Nearest town: Cahirciveen, Nearest village: Castlecove
|Three miles NNE of the Sneem-Parknasilla road is Staigue Fort, one of the largest and finest ring forts you are likely to see in Ireland. It stands on a low hill in an amphitheatre of rugged hills open to the sea on the south.
The wall is up to 5.5m (18ft) high and 4m (13ft) thick, surrounding a circular area of 27.4m (90ft) in diameter. Inside the wall are two small chambers about 2.1m (7ft) high, oval in shape and waterproof, with a corbelled roof of the type also used in the much earlier passage grave at Newgrange. The interior of the fort is reached through a 1.8m (6ft) high passage roofed with enormous double lintels. Access to the ramparts is gained by a series of steps in the shape of the letter X.
The fort is surrounded by a large bank and ditch, still very obvious on the north side. Staigue Fort shows great skill in building. No mortar was used, the stones were not dressed and it is similar in style to the Grianan of Aileach in Co. Donegal. The dating of this site is difficult but it may have been built in the centuries preceding St Patrick, during the Celtic period. Dr Peter Harbison, however, suggests that the earliest possible date for construction is probably around the first century BC.
During the 19th century its construction was in turn assigned to such unlikely groups as Phoenicians, Cyclopeans, Danes, and Arch-Druids, while equally implausible theories were put forward concerning its purpose. Local lore has it that the inhabitants were small in stature and they came here in search of ore. There is evidence that copper was excavated in the surrounding countryside.
Nearby, down the N70 road to Waterville, there is another fort called Caherdaniel, overlooking the Kenmare River.