article & photo by Séamus Ó hUltacháin
One of three cashels in the townland of Moneygashel (Scrubland of the Cashels) – this central cashel has been described as ‘the finest of its kind in southern Ulster.’
A cashel was a secure, circular, stone enclosure – usually dating to the early Christian period. Within its walls there would have been houses and animal shelters, sometimes built of timber and clay. Cashels are common around here, due to the abundance of glacially deposited stone. Earthen ringforts are more usual elsewhere in Ireland – in areas of deep soil and where stone was scarce.
Two internal stairways in the cashel are now built up. There is also an external stairway – an unusual feature. The entrance to a ‘souterrain’ (underground passage) may be seen at the external base of the wall to the south.
Earlier Stone Age settlement and ritual in Moneygashel is attested to by the presence of a nearby megalithic tomb and standing stones.
This tradition in stone working continued up until recent times. Superb examples of abandoned vernacular houses and farm buildings can be seen all around. Many of these were built by members of the Coyle family, who were stone masons and who owned the land around the cashel.