View from the interior of Dunbeg Fort, with Mount Eagle in the background
On the edge of Europe, along the coast of Dingle Peninsula, Dunbeg Fort is a promontory fort, not far from Dingle town towards Slea Head. Known in Gaelic as An Dún Beag, it was protected by sheer cliffs on three sides, falling into the Atlantic nearly a hundred feet below. Begun as a defensive earthen embankment sometime around 8BCE, it was in use at least till the eleventh century AD. Dunbeg is considered part of the Fahan group, a loose grouping of prehistoric sites on the Dingle Peninsula.
Though much of the structure has fallen into the Atlantic over the past millennium, it’s thought that local folklore has helped to preserve what remained, Locals believe that Dunbeg and places like it are the home of the dead, who frequently return, particularly at night, So to interfere with the remains is to court disaster, not mention, downright disrespectful,
In front of the stone wall lay four ditches, all of which could be defended. If the attackers reached the wall, they found themselves in a ditch several meters below ground level. Most of the wall is eight to eleven feet thick, though at the entrance it reaches twenty two feet in thickness.
Within the walls there were several drystone huts or clocháns, for living quarters. Though round on the outside, the interior was square. Sharing the same behave structure as others nearby on the Dingle Peninsula, these differed in that the roofs were open and likely thatched. Refuse from the occupants is basically nonexistent, because they had no need for pits, with the ocean nearby.
Storm Eleanor in 2017 wreaked further havoc on the site, forcing its closure once more, and leaving in doubt whether it can ever be safely reopened. In the latest storm, more of the structure fell into the sea and the stone doorway collapsed.
The danger of a promontory fort of course, is if the attackers breach the inner wall, there’s usually no place to run, with the sea on the three sides of you. The builders of Dunbeg solved this problem with an underground passage which emptied out beyond the outer walls, and was hidden from view.
Dunbeg means “little fort,” believed to be named that as the big fort lay further out on the peninsula, now lost due to a farmer who didn’t believe the folklore.