Heritage and Conservation

Archaeological Heritage

What is Archaeology?

Archaeology is the study of the past through the collection and investigation of monuments and artefacts.

Cork has a wide and magnificent range of archaeological sites that date back over 9000 years ago. These sites include: prehistoric tombs, mines, ritual sites, Early Christian Ringforts and monasteries, medieval castles, churches, and abbeys.


There are over 19,000 archaeological sites identified in County Cork. The National Monuments Service (NMS) of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage are responsible to the management and protection of our archaeological heritage. All known monuments are identified in the Sites and Monuments Record (SMR) which is available online at www.archaeology.ie. All new sites should be reported to the NMS. This can be done by filling in and returning the relevant form.


The vast majority of artefacts are found during the course of an archaeological excavation, and are stored or displayed in designated museums. All archaeological excavations are carried out under licence from the National Monuments Service. A database containing summary accounts of all the excavations carried out in Ireland from 1970 is available here.

Cork City & County Museums and the National Museum of Ireland have a wide collection of artefacts found in the County of Cork. All archaeological objects that come to light belong to the State and should be reported to the National Museum of Ireland or a designated local museum within 96 hours of the discovery.

Protection of Archaeological Heritage

All monuments are protected under the National Monuments Acts 1930-2004. This Act, as amended, together with other archaeological legislation and advice is available to view here. The Planning and Development Act, 2000 - 2010, as amended, also allows for the protection of archaeological heritage.

The main method of protection is through the Record of Monuments and Places (RMP) which was established under section 12 of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act 1994. Two months notification of any works at or to a Recorded monument to the Minister of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht is required under this legislation.

A number of monuments are designated National Monuments, these tend to be in State or Local Authority ownership/guardianship or are subject to a preservation order. Cork County has 168 sites designated as National Monuments (available to view here). Ministerial Consent is required for any works at, or close, to a National Monument. Notification and Ministerial Consent forms are available here.

With its extensive coastline and waterways, Cork has a rich underwater archaeological heritage. Wrecks over 100 years old and archaeological objects found underwater are protected under law.

It is illegal to dig or dive for archaeological objects anywhere in the state or its territorial seas without the written consent of the Minister.

Cork County Council is committed to the protection of the county’s archaeological heritage through our wide range of activities and our various policies and objectives in the County Development Plan, Local Area Plans, Building Conservation programme, Heritage Plan projects and other strategic documents.

Archaeology and the Planning process

All planning applications are screened and assessed for impact on the known archaeological sites and their Zones of Archaeological PotentialThis is the area where there is potential subsurface archaeology. If your proposed site is archaeologically sensitive, you may be required to employ an archaeologist to carry out an archaeological impact assessment or to monitor the ground works.

You can contact the County Archaeologist for preplanning advice. Cork County Council may attach conditions related to archaeology to individual planning permissions on the recommendation of the County Archaeologist and the National Monuments Service.

Where can I contact an archaeologist?

The Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland have a directory of archaeologists available on their website.

Archaeology and Education

Cork County Council encourages the promotion of, and education about, the archaeological heritage of the county. The educational resource Archaeology in the Classroom provides lessons on all aspects of archaeological heritage for both primary and secondary schools. It is available online at www.itsabouttime.ie.

There are a number of heritage specialists in Cork that are willing to come to a school under the Heritage in Schools Scheme, which is run by the Heritage Council

Historic Graveyards

The vast majority of historic graveyards are associated with medieval churches. These are in the care of Cork County Council or Church bodies, and are protected under the National Monuments Acts 1930-1994.

Historic Monuments Advisory Committee (HMAC)

The HMAC was established under the National Monuments Act 1930 for the purpose of providing advice and assistance in the preservation and protection of archaeological monuments in every county in Ireland. It is composed of Elected Members, invited specialists and relevant Local Authority officers. The group is involved in a wide range of activities and steers and advise the Council’s Conservation Works Team who have successful completed a number of conservation projects. These projects will ensure the long term preservation of important medieval buildings. Recent works include Bridgetown Abbey, Ballyhea, Kildorrery and St Mologga Church.

Selection of Archaeological sites accessible to visit in for each Municipal District (MD)

Kanturk/ Mallow MD

Ballybeg Augustinian Abbey

Buttevant Franciscan Abbey

Mallow Castle, house & demesne

Kanturk Castle

Tullylease Church, holy well and cross slabs

Liscarroll Castle

Kilbolane Castle

Historic town of Newmarket

Historic town of Buttevant

Historic town of Mallow

Fermoy MD

Bridgetown Augustinian Abbey, Castletownroche

Aghacross church, Kildorrery

Brigown Church and Holy well, Mitchelstown

Ballynoe Church

Kildorrery Church

Killeenemer church, Fermoy

Castlelyons Dominican abbey and Church

Conna Castle

Coole churches and Holy well, Castlelyons

Labbacalee wedge tomb, Glanworth

Labbamologa Church and grave slabs

Doneraile House and demesne

Glanworth Castle Abbey & bridge

Corrin Hillfort and Cairn, Fermoy

Historic town of Fermoy

Historic town of Charleville

West Cork MD

Drombeg stone circle, Glandore

Kealkill stone circle

Killnaurane Pillar stone, Bantry

Knockdrum stone fort, Castletownshend

Altar wedge tomb, Skull

Franciscan Abbey, Sherkin island

Franciscan Abbey, Timoleague 

Allihes Mining landscape – Museum trail around, engine houses, magazines and mining village

Abbeystrewery Church and graveyard, Skibbereen

Kinneagh Round tower, Castletownkinneagh

Ballinacarriga Castle, Dunmanway

St Ciaráns Church,  Cape Clear

Historic town of Rosscarberry

Historic town of Skibbereen

Historic town of Clonakilty

Blarney /Macroom MD

Kilcrea Franciscan Abbey, Ovens

Carrigadrohid bridge

Ballyvourney monastery, church, holy well, huts, pilgrimage

Blarney Castle

Cahervagliar Fort, Cappeen

Knocknakilla Stone Circle, Millstreet

Historic town of Macroom

Bandon /Kinsale MD

Charles fort, Kinsale

James fort, Kinsale

Fort Camden Meagher, Crosshaven

Signal tower, Old Head of Kinsale

Historic town of Bandon

Historic town of Kinsale

Historic town of Innishannon

Cobh MD

Fort Mitchel Spike island, Cobh

Barryscourt Castle, Carrigtowhill

Clonmel Church and Graveyard, Cobh

Doonpeter Graveyard, Glenville

East Cork MD

Kilceedan Church, Castlemartyr

Cloyne Catherdral and round tower

Castlemartyr Castle and house

Historic town of Castlemartyr

Historic town of Midelton

Historic town of Cloyne

Historic towns Youghal

Ballincollig /Carrigaline MD

Ballincollig Gun Powder Mills

Kilmurry Graveyard, Passage West

Curraghbinny Cairn.