This circular stone fortification is one of the most ancient attractions along the Ring of Kerry route. It is located roughly half-way between the villages of Caherdaniel and Sneem. No-one knows for sure when the building was constructed, but experts believe it was between 2,000 and 2,500 years ago. While it is currently in partial ruin due to its age and the fact that it was constructed without any mortar or cement -- a technique common to the period. In fact, it remains the best preserved dry stone structure of its period in Ireland.
Staigue Fort was strategically situated at the head of a valley, with its opening facing south toward the sea. Surrounded by a large bank and a deep ditch, the fort's solid walls are 5.5 m /18ft high in places and 4 m / 13ft thick at the bottom. The inside features a network of stairs that lead to various terraces and cells, including two small chambers about 2.1 m / 7ft high, oval shaped, and waterproof. Above is a corbelled roof.
What Does the Name Mean?
Staigue seems to have evolved from the building's earlier name , S'tigh an Air, meaning "Temple of the Father". Locals have also had other names for the fort, including "Windy House" and the "Staired Place of Slaughter".
Who Built Staigue Fort?
Construction of the fort has been attributed to the Phoenicians, Danes, and Druids, but it is generally considered unlikely that any of them had a hand in its building. Staigue Fort is structurally similar to the Grianan of Alrleach in County Donegal.
What Was it Used For?
Possible functions of Staigue Fort include: a place of worship, an observatory, a defensive position for a lord or king, or a homestead for several families of one clan and their animals. The fort may have been used for one or more of these over the centuries.
Legends abound throughout the area regarding the magical qualities of the fort and its surrounding land. One local man is said to have removed stones from the fort and taken them to his home nearby. Each night, he was subjected to the sounds of his house being bombarded by "fairy folk." It stopped once he returned the stones to the fort. Writer Sigerson Clifford wrote of a football match between the fairies of Staigue and the opposing team of fairies from the stone fort in Cahergal.
Nearby is an exhibition centre, which uses a video presentation to explain the folklore and recount the various theories about how the fort was used over the centuries. The centre is open from Easter weekend to the end of September from 10 AM to 9 PM daily.
- Access to the fort is via an off-road, which allows only one car to pass at a time. If you meet another car, you have to pull into the shoulder to let it past -- or vice-versa
- It's a bit tricky to get inside the fort -- visitors have to ducking down to pass through the ancient 4-foot tall entrance way. (Presumably or ancestors were a lot shorter!)
- Entrance is FREE, but you will notice a donation box on the walkway towards the fort. The 2 euro donation (requested for the upkeep of the grounds) is not, however, mandatory
- There are no restroom facilities
- The views from the site are spectacular
Image by João Almeida