while our guide material made reference to the Garfinny Bridge, it still came as a pleasant surprise. (partly due to the fact that we hadn’t seen a way marker in some time and I’d begun to fear we might have missed a turn.) situated “just” outside of Dingle (if you are in a car … still about an hour if you’re on foot), sources claim it is the oldest surviving stone bridge in all of Ireland. it dates from sometime in the 16th century and, like most bridges of its era, was constructed without mortar — just radial stones and clay to secure everything using a corbelling technique. the apex of the arch stands about 3 meters over the river surface.
the informational plaque indicates that the troops of Lord Deputy Arthur Grey may have crossed this bridge on their way to massacre some 600 Irish, Italian and Spanish rebels at Smerwick Bay. Grey, along with some 6,000 recruited soldiers, had been sent to Ireland in 1580 as Lord Deputy to put down the Second Desmond Rebellion. he was largely successful in stifling the rebellion, but even at the time some of his actions were questioned, such as the massacre at Smerwick. (he also executed a former chief justice for suspicion that the man supported the rebellion.) many say he promised the rebels safety if they surrendered their weapons and position, a promise that he soon broke, giving rise to the term “Grey’s faith.”
by the 19th century, the bridge had begun to collapse and people opted to ford the river a bit upstream. in the late 20th century, the bridge was restored to its current condition, which found us crossing the river by it rather than the nearby modern road.