St. Feaghna’s Graveyard
St. Feaghna is the patron saint of Bonane. In his early ministry, he built a church known locally as ‘Tempall Feaghna’ at the graveyard. This structure is the most ancient ecclesiastical site in the valley, dating back to the 6th century AD. The original church may have been constructed of wood but was later replaced by a stone building, the ruins of which are still visible today.
Surrounding these ancient ruins, the graveyard known locally as ‘Drom-Feaghna’ has slowly emerged over the centuries. It’s one of the oldest Christian burial sites still in use in Ireland and almost certainly dates back to early Christian times.
This graveyard consists of an inner wall and an outer wall. The outer wall was constructed during the time of the Great Famine in the 1840s as a funded relief project. This enabled local workers to benefit from much needed payment to sustain their starving families in a blight-ridden community. The inner wall or embankment, also in evidence today, is a much older structure – possibly dating back to pre-Christian times. It may have been linked to the nearby multiple bullaun stone known as the ‘Rolls of Butter’.
The graves that lie between these two walls are known as ‘cilleanachs’. The unhallowed ground here, was the burial area for suicide victims, un-baptised babies and still-births, as it was not allowed for these people to be buried in consecrated ground at that time. The little grave markers can still be seen today – a testimony to a forgotten era when harsh church rules governed its devout followers.
The oldest dated headstone in evidence at St. Feaghna’s Graveyard goes back to 1815, however a smaller headstone, apparently with Ogham (Ancient Celtic) writing on it, suggests the presence of a pre-Christian burial place.
Burial records can be found here:
Please Note: When visiting the graveyard, please walk only on the pathways and keep the gate closed at all times.
Rolls of Butter
The Rolls of Butter, also known as the ‘Petrified Dairy’ is a multiple bullaun stone situated adjacent to the Drom-Feaghna cemetery in the townland of Garranes. It is probably one of the most significant pre-historic sites in western Europe and yet is virtually unknown.
The bullaun stone itself, is a flat-topped rock embedded in the ground at one end, about two metres square, with seven wells or bullauns on its surface. Two of the wells are merely slight indentations, whilst the others are good-sized cavities. In each bullaun is a smooth oval-shaped stone, hence the name ‘Rolls of Butter’. In the middle of the rock there’s a quern stone (a stone used for grinding corn) with another oval-shaped stone standing in its centre. Recent research indicates that this site was once an ancient astronomical observatory.
It has been discovered that the bullauns on the rock are an exact mirror image of the stars on the bottom half of the constellation of Orion and two associated stars. It’s possible that this site features one of the oldest known representations of the heavens, on earth – a treasure left to us by our ancient ancestors.
The ‘Rolls of Butter’ gets its name from a local legend connected with St. Feaghna, the area’s patron saint. The story explains that a woman in the locality stole milk from her neighbour one May Day morning. She was later, apparently making butter with the stolen milk, when St. Feaghna came upon her. The good Saint, being as adept at casting spells as he was at praying, immediately petrified (turned into stone) the butter rolls that she’d made. The woman then fled but he pursued her across the valley, eventually catching her up at a nearby river, where she suffered a similar fate! She still stands to this day as a large upright stone, in the townland of Gearhangoul!
Please Note: Due to the frailty and uniqueness of this monument, the site may be visited only by way of guided tour.
The Priest’s Leap is set in the most magnificent, open, hill country. The views from the top of the pass are simply breath-taking, with Bantry Bay to the south and the picturesque Sheen Valley and Caha Mountains to the north. In the distance are the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks which include Ireland’s highest peak, Carrauntoohill. A minor road (Drive with great care!) from the N71, Kenmare to Glengarriff route leads you to The Leap, taking you on a truly beautiful journey for 7 kilometres (4.5 miles), during which you pass farmyards, cottages and farmers busily going about their daily chores.
Regardless of how you’re travelling – by foot, bicycle or car, you’re captivated by the loveliness of this truly magnificent and timeless place. It’s a serenely peaceful spot with only the sound of the wind as it blows the fionnán (mountain grass) back and forth in waves.
As you approach the summit at 520 metres, just off the road to your right stands a large cross, which is a reminder of the origin of this place’s name – The Priest’s Leap (pronounced locally as ‘Lep’). The legend dates back to the seventeenth century, during the penal times, when practicing Catholicism in Ireland was against the law.
