Laune Bridge


Of the bridges that span the river Laune, two are located in Killorglin. These are the old railway bridge known to generations as “The Metal Bridge” and the other used for road bridge traffic known as “The County Bridge”.

Before the County Bridge was built, all road transport crossed the Laune by an old timber structure. We learn from historical documents that this was only eight feet wide. One horse and cart coming from the Tralee end had to exit the bridge before the next cart could get on from the town end. In high Spring tides it was impossible to negotiate this, and travellers had to wait until the tide ebbed.

However, in 1885, with the minimum of ceremony, the new solid bridge was opened. It was constructed with the most endurable of materials – limestone from the famous Steelroe Quarries. Surprisingly, the bridge bears no patriot’s name – it is simply referred to as the “County” or “Laune” Bridge. It has eight arches, each fifty feet long, giving a total span of four hundred feet. Its pillars are firmly embedded in the riverbed. For a quarter of a century after its opening, the entire traffic over it was horse-drawn. The horse reigned supreme and was ‘King of the Road’. The trap and side car were the popular mode of conveyance to Mass, Baptism and Weddings. The deceased were transported across the bridge to Dromavalla in a horse hearse.

The County Bridge has been described as ‘The Gateway to the Ring of Kerry’. After serving South Kerry for well over a century, it is worth remembering those good men who were engaged in its construction. Principal among them were:

  • William Henry Deane, County Surveyor
  • W. Johnston of Cork, contractor
  • D. Biggs and D. Deane, Clerks of Works and
  • Michael Lynch, General Foreman.

On the southern side of the bridge, a low embankment runs upstream for about 1 km towards Killarney. This is part of over 40 km of embankments that prevent the sea from flooding low-lying land around Castlemaine Harbour.

These embankments exist due to Napoleon’s dominance in Europe around the year 1808. The British government were looking for alternative sources of hemp to make sailcloth for their navy to defend against a possible invasion.

If the bogs of Ireland could be drained, then they could be used to grow this raw material without affecting the existing agricultural output of the country.

In 1811–1812 Alexander Nimmo surveyed and mapped over 76,000 acres of land on the Iveragh Peninsula for the Bogs Commission.

Over 17,000 acres of this were on the seashore area of the Laune River, Lower Maine River, and Castlemaine Harbour.

These stone and earthen banks still prevent high tides flooding much of this land. The banks vary from 1 m to over 5 m in height.

Sluice gates allow water drain out at low tide and prevent rising tides from flooding the land.

The banks run from the townland of Tullig near Cromane, to Killorglin, part way up the Laune, around the area of Callinafercy, up both sides of the Maine River and along the north side of Castlemaine Harbour, part way to Inch.

Various major repairs are evident where large rocks and concrete have replaced the stone and earth, although much of the original banks are still intact.

The Killorglin riverbank walk and the Astellas riverbank walk downstream of the Metal Bridge are both part of these 200-year-old embankments.