The straight and slanted line on these rocks, in the grounds of Colaiste Ide west of Dingle, are examples of the earliest form of writing in Ireland. It was introduced, via Roman Briton in the 4th century and remained in use until the late 7th century.

Of the 360 of these in Ireland over 60 are on the Dingle Peninsula”, Micheal O Coileain told us on his west Kerry archaeological tour. These stones were gathered from around the peninsula in the 19th century by Lord Ventry whose nearby mansion is now the only all Irish, girls boarding school in the country.

“The writing is carved up along one of the rock’s edges to the top and sometimes continues down the far side,” O Coileain explained. Ogham gets its name from the celtic Goddess of fine speech, Oghma.

Micheal then took us west in his 14 seat bus to Fahan perched high over Dingle Bay on the southern side of Mount Eagle. “In this general area there are up to a hundred beehive-shaped stone huts that people lived in from the Iron Age (5,000BC) to the 19th century.” Because the stones taper out and down the huts are completely dry inside in spite of exposure to wind and rain over all the years

Might the first settlers in Ireland have come ashore here – though archaeological evidence to date would suggest they landed first in the north east of the country. Then the seas were the highways and the prevailing currents are from the more southerly homes of the earliest people to come here.

Now on by Slea Head, the most westerly land point in Europe, with a huge panorama of sea and the Blasket Islands famous for the oral folk literature recorded here between the 1870’s and 1940s.

Micheal now travelled north with high views over Clogher Beach and its dramatic headland with interesting geology and beyond to Ferriters cove where a shell midden dump site has been dated to 6000 BC. This is also the location where the earliest cow bone in Ireland was found in excavation dating to 5500BC

“The monastic site here at Riasc was uncovered by excavation in the 1970s.” O Coileain pointed out the cross slab which is the best known monument here. Is the skilled artistic carving on the unworked stone an indication that perhaps it had a religious significance in pre-christian times and the new order was attempting to absorb what went before?

Our last stop on the three hour tour was at Gallerus Oratory, perhaps the best known pre-historic monument on the Dingle Peninsula. It is also the only entirely preserved up-turned-boat-shaped oratory in Western Europe.

It was believed that this was a small community church but now the thinking is that it was used exclusively by one of the many small monastic communities in this area” O Coileain suggested.

I know of no other archaeological tour like Micheal O Coilean’s. It begins every morning at 10.30 from the head of the pier in Dingle. On different days it will cover different sites. Cost of tour and bus is 25 euro. Booking is essential. T + 353 (0) 6666 915 1606 E archaeo@eircom.net

– Frank Lewis

for more information or to book a stay at our self-catering holiday accommodation, Gallan Eile …


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