The Irish word Dún means fort and the islands are famous for their stone forts. These are thought to date from the late Bronze age( 1100BC) through to the Iron age (300BC-500AD). There are a number of forts found on the three islands. They are part of a complex of such structures found along the west coast of Ireland from Donegal in the north to Kerry in the south. Over the past decade a number of these forts including Dún Aonghasa on Inis Mór have been excavated as part of ‘ The Western Stone Forts Project’. What the function of these forts was is unclear. Some suggest as well as being habitation sites they may also have been used for ritual purposes.

Bronze and Iron Age Stone Forts on Inis Mór.
There are four main stone forts on Inis Mór at Dún Dubh Chathair, Dún Eochla, Dún Aonghasa and Dún Eoghanachta. The only one where an excavation has been carried out is Dún Aonghasa. There are also minor forts found on the island. These forts date from the Bronze Age(1500BC-500BC) and Iron Age( 500BC-500AD)

The Irish word Dún means fort and the islands are famous for their stone forts. These are thought to date from the late Bronze age( 1100BC) through to the Iron age (300BC-500AD). There are a number of forts found on the three islands. They are part of a complex of such structures found along the west coast of Ireland from Donegal in the north to Kerry in the south. Over the past decade a number of these forts including Dún Aonghasa on Inis Mór have been excavated as part of ‘The Western Stone Forts Project’. What the function of these forts was is unclear. Some suggest as well as being habitation sites they may also have been used for ritual purposes.

 

 Dún Aonghasa is situated on the cliff side or south side of Inismór. It is a semi circular stone fort over looking the Atlantic. It is deemed to be one of the best examples of its kind in Europe. Archaeologists, scholars and tourists come here from all over the world and it is likely to be given the official status of a world heritage site in the near future. A 14 acre site the fort consists of three terraced walls surrounding an inner enclosure containing a platform on the edge of a three hundred foot high cliff. The views from it are breathtakingly spectacular. Excavations carried out in the 1990s indicated that people had been living at the hill top from c.1500 BC with the first walls and dwelling houses being erected c. 1100 BC. A remarkable network of defensive stones known as a Chevaux de Frise( c.700bc) surrounds the whole structure. Late Bronze Age objects such as rings, tools, beads and foodstuffs found on site are now in the National Museum Dublin. Some scholars suggest that the platform overlooking the vast Atlantic ocean may have had ritual significance. There is a first class interpretive centre attached to the site at Cill Mhuirbhigh, (Kilmurvey Village). It is protected and managed by the Office of Public Works. Entrance Adults €2.00 Students€1.00, Seniors €1.25 and Families€5.50. Guided tours are available free of charge on request.

Dún Dúchathair ( the Black fort)
This fort is situated on the cliffs at Cill Éinne, (Killeany )Inis Mór. Some visitors enjoy the solitude of it in contrast with the busyness of Dún Aonghasa. The fort consists of a terraced wall surrounding the remains of some early dwelling houses known as Clocháns( stone houses). Excavations have not been out carried yet so exact dates cannot be given but it is thought to be possibly contemporary with Dún Aonghasa. It is understood that the name the Black Fort comes from the dark coloured limestone which is characteristic of this particular area on the island.

 

Dún Eochla
This fort is found in the middle of the island south of the village of Eochaill from which it gets its name. Eochaill meaning Yew wood. The fort is circular and consists of two terraced walls. Exact dates are not known but it is thought to be somewhat later than Dún Aonghasa possibly late Iron Age. It is easily accessed from the main road. Nearby are the remains of an early nineteenth century Light House which while on the highest point of the island was too badly placed to ever have been of any effective use. Privately owned it has been converted into a small folk park.

 

Dún Eoghanachta
This fort is found in the western head of the island in the townland of Eoghanacht south of the village of Sruthán. It consists of a circular single two terraced wall of an impressive height. There are the remains of several Clocháin(stone houses) inside. The fort takes its name from the Eoghanacht tribe of Munster who were associated with the island in Medieval times. Exact dates are not known but it is probably Iron Age.

Minor Forts on Inis Mór
There are also other minor forts some identified and some not on Inis Mór. The walker may enjoy discovering them as he surveys the landscape. A good map such as that of cartographer Tim Robinson is an essential reference.