SMR No.: KE099-013001-
Monument Type: Ringfort - cashel
Internal diam. 27.2m N-S, 26.8m E-W Staigue Fort/Cathair na Stéige: This imposing caher is located on a low rise at the head of the Staigue river valley, and commands a fine view along the valley to Kenmare Bay at SSW. The caher, surrounded by the remains of a fosse and an external bank, consists of a massive circular rampart which features a lintelled entrance, two mural chambers, and an internal terrace with interconnecting steps. It fell into some disrepair during its period of use as a cattle pound in the late 18th century (Bland 1825, 20), and repairs were carried out on it by the OPW during the 19th century (Harbison 1970, 119). The extent and nature of this work appears to be undocumented, and it is difficult lo distinguish the original from the modern stonework. Minor repairs were also carried out at the site in the early 1940s (information: C. Manning). The skilfully built enclosing rampart consists of a substantial rubble core faced internally and externally with horizontal courses of drystone masonry. The external facing is of superior quality, the interstices being plugged with carefully chosen spawls. Both faces display a pronounced batter which is returned to the full height of the wall. At the well-preserved N sector of the caher the batter measures .75m and 1.15m externally and internally respectively, reducing the rampart width from 4.1m at its base to 2.2m at its top. A slight outward bulge of the rampart occurs at W, and at NW two wall-joints are visible on both of its faces. Measuring 4.1m apart at the base of the rampart externally, and 5.45m apart at its top, these may indicate that a gap was left here to allow access to the interior of the site during its construction. The walling between the joints is of similar construction to that elsewhere on the rampart, and incorporates one of the mural chambers at its base. The rampart stands to a maximum external height of 5.7m at N, where both Bland and Dunraven noted a number of coping stones projecting slightly over its inner wall-face (1825, 18-19; 1875, 24). Two of these remain in situ, and average 1m x .4m x .08m thick. Significant portions of the upper courses of the rampart are missing at SE and at S, where the surviving section stands only 2m in external height.
An entrance passage, 4.1m long and 1.8m high, leads into the interior of the caher from S. It is roofed with three lintels, the external one relieved by another set one course above it. The side-walls of the passage incline inwards from a basal width of 1.5m to 1.25m below the lintels. The inner face of the rampart features a terrace, on average 1.2m high above ground level, which is divided into sections by inset arrangements of opposing steps. These sections average .6m wide and vary in length from about 2m, on either side of the entrance passage, up to 12m at NE. From this terrace access is gained to the top of the rampart by further sets of opposing steps, which tend to occur midway along the lengths of the individual sections of the terrace. The combined overall effect of the upper and lower flights of steps, of which there are ten, is that of wide-waisted X's. The interior of the caher is level and featureless, and from it access is gained to the two intramural chambers. That at NW features a lintelled entrance which is 1.4m high and .7m wide at base. It leads into a subrectangular chamber which measures 2.3m NE-SW x 1.4m NW-SE. The drystone coursed walls rise vertically to a height of .8m from which point they begin to corbel. The roof is closed with one large slab at a height of 2.1m. Three large lintel-like slabs are incorporated in the corbelled portion of the end-wall at SE. The second chamber is located at SSW, 5.1m from the entrance of the caher, and is entered through a lintelled opening which is 1.1m high and .7m wide at base. The chamber is rectangular in plan, widening slightly midway along its length. It measures 3.6m NW-SE x 1.4m NE-SW. Corbelling of the walls commence at a height of .9m, and the ridge of the roof is closed by a series of overlapping slabs.
A flat-bottomed fosse, on average 1.5m deep and 3m wide, surrounds the caher. It is poorly preserved at SE, and at S it is traversed by an ill-defined causeway which corresponds with the position of the entrance to the caher. The flat-topped outer bank is of earth and gravel composition, and rises up to 2m high from the base of the fosse. It is fairly well-preserved except at S and SE. At N it measures 5.5m in basal width and rises .5m above external ground level.
Two levelled hut sites (KE099-020----) and traces of a small square enclosure (KE099-035----) are located close to Staigue Fort, at SSW and E respectively. Some 500m to SSE is a primitive copper mine (KE099-034----).
A number of artefacts are on record from in or near Staigue Fort. A gold dress-fastener of Bronze Age type was found between 1840 and 1860 'in or at the outer wall of Staigue Fort' (NMI). A plaster-cast copy of this object (NMI 1927:910) is now in KCM (L1992:40), but the whereabouts of the original is unknown. A perforated whetstone (NMI 1931:310) was found 'near' the site in 1931 (Irish Times, 8/9/1931), and is also now in KCM (L1992:44). A horn spoon was found in one of the mural chambers of the caher in 1956 (KAS), but its present whereabouts is unknown.
The above description is derived from A. O'Sullivan and J. Sheehan (compilers), 'The Iveragh peninsula: an archaeological survey of South Kerry'. Cork University Press (1996), no. 620. In certain instances the entries have been revised and updated in the light of recent research.