Doonaha Forts


Doonaha Forts


The heritage area of Doonaha is located on the WAW route to the east of Carrigaholt village. There are numerous ring forts, a battery and other interesting places in this heritage area. These sites are on private lands with access to some sites by private guide or appointment only.


ActiveMe Heritage Services


Clare County Council
The Heritage Council
Fáilte Ireland


October 2014


Deridre McCarthy,


Full rights. See signed release form.



GPS Location

52.623447, -9.646483

Full Interpretation Text

There are twelve ringforts in the townland of Doonaha. The prominence of ringforts is reflected in the townland’s name in Irish Dún Átha; dún is the Irish word for fort. The Loop Head Peninsula has one of the highest densities of ringforts in any part of Ireland, with over 240 ringforts recorded on the peninsula.  A ringfort is a circular raised space, enclosed by a ditch and external bank. More prominent ringforts have two or three external banks and ditches.  The majority of ringforts were constructed in a three hundred-year period from the beginning of the seventh century to the end of the ninth century. They mostly functioned as farmsteads engaged in pastoral farming. They are almost always built in clusters and measure between c.24-60m in diameter. The ringforts in Doonaha and on the Loop Head Peninsula are on privately owned land.


There is a Napoleonic Period battery at Doonaha since 1814 and is one of six batteries located in the vicinity. There were Napoleonic French invasion plans to access and invade Britain from the west of Ireland. The Mouth of the Shannon was one of the three invasion areas included in the French Directory's instructions to Vice- Admiral Villaret de Loveuse in October 1796, during the preparations of an expedition to Ireland and the batteries were constructed to ensure the seas leading to Limerick were adequately monitored and protected. Napoleon was defeated soon after the batteries were built so the canons were never used but there were soldiers based there for a time.


The 3km of coastal rock by Doonaha exposures comprises micaceous sandstones, siltstones and shales of importance at this site are the trace fossils preserved in the Upper Carboniferous, Namurian rocks. These starfish traces represent the only Namurian starfish traces in Ireland. They are the only fossils found in this otherwise barren sequence of sandstones and siltstones.The presence of sand volcanoes at Doonaha indicates evidence of sedimentary instability. A sand volcano is a cone of sand formed by the ejection of sand onto a surface from a central point. The sand builds up as a cone which looks like a small volcanic cone and can range in size from millimetres to metres in diameter.

Site Recommendations and Observations

As part of the initial Heritage Trail, it is not recommended that visitors be encouraged to stop at these ‘Heritage Areas’ as there are a number of existing issues and safety concerns raised during the project site assessment regarding primarily parking and access.  Visitors should only be provided with information as they drive, walk or cycle past the site without stopping. Drive by interpretation may include the use of a website, app, map, audio trail or podcast.

It is recommended that public access to at least one ring fort in Doonaha (or in any other location on Loop Head) be secured before consideration of any other improvement measures. 

If public access is secured, other recommendations may include a full heritage and interpretation report on the site, improved site conditions, access, site interpretation, parking, signage and more. 

The following three statements apply to all site recommendations:

  • ‘All proposals must comply with all planning, local authority and other statutory requirements.’
  • ‘All proposals for development within, adjacent to or with the potential to affect a Natura 2000 site will be subject to an Appropriate Assessment Screening. To ensure that a Habitat Directive Assessment is carried out to assess the likely impacts on Natura 2000 sites in order to comply with Article 6(3) of the Habitat Directive and in accordance with the requirements of the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011.’
  • ‘All projects must be undertaken in accordance with the Wild Atlantic Way Discovery Points Remedial Works Guidelines, including the Ecological Method Statement.’

Sources of Information

1) Interview with Trea Heapes
2)Review of OSi Discovery and Historical Maps
3) Parkes, M., McAteer, C., & Engering, S., The Geological Heritage of Clare: An audit of County Geological Sites in Clare (2005).
4) Online Research

Ringforts in Loop Head-




Nearest Town


Cycle Parking






Category of Interest


Heritage Designation

Protected Structures



ActiveMe Heritage Services, “Doonaha Forts,” Wild Atlantic Way Heritage Trails, accessed June 24, 2021,