Carnaun Hilltop Fort

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In the Ordnance Survey Map of the Athenry area this hill is called ‘Convent in ruins’. This must have been a mistake because locally it was known as Clogher Goill.

The Irish name for a Convent is a Clocher and the Irish name for a Kings dwelling is Cloghar. That may be how they got mixed up.

Goill was Goill Mac Morna, a leader of the Fianna, a band of warriors who were known throughout Ireland a thousand years ago. Their mighty deeds are told in Irish folklore in a selection of stories called the Fiannaíocht. Fionn Mac Cumhail was the leader and his son Oisin was the hero of the great story “Tir Na nÓg”.

Goill Mac Morna’s brother was called Conan Maol Mallachtach Mac Morna (Bald Conan of the bad language) and now known as Conan the Barbarian on modern television.


It is likely that Fionn Mac Cumhail and the Fianna visited Carnaun on their many excursions throughout Ireland and the next townland Tobar na bhFiann (the Well of the Fianna) is  called after them because they visited it many times. We believe also, that a site nearby is a Fullacht Fia or an ancient cooking place where they may have rested and cooked their meals.

We know from old stories that they have been to Douras near Kinvara where Diarmuid and Grainne were hiding up a tree while Fionn and his grandson Oscar were playing chess. Diarmuid who also, was very good chess player and didn’t like Fionn, so he helped Oscar by dropping down berries to show him where to make a move. Douras is about twelve miles from Carnaun.

The word Carnaun means cairn or burial mound and once the Lamberts, who owned the land of Carnaun, were taking stones from the hill and came upon the grave and covered it up again.

The Normans, who built a Castle on the very old Carnaun hilltop fort as an outpost for the castle in Athenry, knew that it was a very strategic position. The ruins of this castle are still there to be seen today and you can still see the rings of the ringfort from the top of the hill.

An aerial photo of Carnaun hill, taken by our teacher Finbarr, clearly shows the hilltop fort, the ruins of the Castle and it also shows what we like to think is a Ceremonial entrance to the east of the hill.

Because of this we think our hill of Carnaun in many ways resembles the great hill of Tara in Co Meath. We would think for the west of Ireland, that Carnaun may have been as important as Tara.

Coens of Carnaun

The Coen Family of Carnaun owns this important site and we are so lucky they give us permission to visit the site when we are studying the history of the area.

For further information on Carnaun hilltop read – “A ringwork Castle in Carnaun” by Martin Fitzpatrick in “The Lamberts of Athenry” and “Carnaun Moulded by Time” by Paddy Forde in “Carnaun School l89l-l99l”.

Keira Laffey and Tara O’Regan, 7th. Class, Carnaun School.

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About this record

Written by Kiera Laffey and Tara O\'Regan

Published here 03 Aug 2023 and originally published Winter 2002

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