as with anyplace whose history and tradition of building erection stretches beyond two centuries, the Dingle peninsula has plenty of abandoned, tumbled-down, excavated, and over-grown structures. one of the first excavated and preserved buildings we encountered was the Killelton oratory near Camp. the first written mention of it dates from the mid-19th century and excavations and fortifications were made in the 1890s — shoring up a wall that had collapsed due to subsidence caused by a drain in the floor.
complete excavations and renovation work took place in the late 1980s, beating back the vines overtaking the site. today, the walls of the oratory stand between 5 and 6 feet high, with space evident for both an eastern window and the western-facing door. I don’t know quite how it works, but evidence also exists for a hinged door. it dates from the 10th or 11th century, but evidence from the more recent excavation indicates habitation on the site prior to the construction of this oratory, and remaining foundations adjacent to the structure suggest more modern occupation. the sign indicated a grassy patch had been used for adult burials into the 19th century, while evidence suggested that infants had been buried inside the church “in recent times.” no items of particular archaeological significance were unearthed in the excavation, simply some quern fragments, hammer stones and polygonal black glass beads.
the oratory is on the old Dingle road from Tralee, which is to say it’s now mostly a grassy, shaded track filled with biting flies and livestock leavings. we also saw several abandoned and tumble-down buildings along the same route, none of which were spruced up or maintained as the oratory.