In general terms, the Gleninchiquin Valley shares the same historical and geographical origins as the rest of that part of Kerry. The very early geography is well researched and documented. Land movement, land bridges, the ice age, rising & falling sea levels, great rock movements over & under the sea etc etc, all over millions of years, contributed to the present formation of the county. The Gulf Stream and the very temperate climate help maintain some of the area’s unique flora species
The drowned river valleys that are Kerry’s huge estuaries, resulted in the creation of three large peninsulas with an extremely long indented coastline. These peninsulas run roughly east to west (NEE to SWW), and are habitable mainly along the coastal strip and in the occasional valley that runs up into the mountain ridges that can be found along the center of each. Most movement of people and goods – travel, trade, invasion – was done on the water, utilising not only the sea but also the many rivers which enabled access to the interior of the county.
Kerry’s historical development has, perhaps, not proved quite as easy to research. The absolute facts regarding the very early days are difficult to establish, and much of our early history is dependent on legendary lore handed down from generation to generation before the written word was widely available. Even for the later years, written records are often scarce or even non-existent.
With its vast coastline, and it’s location on the South West corner of Ireland, Kerry was frequently the first place that the next wave of “Invaders” landed. This was as true in the thousands of years Before Christ (the Phoenicians, FirBolgs and Milesians) as it was in the time after (AD), when Spanish Armada, the French, the Norwegian & Danish Vikings, the Anglo-Normans and the English came calling.
Many parts of Ireland have their own tales to tell of the legendary Fionn and the Fianna, who reputedly roamed the country about 200 or 300 AD. Kerry – possibly because of it’s unique location, excellent climate, abundance of food to hunt and, of course, the spectacular scenery – would appear to have enticed the Fianna to spend most of their time here, if the number of stories connecting their exploits and adventures to various parts of the county are anything to go by. Naturally Gleninchiquin is not without it’s own tale. Beside Lough Inchiquin is a field known as the ‘Bulls’s Inch’. Inch means flat meadow – local legend has it that when Queen Medb stole the Brown Bull of Cooley, she fled south, bringing him to Kerry. Once there, the only place with a field large enough or grand enough for this very special animal was – you guessed it – Gleninchiquin!
In addition to the legends, proof of an ancient, nomadic, hunting people is to be found in the archaeological sites, such as the Fulacht Fiadh. These Fulachta Fiadh, or ancient cooking places, have long been associated with wandering tribes such as the Fianna. Fulachta Fiadh are common in South Kerry, particularly in those areas rich in legend and folklore of Fionn MacCumhaill. The farm at Gleninchiquin has several Fulachta Fiadh, mainly along the path of the ancient stream which has now taken itself underground.
400 to 600 AD was the time when Christianity came to Ireland. The years 600 to 800 AD saw the growth and consolidation of a Gaelic and Christian nation. Kerry was one of the major centres of the eremitical movement, and much evidence of this survives to this day. From 400 to 800 AD, Kerry enjoyed a period of relative peace. In this calm, the arts – literature, metal-work, illuminated manuscripts, celtic sculpture, poetry and music – flourished in a hotbed of cultural activity.
Then in the 9th century, the peaceful times came to an end – brought about both by marauding bands of Vikings and home grown political fighting. The Vikings concentrated their attacks on those settlements where they believed valuables were stored, such as the monasteries. In 812, 120 Viking vessels attacked the South West coast, including Valentia and Smerwick, near Dingle. Skelligs was raided in 823, Inisfallen in about 840. It is unlikely that the monastic settlements of the Beara Peninsula next door escaped the attentions of these Northern invaders. It would be another hundred years, however, before the Vikings established a strong presence in Munster.
Kerry was at this time divided into a number of petty kingdoms, each with it’s own ruler. It is not clear exactly who ruled the barony of Glanerought throughout this period, but this system survived until the invasions of the 12th and 13th centuries by the Eoganacht families from Cashel, the most senior and numerous of whom were The O’Sullivans. Ardea Castle, an important defense fortification since the seventh century, became the seat of the Tainist of the O’Sullivan Beare around 1250 AD, and remained their power base until the coming of Cromwell some four hundred years later.