Clonakilty is extremely rich in the ancient monuments and dwelling places of its early and pre-celtic settlers. The Normans made the area their home and their castles and surnames survive to the present day. In 1292, Thomas De Roach received a charter to hold a market every Monday at Kilgarriffe (then called Kyle Cofthy or Cowhig’s Wood), close to where the present town now stands. The area was abundant in woods, as the Irish names of the town and surrounding townlands indicate.
In the 14th century a ten mile strip of fallow woodland called Tuath na gCoillte (the land of the woods) divided the barony of Ibane (Ardfield) and Barryroe and reached the sea at Clonakilty Bay. Here a castle called Coyltes Castell was recorded in a 1378 plea roll. This was subsequently referred to as Cloghnykyltye, one of the many phonetic spellings for Cloch na gCoillte (meaning the castle of the woods, from ‘cloch’, the Irish for stone or stone building and ‘coillte’ meaning woods).
A portreeve and corporation were recorded at Cloughnakilty in 1605. In 1613, the borough of Cloghnikilty was created by charter. The limits of the borough were measured from where Kilgarriffe Church of Ireland now stands, which is also thought to be the location of the long lost castle of Cloghnykyltye.
The stone known as the “Kilty Stone” is recorded as being from a local Norman castle and has been used for centuries as a symbol of the town’s foundation. It once stood outside the courthouse as well as the buttermarket, before being placed at Asna Square.