Killaloe, situated in East Clare, is probably best remembered as the place where Brian Ború held his kingship one millennium ago.
Outside the town of Killaloe, on the Scarriff road, lies Béal Ború or Brian Ború’s Fort. To look at it today it is a large circular structure consisting of two built up rings. However archaeological excavations have shown that it was a simple homestead (a ring fort) which was occupied in the 10th & 11th centuries. This is where Brian Ború, his family and his large army of Dalcassian soldiers lived.
When Brian was crowned High King of Ireland in 1002, he broke with tradition and choose not to take his seat at Tara in Co. Meath but returned to his fort in Killaloe. During his reign, Brian extended and strengthened this simple homestead and turned it into the well known Royal Palace of Kincora, which occupied the area where the Catholic church in Killaloe stands today. No trace of this palace remains but from early writings a description of it can be made. Kincora or in Gaelic, Ceann Coradh meaning Head of the Weir, was a high stone enclosure inside of which were a number of circular houses made of timber & wicker. Outside of this enclosure were a large number of houses which were scattered out as far as Béal Ború. These houses the 3,000 or so Dalcassian soldiers which Brian kept camped around his palace at all times.
The Great Hall where Brian entertained his guests was in the centre of the palace, Brian’s’ throne was on a raised platform and the seats of the Kings of Leinster & Connaught were on either side of him. Other chieftains and family members sat in various seat around the floor according to their rank. The cooking was done in the middle of the floor and the smoke escaped through a hole in the roof.
While Brian was High King he ruled his county well. He worked hard to try to unite the four provinces of Ireland (Munster, Leinster, Connaught & Ulster). He repaired much of the damage that was done by the Vikings, such as replanting forests which had been cut down to build Viking ships.
However, the threat of Viking attack was always present and this was what led to Brian’s’ death at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. Although Brian, his oldest son Murrough and many of his army of soldiers lost their lives at this battle, it is said to have ended Viking rule in Ireland.