Ancient Toll Road | Downs Hill
THE ANCIENT TOLL ROAD winds up from the Glen of the Downs towards Downshill. Note the beautiful herring-bone stonework in the first photo. I've left my 6'2" brother Mark in the photo to give a sense of height - you can imagine before the debris build-up over thousands of years the wall was impressively high! There are a number of theories about its use - probably reflecting the different eras in time. My own theory is that it connected Coolagad and Downshill - Glen of the Downs is named after these ancient Hillforts, settled 3000BC, (which were later strongholds for Sitrygg (Sihtric) the King of Dublin and Uagaire the King of Leinster respectively at the time of the historically important 1022 battle of Delgany.). Hillforts were chosen for their beauty, their perceived mystical qualities, their high position, their strategic location. Where else in the world can you find two Hillforts flanking both sides of a glacial valley? The path would have originally run from Coolagad Hillfort, down Ballydonnagh Lane - called in Ancient Times Villa Udunecha, after, I believe, Donnchad King of Brega, (in one old text mentioned as King of Bray, son of Brian Boru and half brother of Sihtric, over the valley of the Glen of the Downs and up the walled route which exists today.
Another explanation of the road is that it was a toll-road to give safe passage from thieves in the valley - this may have been at a later date when there was a path through the valley floor. Apparently people passing through the Glen of the Downs were subject to violent robberies by highway men hiding in the steep woodlands!
The path is 6 feet wide in most places. It makes sense that herds could be driven up the path safely without escaping.
The path would be perfect for Sitrygg and Uagaire's men to traverse on their tiny ponies (we now know as the Ancient Kerry Bog Pony which has been rescued from threatened extinction in recent years).
Unfortunately it takes minutes to destroy our 5000 year old heritage - if people are unaware that it is there it will be destroyed for roads and houses as our generation have largely lost the connection to our past and respect for our ancient heritage. Since we aren't teaching it to our kids the future is bleak unless we change our priorities and change how we do things!
You can read about the importance of our walls to our heritage here - and unfortunately also how little the government sometimes care for that heritage and how they plan to destroy it!