Dún Beag Fort Visitor Center

Defenses

Dunbeg consists of four outer defensive banks of stone and earth, with five intervening ditches (fosses). If a threatening group had breached these defenses, they would have found themselves 3 m (10 ft) below the top of the 6 m- (20 ft-) thick stone rampart of the inner fort.

The entrance passage through this rampart features two small, corbelled stone “guard chambers” on either side. Within these, the fort’s defenders might have hidden, waiting to thrust their spears at any invader. The two guard chambers were entered from small crawl-space openings on the inside wall of the stone rampart. A wooden bar which closed the entrance door extended into the chambers, allowing entry to the fort to be controlled by the person in the guard chamber.

Because of its location at the cliff’s edge, archaeologists classify Dunbeg as a “promontory fort”. Similar monuments include Dun Aengus in the Aran Islands and Caherconree, a mountaintop version of the promontory fort at the eastern reaches of the Dingle Peninsula.

Clochán

In Irish the name clochán, (plural - clocháin) is given to dwellings like those pictured on the right, derived from the word cloch, a stone, it reflects the fact that they are constructed exclusively from stone without the use of mortar.

By far the greatest concentration of these clocháin in Ireland is on the Dingle Peninsula, and almost all are found west of Mount Brandon. The fact that these huts are found in such great numbers to the west of Brandon, yet are very much rarer in other parts of Kerry and elsewhere throughout the country, strongly suggests that these clocháin were the temporary habitations of pilgrims waiting for sufficiently clement weather to climb Mount Brandon.

Fahan Village

The first settlers in the village of Fahan were nomadic hunters and gatherers who forged on the coast for their food. Later Stone Age man Bronze Age and Iron age man were to build their Defensive Forts erect their Clocháin and work the land for the first time. The area was later occupied by a Celtic tribe known as the Corca Dhuibhne from which the area derives it's name. In the centuries that followded the peninsula was visited by Vikings, Normans and English.

Each wave of settlers left their mark on the locality. At one stage there were over 400 of these monuments surviving, prompting one antiquarian in the 19th century to refer to the area as "the city of Fahan". The most significant relics from the Iron Age are promontory (sea facing) and hill forts

History eroding

Sheer cliff walls on the east, south, and west guard Dunbeg Promontory Fort. Peering down over the protective fencing around the fort, a view of the rolling waves of the Atlantic some 28 m (92 ft) below. The fort has not made it to the present day without significant changes, as the same ocean that protected its inhabitants on three sides has eaten away at it from below. More than a thousand years of furious winter storms have slowly devoured the cliff edges supporting the fort and have sent one end of the stone rampart crashing down into the ocean.

The storm of 1897

Sadly through the many years the fort has been in extistence it has not stood unscathed. In the year 1898 thunderous storms battered the dingle peninsula. The storm wreaked havoc on areas near the coast. Unfortunately Dunbeg fort was not unaffected. In his 1898 article on his visit to the fort, antiquarian P.J. Lynch put it best:

The sea is encroaching on this coast. On portions of Dunbeag, to my own knowledge, as much as from eight to ten feet of land has disappeared within twenty years. Last year [1897] a portion of the western end of the fort wall fell away. . . .
Lynch, P. J. "Notes on Dunbeg Fort, The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland Fifth 8.4 (1898): 325-328.

Recent Storms

In February 2014 and April 2017 furious coastal storms again attacked the cliff at the western edge of the fort and caused a significant section to fall away, perilously close to the passageway through the stone rampart. This has effectively closed the monument to further public access until April 2019.
It is unlikely that the passageway to the inner fort can be restored to allow its use. It now leads over the edge of the collapsed cliff. The storm of 2017 caused a the fort to be closed until April 2019 as a portion of the fort had fallen away. With thanks to the Office of public works fencing was put in place to insure the safety of customers and the fort open once more.

The Stonehouse Café

A great coffee stop on slea head is directly beside the fort. The stonehouse restaurant is world famous for it's unique stone roof, spectacular sea views, cosy turf fires and Old world ambience in the hearth Of the Dingle Peninsula Irish Gaeltacht.

Here you can enjoy traditional Irish food including Irish lamb stew, fresh local seafood dishes, organic rhubarb and custard crumble, apple pie, daily baked hot scones and much more. Also available are a wide range of speciality coffees including Irish coffee and Bailey's coffee. Fine wines and local beers including Guinness on draft aswell. A wonderful authentic Irish cultural experience is always guaranteed at the Stonehouse Restaurant.

Cuisine

The cuisine at the Stonehouse could be best described as Bistro mixed with Irish Traditional. Here you will find exciting, mouth-watering dishes made from the finest local produce.

The menu features fresh, locally caught fish; delicious West Kerry meats as well as a host of other exciting options. Home-made soups, Seasonal Salad, Goat's Cheese Salad, Fresh Crab Salad and Local Smoked Salmon offer the perfect meal.

Dún Beag Fort

Dún Beag fort is a small but impressive and elaborate example of a promontory fort and its location makes it one of the most dramatic archaeological sites on the Dingle Peninsula. Built on a sheer cliff which projects South into Dingle Bay at the base of Mount Eagle, it’s extensive archeological excavation was undertaken in the late 1970’s. There was two major phases of occupation recorded by the archaeologists.

The first phase was around the 8th and 9th centuries AD and was centered around a small hearth fire close to the South Wall. Clusters of stake holes to the North and South indicated the presence of wooden tripods for supporting pots and skins over the fire. Analysis of the occupation debris suggests a diet mainly of pigs, sheep and goats with some cows.

The second phase of occupation lay 0.18 to 3 metres above the first phase and was around the 10th and 11th Centuries AD. It was concentrated on two hearths in the centre of the fort. The bones of sheep, pig, deer, birds and fish were also recorded.

Audio Visual

Tickets to Dunbeg Fort also grant you access to the audio visual, a cinematic short history of the fort. This short film also gives you an overview of what else there is to see on the slea head drive.

We recommend you expierience the audio visual before making your way down to the fort as you'll then know what features of the fort to look out for when you get down there.

The audio visual is a unique expierience along slea head drive and highly recommended for those doing a tour of slea head.

Visitor Center

In our fantastic visitor center you will find a wide variety of souvenirs. These include authentic sheep skin rugs, localy made art, localy designed jewellery and much more besides.
Preserve and commemorate your experience in Ireland with one of our varied selection of souvenirs and gifts.
Get a localy made postcard for someone back home or buy a gift for someone special.

Directions

On arriving into Dingle via the main Tralee/Killarney road (N86) - take the first left at the second roundabout, and drive through Dingle Town, past the marina on your left and continue to the Miltown roundabout. At the roundabout, take the first left heading over the bridge on the main Slea Head Drive (R559). Continue on the Slea Head Drive (R559), past Ventry Village and straight on for approx 6km, until you reach the village of Fahan and the Dunbeag Fort Visitor Centre on the right hand side. You will also see signs for Stone House Restaurant (which is right beside the Visitor center).

Distance: 12km

Driving Time: 15 Minutes