Paul Swift continues his series on the Rivers of Ireland, this week he is in Kerry following the flow of the River Laune
The River Laune is a river in County Kerry which flows from Killarney’s Lough Leane past the village of Beaufort and then through the town of Killorglin before emptying into the sea at Castlemaine Harbour and then on into Dingle Bay.
The river is clean and slow moving and is 14 miles long. The Laune is well known for salmon and trout fishing. The River Laune is one of the few rivers in the country with the three-seasonal run of Atlantic salmon, i.e., Spring, Summer and Autumn.
The reason for this phenomenon is that the Laune is the only access to the sea so it serves other important rivers in the catchment area. The Laune carries most of the rainfall from the MacGillycuddy Reeks.
Some 400m after the river leaves Lough Leane, large quantities of burnt material consistent with a fulacht fia were found after drainage work in the late 1990’s. A wooden artifact with square ends and four handles constructed from the hollowed out trunk of an oak tree was recovered. This may have been a boat or a coffin.
The river Loe joins the Laune in the town land of Dunloe Lower. It is this area that we find the ruins of Dunloe castle which was built by the Norman Fitzgerald’s in the early 1200’s. This castle was an important strategic key in the defense of the Killarney area. It was used to command the passage across the river to the Gap of Dunloe. It stands in the park of the Dunloe Castle Hotel. Dunloe Castle Gardens are one of The National Gardens of Ireland.
Beaufort House, which is located in the village of the same name, is a beautiful 18th century manor house set in 40 acres of woodland overlooking the River Laune. The original building on the site was a Short Castle, so called because it was only two stories high, built by Captain O’Sullivan in 1641 and attacked by Cromwell’s forces in 1653, the west wall being demolished.
In about 1760 the present house was built, the remaining three walls of the castle forming the hallway. Standing on the west bank of the Laune River and within the grounds is an ogham stone which originated in Corkaguing on the Dingle peninsula.
Directly opposite were the Claddagh River enters the Laune and on the north bank can be found a castle/tower house in the townland of Ballymallis. Known locally as Ballymalus Castle, this four-storey structure was built in the 16th century by the Ferris family who were ‘guardians of the line of the Laune’. It is now in the care of the Office of Public Works.
On the outskirts of Killorglin the Cottoners River enters the Laune. Two bridges cross the Laune in Killorglin. One is a road bridge and one a foot bridge. The road bridge is known as Killorglin’s County Bridge and was built in 1885. It replaced an older wooden bridge that apparently got covered during high Spring tides.
The current bridge is built from local limestone, moved by horse and cart from Steelroe Quarries approximately 1 km away on the Tralee Road. Stonecutters shaped each stone by hand to make up the piers, the eight stone arches and the side walls of the bridge.
Each arch is 50 ft (15.24m) long making a total length of 400 ft (123m). It has a cut-stone plaque inscribed: “1885 W. H. Deane C.E. Co. Surveyor R. W. Johnson C.E. Contractor J. D. Biggs and D. Deane Clerks of Works M. Lynch Foreman”.
At the northern end of the bridge is a statue of the Puck (wild goat). This was erected by the Killorglin Millennium Committee in 2001 to symbolise the Puck Fair which has been held in the town every August since the early 17th century.
The foot bridge was originally a five-span limestone built railway viaduct over the river. It was designed by S. G. Fraizer and opened in 1885. It closed in 1960 but was renovated in 1993 for use as a foot bridge.
In 1888, Killorglin rugby club players turned to the new Gaelic Athletic Association. The new club, Laune Rangers (named after the River), quickly became the most successful club in Ireland as they were the first Kerry team to play in an All-Ireland final in 1893. They may have lost that final but the club’s finest hour came when they won the All-Ireland Senior Club Football Championship in 1996 beating Éire Óg of Carlow in the final.