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Study of Donegal’s Lime Kilns Underway


Lime kiln in the townland of Castlebane near Stranorlar. 


A new research project ‘A Study of Lime Kilns in County Donegal’ commissioned by Donegal County Council and undertaken by John Cronin & Associates along with Dedalus Architecture is underway in the county.  


Lime kilns are one of the most ubiquitous heritage structures in rural Donegal and are an important part of the agricultural, industrial and built heritage of the region.  Unfortunately, many of these structures have been removed in recent years due to lack of use, changes in agriculture, people being unaware of their existence, new rural developments and/or neglect.


As a result, they are slowly disappearing from our landscape.  Preliminary data collected by Donegal County Council includes the locations of approximately 5,000 lime kilns recorded throughout the county, and initial research indicates this number may only represent a fraction of the kilns that were constructed during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. 


Kilns 2

Cross-section of a large lime kiln in use (courtesy of © Rhoda Allanic).


“Burning limestone in lime kilns decomposed the limestone and converted it to quick lime or burnt lime,” explained Joseph Gallagher, County Donegal Heritage Officer.  “The lime was used in traditional building techniques (such as lime mortar or lime wash) and in agriculture (such as the application of lime to soils to reduce acidity and improve fertility) and as such the story of lime kilns has the ability to communicate part of the story of County Donegal's cultural landscape, built heritage and the practice of agriculture.”


Building on existing information, the research project will include:


The establishment of a searchable database of lime kilns (with special emphasis on surviving examples),


Undertaking a selected field survey of lime kilns,


Compiling specific case studies based on form, use, contribution to landscape character, demonstration of traditional skills, contribution to agrarian practices and conservation potential,


Preparing the text and illustrations for an A5-size booklet on the heritage of lime kilns in County Donegal to be published as part of the 'Donegal Heritage Series',


& delivering a report and public presentation on the findings of the study.



Kilns 3

A lime kiln in Tully near Dungloe, one of circa 5,000 lime kilns in County Donegal identified on the Ordnance Survey maps in the early twentieth century.


Both John Cronin & Associates and Dedalus Architecture are based in County Donegal and will be undertaking fieldwork in the coming weeks.  They would be very grateful to receive any information, photographs, maps or advice that you can provide on lime kilns in your area. 


You can contact them by phone (074 – 936 1090) or by e-mail ([email protected]).  In addition, a Facebook page has been set up where information, photographs and other images can be shared with the project team, this can be found at:


The study has been commissioned by Donegal County Council and The Heritage Council as part of the implementation of the County Donegal Heritage Plan.

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