Home page link

Fortified sites

Eire sign, Sheep's Head

Category: 
Eire sign

These large signs were put up as part of the Coast Watching Serrvice (CWS) founded in 1939  in response to the The Emergency, or Second World War. The words EIRE were spelled out in huge stones, embedded into concrete and whitewashed. Sometimes the number of the particular sign was also written in stones and the whole site enclosed in a rectangular stone border. They were constructed and looked after by the men who were responsible for the nearby lookout post.

The Eire marking at the end of the Sheep's Head was number 31 and was one of five signs built along the coast of Cork from 1939 onwards. Altogether 82 signs were construted, stretching from County Louth to County Donegal. They were designed to warn wartime shipping and aircraft that they were approaching neutral territory. The Sheep's Head markings are quite hard to spot but once your eyes acclimatise you can still make out the letters quite clearly.

 

Many thanks to Cearbhall Daly from sailingindublin.ie for sending me the images of the EIRE sign from the sea. 

Nearby by sites:

Signal Tower

Lookout Post

Lighthouse

See also

Eire sign, Baltimore

 

 

Location: 
From the circular helicopter landing area head southwest towards the cliffs
References: 
V718 337
Fieldnotes: 

You have to leave the Sheep's Head Way at the circular marked helicopter landing area and scramble down towards the cliffs. It's a rugged and exhilarating spot but difficult to make out the letters clearly - as they would have been best seen from the air or the sea. Extreme care is needed as the cliffs are steep and the terrain slippery.

Edit: the rocks have recently been whitewashed and the letters are far more visible (2015).

Cul na Long, Gearhamines

Category: 
Fortified house

This large fortified house known as Cul na Long (nook of the ships) is located in a sheltered spot half a mile from the estuary at the mouth of Four Mile Water. It was built sometime between 1601 and 1640 to by Teige na Muclach McCarthy to replace the old family castle at Rossmore. Teige 'of the pigs'  who is reputed to have lived until he was 97,  apparently kept a large herd of pigs on the land. The house was built in typical Irish Jacobean style, replacing the traditional tower houses and is comparable to Coppinger's Court near Rosscarbery and Reendesert near Ballilickey. It was two storeys high with a large hall on the first floor - you can still see the original huge fireplace and bread oven.  Machicolations are still visible on the side wall and on the SW wall are remains of gun loops. Some of the windows still retain wooden frames which were put in when the building converted to farm usage in the early 19C .

The family supported the Irish uprising of 1641, an attempted coup by the Catholic gentry against the English Administration of Ireland. For their part in this uprising and consequent war, the McCarthy's had their house and lands forfeited.  On the arrival of Cromwell, a Colonel Reade owned the house and after the Restoration in the 1660s Nathaniel Evanson moved here, eventually building the new Court next door, probably using some stone from the old house. The house was in derelict by 1845 and today it is a picturesque ivy clad ruin and despite attempts to get it protected, it is slowly being reclaimed by nature.

Townland: 
Gearhamines : gortha min, smooth woodland
Location: 
On private land though the Sheep's Head Way south: Ahakista to Durrus passes very close by and good views can be had
References: 
929 421
Fieldnotes: 

I have been lucky enough to visit this site twice and each time have had to hack my way through nettles and brambles to get a view of the structure. What an imposing building it must have been in its time - so different from the tower houses that came before, offering a much higher standard of comfort. The big fireplaces, bread ovens, airy windows speak of comfortable living, but the presence of fortifications (machicolations and gun loops) provide evidence of a turbulent past. The house nestles amidst pasture beside a small river. The name is perplexing for although it is certainly in a nook there is no way that boats could have navigated the small river. It has been suggested that the name referred to the original tower house at Rossmore and the name was wrongly transferred to the new building, which has also been called Four Mile Water in its time. Evidence abounds of its adaptation into farm building during the late 18C and 19C -  the remains of old farm buildings and gardens can still be seen.

Ravens, choughs and sparrowhawks have made their nests here.

Nearby site:

Rossmore Castle

Durrus School

Lord Bandon's Folly

Category: 
Ornamental tower

This ornamental tower, or folly, was built around 1847 by Lord Bandon as famine relief, the labourers getting 1d a day. It was originally three storeys high but is now  a rather melancholy shell looking out across Dunmanus Bay.

Townland: 
Dromnea - ridge of deer
Location: 
Easily seen on main road from Ahakista to Kilcrohane, though actual site is on private land
References: 
V842 380

McCarthy Castle, Rossmore

Category: 
Tower house

The remains of an O Mahony tower house are well hidden down a little boreen and are to be found right at the seashore gazing down into the expanse of Dunmanus Bay. Not a huge lot remains - a three storeyed wall, some windows, a chimney breast, the remains of a garderobe, a stairwell and a cluster of little outbuildings plus farm house. Probably built in the 14C, the castle seems to have  been owned by the McCarthy family who later built themselves a fine modern building at Cul na Long.

 

Townland: 
Rossmore: Ros mor, large headland
Location: 
Down a small track from the main Durrus to Ahakista road; private access
References: 
V922 409
Fieldnotes: 

This is a wonderful, well hidden spot at the end of a little boreen. The old tower house has been customised  with farm buildings being built on its walls,and tiny windows placed in its original huge ones. The whole area is peppered with little buildings - a farm house right at the water's edge and a cluster of outbuildings. A resident donkey regarded me with gentle interest.

