN
RIGHT and walk for over a mile, where you TURN LEFT at a farmer’s
boreen, and cross a field. You then follow some paths through a farm,
cross some more fields and a stream, and then through some rough land in
When you get to the boreen TURN RIGHT, and follow this down to the county council road, where you TURN LEFT. This road may have been part of the original military road that went as far as the Signal Tower in Tooreen. Follow the county council road for about a half mile, where it runs down to the right, you stay STRAIGHT. You are on an old path that leads you behind Durrus Court, a Georgian house and now a B & B, and Cul na Long (“nook of the ships”) castle.