The story tells that before the dawn of day, a priest named Fr. James Archer, disguised as a lowly farmer, made his way on foot, to a sick person in the locality. The priest was carrying the ‘Secret Host’ which he kept hidden beneath his cloak and close to his heart. Fr. Archer was almost at his destination, when a peasant ran to his side and alerted him of approaching soldiers, by speaking the words that have been immortalised in the poem The Priest’s Leap written by the West Cork poet T.D. O’Sullivan:
‘Fly father fly the spies are out they watched you on your way
They’ve brought the soldiers on your track to seize you or to slay
Quick Father dear here stands my horse no whip or spur he’ll need
Mount you at once upon his back and put him to his speed
And then what course you’d better take ‘tis God alone that knows
Before you spreads a stormy sea, behind you come your foes’
The priest mounted the steed and rode in the direction of the mountain’s peak at Coomeenshrule but by this time, the soldiers had him surrounded on all sides. He managed to elude capture however, when his horse made a miraculous leap from the summit, over the bay and landed three miles away, just outside Bantry town.
The story concludes by explaining that the rock which the priest and horse struck as they landed, immediately turned to clay. The imprints of the horse’s head and knees, and also, the fingers of the priest, can be seen there to this day. In the summer of 1972, the community of Bantry erected a memorial plaque just outside the town where the mounted horse is said to have landed. This perpetuates the memory of the priest and his leap.
Bonane Heritage Park
At Bonane Heritage Park there are several archaeological treasures all of which are accessible along 2000 metres of gravelled walkway, each having it’s own interpretive board and story to tell. What it does demonstrate is that Bonane, as a community, has been settled for over 5000 years. Amongst the sites are:
• Ancient Stone Circle (known locally as the Judge and Jury because there are 13 stones)
• Fulacht Fiadh (literally meaning ‘cooking pot’)
• Bullaun Stone (said to have held water that was used for medicinal purposes)
• Standing Stone (an astrological symbol perhaps)
• Ringfort (known as a Fairy Fort in Irish legend)
• Famine House Ruins (abandoned during the potato crop failure of the 1840s)
The park is open ALL year round and you can visit at anytime during daylight hours and guided tours are available on request.
St Feaghna’s Church, named after our patron saint, was built in the 19th century at a total cost of one thousand three hundred and fifty pounds. This magnificent building was designed by the architect Daniel O’ Connell, grandson of the Liberator, and heir to Derrynane Abbey and built by Mr. Daniel Foley from Sneem.
Having first recognised the need for a new church, Father John Mangan (native of Listowel), then parish priest, began fund-raising efforts to ensure that parishioners and their descendants would have a fitting place in which to worship God. The new church was to replace an existing one, built on the same grounds some fifty years earlier, which had fallen into disrepair. A wall of the previous building still stands today, separating the church from the now privately owned old presbytery.
The stones used for the building of the church were taken from the lands of local farmers, and brought to the site by horse and cart. Local lore has it that stone masons lined the road for a quarter of a mile, preparing the stones for building.
The Reverend Fr. Mangan assisted by Fr. Jarlath O.S.F. blessed the church on the 18th May 1892.
Prior to 1839, the church of the parish was located half a mile away in the townland of Garrymore, at a site now known as Seanashéipéal. Parts of the north-facing and east-facing walls are still standing. The original door of this church was taken and used for the first church constructed in Milleens.
The church has remained practically unchanged since its construction in1892. However, in the1960s – post Vatican II, the sanctuary of the church was changed for the new liturgy. In celebration of the centenary in 1992, each family in the parish contributed to the installation of beautiful stained-glass windows, in memory of their dear departed loved ones and the church was re-roofed in 2012.
Two graves lie in the lawns of the church. One belongs to Rev. James Quill (native of Lixnaw in north Kerry), who served as Parish Priest from 1892 until his untimely death, at the age of forty, in 1898. The second grave is that of Rev. Eugene Daly, a parishioner, who was parish priest of St. Edwards, Wigan, England. He retired to his home in Killabonane, to live with his sister Mary until he passed away in January 2001. Fr. Daly had a great love for the ‘Mass Rock at Inch an tSagairt’ and its history. He was instrumental in negotiating with the forestry service to open it to the public. Fr. Daly returned home every summer and concelebrated mass there with the local community.
