A Story from the Dingle Peninsula

 The story of Dún an Óir, or 'Fort del Oro'

A dhaoine uaisle, tá sibh thar n-ais i gcóir seachtain a 3! Tá súil agam go bhfuil sibh ag baint taithneamh as an tsrath seo. Is bréa liom bheith in ann píosa beag do Chorca Dhuibhne a thabhairt chugaibh gach seachtain go dtí go mbeidh cead ag gach éinne fille anseo!

It's week 3 of ‘Tales of a Tourism Officer’ and I’m glad some of you are still returning! I have decided to change the title of this post, as I feel using ‘Friday the 13th’ is simply asking for trouble, especially given we’re still living in 2020! I’m thoroughly enjoying bringing a piece of the Dingle Peninsula to you all once a week as we (still) await your return to our beautiful little piece of the earth! Last week I probably upset you all by talking about destinations and why visiting different places is so wonderful – such a fitting discussion at this point in time! So this week, I have decided to bring you a story unique to the Dingle Peninsula, one I myself – please excuse me – only recently discovered. So sit back, have a read and discover something new this November afternoon!

At the outskirts of the quiet, quaint village of Ballyferriter on the tip of the Dingle Peninsula, there is a site called ‘Dún an Oir’ or ‘Fort Del Oro’ and it is the location where one of the bloodiest events in Irish history took place, where troops from Spain and Italy along with Irish men and women suffered a violent death at the hands of the English. These Spanish and Italian troops had been sent to Ireland by Pope Gregory in support of the Irish in the second Desmond Rebellion in 1580. About 600 of them landed in Smerwick harbour, near Ballyferriter and began to build new fortifications on the site. However, they were stopped before they could complete this work. A small force of English ships blockaded them at sea and enemy Ormond prevented them from moving inland. Blocked on either side, their leader, San Giuseppe led the men to the cliff top fort at Dún an Óir.

Dingle Peninsula from Blennerville canal in winter Kerry Ireland
The site of Dún an Óir

Shortly afterwards, under the command of Lord Lieutenant Grey de Wilton, some 4,000 English men undertook a siege and quickly broke down the defences of the fort. The story goes that over the course of three days, all the Italian and Spanish troops were killed, along with the Irish men and women. It has been said that the English spent two days decapitating the victims and throwing their bodies into the sea. They then lined the heads up in a nearby field. It is now widely said that the field where the massacre took place is known as ‘Gort an Ghearradh’ (Field of the Cutting), and the field where the heads are buried is known as ‘Gort na gCeann’ (Field of the Heads). 



So, there you go…slightly gory for a Friday afternoon but an interesting tale nonetheless! The site of this awful massacre is however, one of beauty and the area where the fort once was looks out onto the Atlantic Ocean. The site is a national monument and is maintained by the Office of Public Works. A stone monument with twelve heads was erected at the site in memory of those that lost their lives in this spot in 1580. It is certainly an interesting story, and one that may not be known to many people. The Dún an Óir site is not too far off the main Slea Head Drive route, so it is easy to visit when travelling around the west of the Dingle Peninsula.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s blog post – it is certainly a captivating tale! Dún an Óir is most definitely a worthy stop on your next trip to the Dingle Peninsula – if only to see the interesting head monument! It is quite something! The Dingle Peninsula is rich in history and heritage, and it’s nice to be able to share a piece of it with you all this week. Its important to share stories like these, so that we’re aware of this wonderful place as it was all those years ago, and to think of those who came before us. I’m not much of a history head, but I really enjoyed uncovering this story.

Tá súil agam gur bhain sibh sult as scéal Dhún an Óir an tseachtain seo, fiú muna raibh sé ró-dheas in áiteanna! Tá sé tábhachtach na scéalta seo a roinnt ‘is a scapaidh, chun tuiscint a fháil ar na rudaí is na h-eachtraí a tharla in gCorca Dhuibhne ag dul siar na blianta. Go raibh míle maith agaibh as ucht teacht thar n-ais an tseachtain seo agus táim ag súil le scéal eile a roinnt libh an tseachtain seo chughainn! Fanaigí slán!

Thank you all for reading this week, it’s so nice to be able to share a little piece of the Dingle Peninsula with the people who are missing it most. Stay safe out there. I’ll be back next week.

Go dtí sin,


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