On our adventurous trip to Ireland, we came upon two stone forts near the town of Cahersiveen (CARE-HER-SAH-VEEN) along the Ring of Kerry.

Cahergall Stone Fort near Cahersaveen, County Kerry, Ireland

Cahergall Stone Fort near Cahersaveen, County Kerry, Ireland

The stone ring forts, Cahergall (CARE-HER-GAL) and Leacanabuaile (LACK-AN-NAH-BYOO-LAH) are two of the most well-preserved stone forts in the region. These types of structures have many names to describe them, such as stone fort, stone ring fort, ringfort, and fairy fort.

Map of County Kerry in southwest Ireland

Map of County Kerry in southwest Ireland

Origin of Irish Stone Forts of Cahersiveen

The following video highlights the uniqueness of these Irish Stone Forts

Although no specific dates are established for the construction of these forts, iron artifacts suggest they were likely built by early Christian settlers sometime between 600 and 900 AD. Stone forts were a step up from the typical earthen ring forts, and most likely built to protect farmsteads of well-to-do landowners.

The partially reconstructed Leacanbuaile stone fort sits high on a rocky hill, with an inside diameter of 21 metres (70 feet) and 3 metre (10 metre) thick walls. It is protected on three sides by steep slopes. Several interior walls are present, representing different rooms. There is also an apparent entrance to a tunnel that once led outside the fort, (possibly an escape route).

Leacanabuaile Stone Fort with Cahersaveen in the background

Leacanabuaile Stone Fort with Cahersiveen in the background

A short walk away, the fully reconstructed Cahergall ring fort is a formidable sight, with a diameter of 25 metres (82 feet), wall heights up to 6 metres (20 feet) and a 5 metre (15 feet) wall thickness. Multiple sets of steps constructed into the tiered wall allows easy access to the top of the wall and the astounding views of the surrounding landscape.Within the fort lies a small circular fort.

Cahergall Stone Fort with its 6 metre high walls

Cahergall Stone Fort with its 6 metre (20 ft) high walls

Enough of the actual history and descriptions. Let’s get into the soap opera lore surrounding these stone forts.

A Tragic Ringfort Romance

This rather tall tale of Irish tragic romance, connects one of the most famous historical Irish folk heroes with the stone forts of Cahersiveen. Are you intrigued?

The town of Cahersiveen, is also spelled Cathair Saidhbhin. Stay with me here.

Cathair means ‘ring fort’, and Saidhbhin means ‘little Sadhbh’. In other words, the ‘ring fort of little Sadhbh’

Sadhbh (SIVE) was a beautiful young lady who rebuffed the advances of Fer Doirich (FEAR-DOOR-EEH), a wicked Druid sorcerer. He became so enraged, he turned Sadhbh into a deer.

Dear Oh Deer

Soon after, Sadhbh came to learn from a reliable source that the spell could be broken if she managed to get into one of the stone ring forts. Now the dwellers of these ring forts were a group of warriors known as Fianna. Sadhbh spent the next three years miraculously evading predators and hunters as she searched for the Fianna.

Ironically, those she was trying to find were skilled hunters. This could get interesting!

Soap Opera Saga – Meet Finn MacCool

The fateful day came when two large hunting dogs surprised Sadhbh in the forest. With no way escape, she was at the mercy of the hounds. Now one would expect the rather large dogs to immediately trap or kill Sadhbh.

However, in the soap opera world of Irish lore, the dogs instead lay down beside the fawn to protect her from other hunters. You see, they recognized she was no ordinary deer. Truth be told, they were no ordinary dogs themselves. Their mother was once human before being turned into a hound. (What’s with all these animal related curses?)

The two hounds continued to protect the deer as their master caught up to them. He was none other than the famous Irish folk hero Fionn Mac Cumhaill (better known in some parts as Finn MacCool).

Fionn just happened to be the leader of the Fianna warriors, exactly who Sadhbh was seeking. Now Fionn, taking heed of his dogs’ peculiar behaviour, decided to take Sadhbh back to his stone ring fort home.

Cahergall Stone Fort on a hill

Cahergall Stone Fort on a hill

What a Fort-Night

As soon as they crossed the stone fort’s threshold, Sadhbh turned back into a beautiful woman. Fionn and Sadhbh fell madly in love (and particularly in lust for awhile). Their amorous relationship resulted in Sahbh getting pregnant.

All was going so well. Then right in line with a good soap opera, bad news arrived. The Vikings were invading Kerry, so Fionn had to leave Sadhbh to lead his Fianna warriors into battle.

Deja Vu at the Ring of Stone

A few days had passed when Sadhbh saw Fionn and his dogs returning home. She was so excited and ran out from the fort to greet him. As she approached, the image of Fionn transformed into the spiteful sorcerer Fer Doirich (you know, the one she had previously rejected). He ruthlessly turned Sadhbh back into a deer with his dastardly magical skills. To her utter dismay, she remained a deer even when back in the stone fort. In total despair and terror, Sadhbh fled into the forest.

The Long Search

After several days of battle, Fionn returned home to find Sadhbh missing. Completely heartbroken, Fionn spent the following seven years searching for his love.

One day during the long search, Fionn’s two dogs came across a young boy and lay beside him (sound familiar?). The lad could not speak, but Fionn recognized his features were of his lost love, Sahbh. He took the boy back home to take care of him.

Standing on the massive Cahergall Stone Fort wall

Standing on the massive Cahergall Stone Fort wall

As the boy learned to speak over several months, he told Fionn how he had been raised in the forest by a kind and loving deer. Fionn now knew this was his son and named him Oisín (O-SHEEN), meaning ‘young deer’.

Sadhbh was never seen or heard of again.

Although it is unclear if either Cahergall or Leacanabuaile were the actual stone fort in this story, they are the only remaining stone forts around the town Cahersiveen – “Sadhbh’s Ring Fort”.

Any interesting fables learned during your travels?