Caha Pass & Tunnels
N71, Co. Kerry, Ireland
The Caha Pass transports the unsuspecting traveller into the rugged and beautiful landscape of Bonane, which encapsulates many of the marvels that nature has to showcase. Distant white farmhouses scattered among the slopes, reveal a unique way of life to the wandering eye. Nothing can beat the wild grandeur of the Caha Mountains with their breath-taking magnificence – enriching the surrounding valleys with a beauty which no pen can adequately describe.
In the early 1800s, the pass as we know it today, was merely a pathway over the Caha mountains – home to goats, sheep and from time to time, the occasional drifter on horseback. Although Ireland’s road network was well developed by 1800, there were still many remote areas – especially in western regions, that were not well served by roads. In 1822, government grants were made available for road-building projects and roads were eventually constructed to serve the country’s western counties. In 1842 ‘The New Line’ as it was known locally, was officially opened. It connected the towns of Glengarriff and Kenmare and the Caha Pass was established. The road also became part of the ‘Prince of Wales’ route.
Along this enchanting route there are many hidden treasures, from the flora and fauna to the numerous streams and rivers enriching the valley. The most breath-taking of all these are ‘The Tunnels’. In the 1840s while the Caha Pass was under construction, it was decided that the road would be constructed through the rock faces and not over them. The Tunnels leave a lasting image in our minds, of the hardship endured during their construction and the long days’ labour, rewarded by a meagre wage.
Nowadays we enjoy the splendour of this mystical landscape – nestling amongst the majestic Caha and Shehy Mountains, as it continues to captivate tourist and traveller alike. May all its visitors encounter its magical charm and travel in safety.
Mass Rock – Inse an t-Sagairt
The mass rock here at Inse an tSagairt, ‘Field of the Priest’, was used to celebrate Mass during penal times (1539 – 1829), a period when the Catholic religion was outlawed in Ireland. Under the shelter of the large rock, the smaller boulder was used as the altar.
Local folklore has it that a priest Father John O’Neill was murdered here while celebrating Mass in 1828. At this time a reward of £45 was paid for the head of a priest. Legend tells us that the perpetrators took the head to Cork for payment, but Catholic Emancipation had just been granted and therefore no reward was paid.
“But their hopes were shattered as their plans were altered and the hand of God in the end had won. So with disappointment and feelings bitter the severed head in the Lee they flung Since that fateful morning, times have greatly altered We’re no longer in dread of the Saxon foe For the favours granted, through prayers of the martyr The people now to the Mass rock go.”
An extract from the poem ‘Inch An tSagairt’ by Mary C. Daly
On the left-hand side of the large rock, a well or bullaun carved from another rock, was used as a holy water font. It’s believed that the water in the well never evaporates and contains miraculous cures. The large divide or opening in the mountain behind this rock created during the Ice Age, may help to explain the initial purpose of the well. Originally this rock was a bullaun stone used by the early settlers in the valley some 4 – 5,000 years ago. Research indicates that this site may have been used as part of a solar calendar and a place of sun worship. It has been observed that the sun shine in this area for just 6 months of the year – from the spring to autumn equinoxes. The first rays of sunlight appear through the top of the opening on the spring equinox. The opening also marks the exact position of the sun at mid-day when observed from the bullaun stone.
Molly Gallivan’s 200 year old cottage and farm is a family run business. At Molly Gallivan’s you will experience the simple country lifestyle in rural Ireland before the days of electricity and modern conveniences.
Molly’s enchanting cottage is over 200 years old. Her farm is complete with animals, fowl and traditional farm machinery. On the farm you can also visit the ghostly ruins of a family dwelling from the era of the Great Famine and a Neolithic Stone Row that forms part of an ancient sun calendar. After your visit you can enjoy a traditional Irish meal or home baking in Molly’s old teashop.
Molly Gallivan’s also host traditional Irish evenings. Guests are treated to a traditional Irish three course meal then relax around Molly’s open fire in her 200 year old cottage. Here, local actors, singers, musicians, dancers and story teller will perform for you in the true traditional Irish spirit.
Molly Gallivan’s is opened from March to November seven days a week. Information maps are provided in various languages. Guide Tours can be pre-booked on request.