See also

Gearhamines

Signal Tower

Category: 

This was one of 82 similar towers built between 1804 and 1806, part of a coastal defence system which also included Martello towers and gun batteries.Concerned by the attempted French invasion of 1797 and by the real threat of future invasion by Napoleon  the function of these towers was to signal information to naval vessels, usually using a system of flags hoisted from a central pole.Heather could also be placed at the top of the tower to be lit in case of emergencies.  There is a story that a soldier accidently lit the heather and rather than face a court marshal, he jumped from the top of the tower to his death. The nearest cemetery was 7 miles away and his colleagues grew tired of carrying his body and buried  him under a rock known as Carraig Reardon.

The tower originally stood three storeys high over a cellar and was manned by 10 men - a military guard and a naval signal crew. A road had to be built along the coast to bring materials to this remote spot. The tower was struck by lightening in 1989 and collapsed.

Nearby site:

Camp, Look out station

Eire sign

Lighthouse

See also:

Signal Tower Brow Head

Signal Tower, Baltimore

Signal Tower, Toe Head

 

Townland: 
Ballyroon mountain
Location: 
On the Sheep's Head Way south, Tooreen to Letter West
References: 
V840 342
Fieldnotes: 

This is a wild and exhilarating spot and on a clear day you can see for miles. In the late summer the colours of the gorse and heather are magnificent. It must have been a lonely billet for the soldiers garrisoned here watching the Atlantic Ocean, as it has a very end of the world feeling about it.

The Camp

Category: 
World War 11 look out post

This little square, block-built lookout post, known as the Camp, sits in a magnificent position looking out across the vast sweep of the Atlantic. It is one of  82 lookout posts positioned around the coast between 1933 and 1939 as part of the coastal defence system. Although Ireland was officially neutral in the Second World War, or Emergency, this part of the Atlantic saw a lot of traffic from above in the skies and below in the sea. The Coast Watching Service (CWS)  was formally established in April 1939 and 82 look out posts were built around the coast, between five and 15 miles apart. Each one was numbered starting with number 1 in Ballyagan in County Louth and ending at number 82, Inishowen Head, Donegal. The Sheep's Head look out post was number 31.

The look out posts were part of a volunteer land-based force. Seven men, led by an NCO, were manned at each one.  Most men were recruited locally. They usually worked in pairs, or in threes, and had a 8-12 hour shift. Their job was observational - they had to keep a close look out on all vessels in Irish waters and track all aircraft. One man was meant to remain inside, where there was a telephone, whilst the other had to patrol outside.

To begin with , the volunteers had to camp in bell tents but these rather bleak little buildings went up in 1939/40.  They are made from pre-cast concrete blocks , with an area measuring around 13ft by 9ft. A large bay window looks out seaward. This had two central panels facing ahead, and  two to the side, one to the left and one to the right. A rather modest fireplace was positioned  in the centre of the rear wall with a door to the right hand. There may also have been a small bunker for storing turf, and a telegraph pole.

A rather lonely and bracing posting, conditions must have been damp, windy, smoky and uncomfortable. The men were equipped with binoculars, charts, a telescope and logbooks. Telephones were put in in 1940 - before that if there was any crucial information, someone had to cycle to the nearest Post Office, a fair distance and an invigorating ride in this case. The lookout posts played a vital role in intelligence and by 1943/44 there had been reported over 20,000 sightings of aircraft over Ireland.

Nearby sites:

Eire sign

Lighthouse

Townland: 
Tooreen - little green/sheep walk
Location: 
Sheep's Head Way south - Tooreen to Letter West. From the car park, take a left by the cafe and follow the path as it starts to climb along the ridge
References: 
V735 341
Fieldnotes: 

Today this rather bleak little place has that unloved pissy smell of derelict buildings and is full of rubbish. It does have some interesting graffiti though.  Jimi Hendrix is obviously much loved all over the place! The last time I visited was in December and I came with my sons. The wind hit us as soon as we got out of the car but we persevered up the mountain towards the ridge. We had just arrived at the Camp when the heavens opened - we sheltered in the little building, shivering and watching the horizontal hail pour through the glassless windows. A few minutes later the sun came out and we were treated to a spectacular rainbow.

Nearby site:

Signal Tower

Eire sign

O Daly Castle, Farrananamanagh

Category: 
Tower house

Not much remains of this tower house, once the stronghold to the O Daly's, the bardic clan. The original building may have been erected around 1215, according to the Annals of Innisfallen, but  the early castle was destroyed and this one built in the 15C or 16C in conjunction with the Bardic school which is just a few hundred metres away on the cliffside.  Bards were poets, responsible for safeguarding and narrating the history and stories connected with a clan, in this case the O Mahonys. Aonghus o Daly, the most famous of all the bards, lived here in the 16C. The castle was confiscated after the Battle of Kinsale in 1601 when the O Dalys became homeless and impoverished. The ground floor of what was once a three storey rectangular tower house can be seen atop a low ridge, but now much covered in brambles and undergrowth.  It commands spectacular views across the freshwater lake.

 

Townland: 
Farranamanagh : land of the monks
Location: 
On a small ridge over looking the lake. Accessible down a small muddy boreen
References: 
V830 380
Fieldnotes: 
Subscribe to Fortified sites