What to See & Do in the Area
The name of the townland and village of Cashel or An Caiseal derives from the ancient cashel or ‘fort’ in the graveyard north of the Church of St. James, in the area known as High Cashel or Caiseal Ard. This is a roughly circular bank of earth about 30 yards in diameter, having a ditch on the outside and the traces of rectangular buildings in the interior. Since it has long been used as a burial ground and there is a famous holy well, Tobar Chonaill, close by, it is likely that this was an early Christian religious settlement.
The track running by the graveyard represents the old road from the west, which kept a hundred feet or so higher around Erris Beg and Cashel Hill than the present coast-hugging road.
The most important antiquity on Cashel Hill is a mile west of the graveyard, about eight hundred yards up the hill from Sunset Cottage, and is known locally as Altoir or Altoir Ula (an ula is a tomb or penitential station ) and said to be a Mass Rock. It looks like a low hut built out of a few massive and irregular stone slabs, and whether or not Mass was ever read there in Penal times it is in fact a megalithic tomb dating from the end of the Stone Age or beginning of the Bronze Age, about 3500-4000 years ago. This type of tomb is known as a wedge-shaped gallery grave, and in this case the narrowing of its chamber towards the rear or eastern end is very striking when seen from higher up the hill. The cap-stone forming its roof is about five feet square and sixteen inches thick, and rests on smaller slabs set edgeways in the ground to form the sides; outside these slabs and parallel with them are other slabs, so that the side walls are doubled. One of these outer slabs, five feet high, stands forward of the main chamber and represents the side of a sort of portico at the front of the tomb. Originally the whole construction would have been covered by a cairn, traces of which can be seen around it. This is the only known megalithic tomb in the South Connemara area.
Excerpt from “Mapping South Connemara ” with kind permission of Tim Robinson (Folding Landscapes ) who resides in Roundstone, Co. Galway.