The location of Dún Beag Fort is making it vulnerable to natural weather events and is threatening the site’s existence. The fort suffered from extensive coastal erosion in the early 19th century, and in 1977 the Office of Public Works (OPW) carried out an archaeological excavation to record the site and its history before any further damage could occur.
The excavations were carried out by archaeologist Terry Barry. Further locations have been excavated in 2018 by consultant archaeologist Laurence Dunne.
A considerable amount of the cliff collapsed into the sea in recent years due to the increased frequency and severity of storms and rain in Ireland. This has led to significant loss of archaeological elements to Dún Beag Fort. A storm in January 2014 caused a portion of the cliff to collapse into the sea. Between 2017 and 2018, more severe weather caused further damage and a significant part of the fort, including the entranceway, was lost into the ocean. The dramatic collapse sparked national attention and was covered in the national news on RTÉ in 2018.
Image: Aerial image showing the coastal erosion in 2018 (Image credit: OPW)
The OPW has adopted a policy of managed retreat for the site. The aim was to adapt to the present climate effects and to provide safe access for visitors. After the dramatic 2017 cliff collapse, the OPW erected a boundary fence that kept visitors and tourists away from the dangerous parts of the site. Access could not be allowed until a safety risk assessment was carried out and a report was issued. The OPW commissioned consultant engineers to carry out a geophysical survey of the site.
The site will now be continuously monitored to ensure visitors’ safety. The Discovery Programme has also surveyed the site using Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) mapping. The Discovery Programme will carry out survey works at Dunbeg Fort on a yearly basis to monitor any changes that might occur.
Image: OPW’s new culvert drainage pipework to mitigate the risk of flooding.(Image Credit OPW)
In 2019 The OPW installed more fencing to limit visitors’ access to specific areas that are considered safe. The existing drainage system has also been repaired and a new drainage wall has been constructed to redirect floodwater from the site. Dunbeg Fort was reopened in 2019 to allow visitors to the site. However, the drainage repairs carried out in 2019 were insufficient to protect the site from flooding. As a result, the OPW have installed new culvert drainage pipework to mitigate the risk of flooding.
Image: OPW installed fencing to limit visitors’ access to specific areas of the fort that are considered safe for access.