Ballyheigue to Glenderry


The line on the map here marks the "Track of the Red Ditch" – An Claí Rua. This is an archaeological artifact of unknown origin but thought to be some thousands of years old. It can be traced as an earthen bank about 0.5 metres high and 2 metres wide running intermittently from the point of Kerry Head at Cahercarbery eastwards towards the Cashen River and on into Limerick. What its purpose was is the subject of debate and some theories put forward are that it was a territorial boundary marker, or a roadway for military or commercial purposes.


This bend in the sunken track commands a sweeping vista of land and ocean. There below is mouth of the River Shannon, its waters stretching to the coast of Co. Clare. Away to the right, the estuary narrows towards Limerick which is the port for those silent ships you sometimes see moving slowly up and down. On a clear day the seaside resort of Ballybunion can be made out and behind it, Cnoc an Óir. Almost straight in front is Loop Head with its lighthouse and then there's the vast and boundless Atlantic stretching to the horizon and far beyond until the next coast it washes is that of America.


Before leaving the viewing point, look down just below. You will notice a deep cleft in the cliff-side and some white posts. This is Glendahalin – The Glen of St. Dahalin. For as long as can be remembered, people have come here to pray and to bathe their eyes in the waters of the Holy Well. The custom is as it ever was for this is Tobar na Súl – the spring of the eyes – and it is a spiritual place. To the left of the Well a little grey building can be discerned, blending with the furze and bracken. This is the church of St. Dahalin – and it is a good example of the architectural style termed "Early Christian". A date in the 8th century has been given as a likely time when its large sandstones were put in place. Though some have fallen, enough remain to show us what the little church looked like.


Here again a new vista presents itself. Blot out, if you can, the ugly water tower on nearby Triskmore and look out over the sea. There is the Slieve Mish Range and to the west, that splendid sacred peak – Mount Brandon. The Maharees Peninsula juts into the Bay and around it cluster the little islets known as the Seven Hogs. In the centre of the Bay is Mucklaghmore, eye-catching as always.


At the points symbolised on Map 5 are the two Cahercarbery Forts – or at least what remain of them after the passage of maybe 2000 years and the battering of countless storms. These structures most likely were refuges where people retreated in times of danger and, protected by sea cliffs at one side and stout walls on the other, could withstand attack from marauding raiders. The Red Ditch has its starting point near here. Be warned, the forts seem deceptively close, but are over half a kilometre from the Way and the ground is quite uneven. The cliffs are very high and, of course, unprotected. In fog this is quite a hazardous place.


Between here and the long, low coast of Clare, 13 km to the north, the Shannon bids a last farewell to Ireland having completed a 40 km journey from its source in Co. Cavan. It now mingles with that vast expanse of ocean which draws the eye to the far horizon.

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