If you are looking for a unique and spectacular destination to explore the rich history and culture of Ireland, you might want to consider visiting Dún Dúchathair, or the Black Fort, on the island of Inishmore. Inishmore is the largest of the three Aran Islands, located off the west coast of Ireland in County Galway. The island is famous for its ancient stone forts, monastic sites, and stunning scenery. One of these forts is Dún Dúchathair, which stands on a rocky promontory overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Dún Dúchathair, which means “black fort” in Irish, is a large stone fort that dates back to the Iron Age or early medieval period. The name comes from the dark-colored limestone that forms the walls and cliffs of the site. The fort consists of a massive stone wall that encloses an area of about 50 by 27 meters. The wall is up to 6 meters high and 5 meters wide, and has traces of terracing and steps on the inside. Within the enclosure, there are ruins of several stone buildings, possibly clocháns or beehive huts, that served as dwellings or storage places for the inhabitants. The entrance to the fort is protected by a cheval de frise, a defensive arrangement of sharp stones that would impede attackers on horseback or on foot.
The fort was built on a strategic location that offered natural protection from the sea and the land. The promontory on which it stands is connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus that could be easily defended. The fort also commands a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape and the ocean, allowing the occupants to spot any potential threats or visitors.
The exact age and origin of Dún Dúchathair are unknown, as no archaeological excavations have been carried out on the site. However, based on its similarities with other stone forts on the island, such as Dún Aonghasa and Dún Eochla, it is likely that it was built sometime between the 1st century BC and the 7th century AD. These forts are believed to have been constructed by local chieftains or kings as symbols of power and prestige, as well as defensive structures and places of refuge.
Dún Dúchathair may have been inhabited until the late medieval period, when it was abandoned or destroyed by invaders or raiders. The fort does not appear in any historical records or legends, unlike Dún Aonghasa, which is associated with mythical figures such as Aonghus mac Óg, a god of love and youth in Irish mythology. However, some local folklore suggests that Dún Dúchathair was once occupied by a fierce warrior named Goll Mac Morna, who was exiled from his clan after killing his brother.
Dún Dúchathair is located on the south coast of Inishmore, about 7 kilometers from Kilronan, the main village and port of the island. You can reach Inishmore by ferry from Rossaveal or Doolin, or by plane from Connemara Regional Airport. Once on the island, you can rent a bike, take a bus tour, or hire a horse-drawn carriage to explore its attractions.
The fort is not signposted or fenced off, so you will have to look for it among the fields and rocks. There is no admission fee or visitor center at the site, so you are free to explore it at your own pace and risk. However, please be careful not to damage or disturb any of the structures or artifacts, and do not litter or leave anything behind. There are also no railings at the site, so please take extreme care and caution along the cliff edge.
The fort is best visited on a clear day when you can enjoy the stunning views of the sea and the cliffs. You can also watch the waves crashing against the rocks below, creating spectacular splashes and sounds. You might even spot some seabirds, seals, or dolphins in the water. The fort is a perfect place to experience the beauty and mystery of the Aran Islands, and to imagine what life was like for the ancient people who built and lived in it.
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