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A Brief History of the Project

 A background to the Twelve O’Clock Hills

Recreational and Heritage Project


The hill Knockanuarha is located 5 km (3.1 miles) southeast of Kilkishen village in East Clare.  The main summit is marked by an Ordnance Survey Trig Point or Triangulation Pillar.  The height is 309 metres or 1014 feet above mean sea level.  There is another peak about 10 metres lower and 400 metres away to the west south west.


The twin peaks are known locally as the ‘Twelve O’Clocks’.  It is thought that the name derives from a tradition of telling the time by observing the position of the sun in relation to these landmarks.

From the Twelve O’Clock Hills much of CountyClare is on view including West Clare, the Burren and the Shannon Estuary while locally Kilkishen village, CullaunLake and Steele’s Turret are prominent.  With a little effort, the town of Ennis and many of the villages of East Clare will reveal themselves.  Then the attention may be drawn to an attempt to identify the many lakes and bog lands, castles and woodlands.  Maybe after a little refreshment and if the day is exceptionally clear, the gaze might lift to the distant horizon; here is an opportunity to pick out the high mountains of every county in Munster.


After many exploratory walks a ‘Twelve O’Clock’ Committee was formed with the idea of developing the area as a local amenity.  The committee are as follows: Chairman Patsy Neville, Secretary Una McCarthy, Treasurer Anton Devitt, Development Officers John Power and John Lyons, Heritage Officer Michael McNamara, John Lenihan, Dixie O’Regan and Mike Hogan. The project aim is to celebrate the heritage of the many hill dwellers who once lived in Upper Belvoir, Crag and Snata and provide safe and signed walking routes for recreational , heritage and scenic purposes.


There are two natural starting points for accessing the Knockanuarha area, one near John Torpey’s hurley factory and to other at the bottom of the Snata road.  A range of walks has been identified to suit people of different fitness levels and interests.  We thank Coillte for granting us access to the forestry and indeed cutting out some new routes for us.  With the blessing of Coillte, the committee has developed additional paths under the trees and by the streams which add to the charm of the area and provide access to heritage areas.  We thank John Torpey for providing a car park and Mike McInerney for permission to walk by a lovely upper stretch of the Crag Stream. We also thank Sorcha, Brian and family for access through their property which forms part of our chosen route. This is the only family now in residence in the vicinity of the project.


Fundraising is ongoing as we need money to erect signage, map boards, information boards and to make good the wet and boggy parts of the route network. We look forward to seeing walkers of different fitness levels and different interests, enjoying the beauty of the Twelve O’Clock Hills in the coming years.


John Power, Patsy Neville



The Twelve O’Clock Hills recreational and heritage project.

A Brief Historical Summary


The Twelve O’Clock hills is a local and popular name for a group of hills that lie South of Kilkishen between the townland of Belvoir and the small settlement of Oatfield. The tallest hill is Knockanuartha at 309m. The walking routes presently being developed are mostly located in the townlands of Belvoir, Crag, Snaty Cooper, Snaty Wilson and Snaty Massy. Belvoir is low-lying on the banks of the O’Garney river and was the residence of the Wilsons, the former landlords of the area. Unusually, the Wilsons were Catholics. They became the Wilson-Lynchs when the family inherited land in Co. Galway. Crag is the next townland, somewhat higher than Belvoir. The land in Crag is of middling to poor quality. An extensive dry-stone wall was built of limestone, on the boundary of Crag and Belvoir.

Mulready's farm house, a well built 3-roomed house, constructed after the famine

Mulready’s farm house, a well built 3-roomed house, constructed after the famine

John Lyons standing on the Famine Road. Below him is the road's retaining wall.

John Lyons standing on the Famine Road. Below him is the road’s retaining wall.

The selection of the walking routes was helped by the existence of a roadway,  now in poor condition, running in a north-south direction between Belvoir and Oatfield.  This roadway was built during the Famine to provide employment to starving people. Another road was started,  running from Crag in a Westerly direction towards Cooleycasey. This road was not finished. However, the track of the road can be seen and walked. On this road one can see the ruins of a settlement cluster which once had 12 houses and two lime kilns. Also, one can see the ruins of a substantial dwelling in the trees. From Crag, a road was proposed to run in an easterly direction through two settlements clusters towards Broadford. This was not built. It is clear that a  significant population lived and worked in the area at some stage. Modern maps give very little clue as to where the population lived as the area we are looking at is now forestry with open areas of bog and heather on higher ground. We have to go back to the 1840s and work forward to see to see where the population lived and who they were.

In the 1840s, ‘50s and ‘60s, parliament in London authorised the preparation of extensive studies and surveys of the condition of Ireland. The OS produced a set of 6” to 1 mile maps for the whole country, publishing Co. Clare in the 1840s. These maps were updated in 1893 to a scale of 25” to 1 mile. Accurate censuses were done for 1841, ’51 and ’61.  During the 1840s, Sir Richard Griffith supervised the carrying out of a property tax survey, now widely known as Griffith’s Valuation. This survey produced tables of peoples’ names, land acreage and valuations. The tables were cross-referenced to plots marked up in red on the newly published OS 6” maps.


The present population of our area is about 100, with almost all living in low-lying Belvoir.  In 1841, the population was 600.  The following table shows how the population changed in this period. The table below shows the population in our townlands for the census years of 1841, 1851 and 1861. The 1901 figures, taken from the National Archives website, are also shown for comparison.






Present State

As mentioned above, most of  the present population lives in Belvoir. Forestry covers most of the higher parts, with bogs and mountainous heather-clad wet soils at the highest level. The last four families moved out in the 1970s . The location of three of these houses are on the walking trail route and may be visited. And, to end on a positive note, the fourth house has been restored and has been re-occupied.


No. of Houses Crag Snaty Wilson Snaty Massy Snaty Cooper Belvoir Totals
1841  houses







1851  houses







1861  houses







% change ’41 to ’61







1901 houses



Michael McNamara

February 2014