Saturday, 8 February 2020

Robertstown Castle Co Meath

                                Above Image: The Bartizan at the South-East Corner

Robertstown is a Barnwall Castle that is believed to have been constructed in the early 17th century. According to the civil survey conducted between 1654 and 1656 one Margaret Barnwall gave a deposition of ownership which included mention of a castle. The castle was a three storied fortified manor house with a North wing added later and was most certainly ruinous by the time of the ordnance survey mapping in 1837. 
The building is a long rectangular shape and two of the ground floor chambers are barrel-vaulted. The original lintelled entrance door was in the North wall. One of the most unusual features are the two projecting Bartizans positioned on the original South-East and North-West Corners. They are supported by corbelling which is more indicative of castles in Scotland.
We came across the ruins completely by accident while scouting the area and saw that it was located on farmland. A local graveyard groundskeeper informed us that it was unfortunately off limits but he gave us a name to inquire with but unfortunately the said person was out of the country at that time. We will certainly follow it up for a future visit.
An interesting local folk tale about the castle that arose out of the research of The Irish Folklore Commission founded in 1935 by James H Delargy was that of an occupant who would position himself at one of the castle windows with a gun and open fire on unfortunate passers-by. This rather unhinged individual was finally caught off-guard outside of the castle by a parish priest who shot him dead thus ridding the area of this menace. Better turn up for service at his church, eh!
To find the ruins (and they are worth seeing if you are anywhere near the area) take the N2 out of Kells for Ardee. Drive along this road passing through Carlanstown and Staholmog (there is a service station and mace store here, good for refreshments) and continue for approx 350m passing through a small crossroads with the L47111. Drive another 650m and take the next left hand turn (there are a set of pillared gates opposite it) Drive though the next two small crossroads, the second being signposted for Cormeen. The castle is 700m further on and located on your right hand side. We just parked at the gate to view it.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Old Holmpatrick Church Co Dublin

                                                 Above Image: Entrance gate

                                       Above Image: Southern aspect with spire of
                                                               new church behind trees

                                                 Above Image: Eastern aspect

Situated on elevated ground within a cemetery in Skerries this tower is all that remains of the old parish church belonging to the Church of Ireland. The church dedicated to St. Patrick was constructed in 1722 at the behest of the new owners of the Holmpatrick estate who had acquired the lands from the Earls of Thomond in 1720. It remained in service until the early 1860's when it was torn down to make way for the new church which was completed in 1865 on lands adjacent. It was decided to leave the old tower untouched as it's position made it a clear landmark for shipping in the nearby Irish Sea making it a form of inland lighthouse if you like. It stands as a solitary sentinel over the gravestones.
The tower comprised of three levels and has crenellations on top. I'm not sure if there was originally a spire but if there was it was removed. Perhaps someone reading can attest to this. Attached to the base of the Southern wall of the tower are the only known remnants of the medieval priory that preceded this church. They are known locally as the Abbot's Headstone and the Delahide Stone. Surrounding the tower given it's location are a number of stones marking those involved in maritime fatalities.
To find the ruin take the M1 Northward and exit at junction 4 crossing over the motorway and following the signs for the R132 to Balbriggan. Drive as far as Blake's Cross and then take the right hand turn at Ace Express Freight for the R127 to Skerries. Continue on the R127 by-passing Lusk until you have went through the small railway bridge tunnel just outside Skerries. Beyond this is a small roundabout at which you turn right onto Miller's Lane. Drive for approx 500m until you reach a small crossroads with Miller's Lane/Golf Links Rd. Turn left here and drive for approx 400m until you see the new church on your right hand side. The entrance gate to the cemetery is just past this and there is room to park outside.

Monday, 6 January 2020

Kells Monastic Site Co Meath

                                            Above Image: The South cross

                                 Above Image & Below Image: The West cross

                                            Above Image: The East cross

                        Above Image & Below Image: Remains of the North cross

                                                 Above Image: A Font?

                                        Above Image: Base of church tower

                              Above Image: Remnants at the church tower base

        Above Image: Carving and inscription on church tower

                                 Above Image & Image Below: The church tower

                                         Above Image: St Columbs Oratory

                                           Above Image: Interior of oratory

The name "Kells" is derived from the Gaelic "Ceanannas Mor" which translated means "Great Residence". Indeed Kells was a very important town during the Anglo-Norman times.
The first religious settlement here was founded by St Columba (or St Colmcille as he was also known) in 550AD. Thirteen years later he went into exile finding himself on the Scottish island of Iona where he created another successful settlement. But in 795AD it was attacked by Viking raiders and underwent several more raids in subsequent years leading to the relocation of the monks back to Kells where lands were given to them to avoid further attacks and slaughter. Things remained calm for over a century until in 919AD the Vikings began raiding Kells.
The first church in Kells had been completed in 814AD and later the relics of St Columba were transferred from Iona. The great round tower was constructed during the 10th century more than likely acting as a safe haven during Viking raids.
The famous and beautifully crafted "Book of Kells" is thought to have been at least started here in Kells during the 9th century but historians are unsure regarding it's completion as this may have taken place elsewhere.
The 26m high round tower dominates the site and sports the unusual feature of having five windows instead of the usual four. The doorway was originally 12 feet above ground as the street level is higher these days and was accessed by way of a wooden ladder which would have been withdrawn into the tower during attacks. The conical cap is missing and this is generally put down to damage possibly from lightning strikes. The tower has some bloody history to it in the fact that in 1076AD one Murcadh MacFlann, a former King of Mide was brutally murdered in the tower by Olaf son of Maelan and King of Galenga, a small kingdom North of the River Liffey on the East coast. But Murcadh's death was swiftly avenged as Olaf himself was slain by Maoiseachlainn who within twenty years would himself become King of Mide.
This site is really interesting to walk around as there are quite a few historical items to view. Probably the most notable are the High Crosses. There were originally five, one, known as the Market cross, stood at a different location outside the courthouse in the town but was removed due to frequent damage from traffic. The other four are in the grounds of the current church (built in 1778) which serves the Church of Ireland community. Only the base remains of the North cross but the South cross is intact. It is known as the Cross of St Patrick and St. Columba and contains various carved biblical scenes.
The West cross or "ruined cross" has been badly damaged and only the base and most of the shaft remain. There is a nasty looking fissure halfway up the shaft. It was thought to have been damaged by Viking raiders but it is more likely to have suffered under Cromwellian forces.
The last cross which is the East cross to me is the most dramatic. It is known as the "unfinished cross" as the top section has been left undone giving it an unusual aspect.
We really spent quite some time here as there was a list of items to find including a font and a sundial.
Just a few metres North of the current church is a standalone bell tower. This is the last remains of a medieval church and a spire was added the tower much later. There are some nicely carved heads above the South doorway of the bell tower and a gated vault room within stores some further artefacts.
When you have had a good look around the monastic site take the main gate which is to the East of the new church that leads onto Church Lane. Turn left as you exit the gate and walk along the boundary wall of the graveyard for approx 180m and you will see the ruins of the Oratory of St Columba, a small stone structure with a steep bevelled roof. The building dates back to the 9th/10th century and may have been used to house the relics of Columba when they were retrieved from Iona. The doorway that you can enter by today is not the original one.The original doorway (now bricked up) was in the West wall. A key for access can be obtained from a house near the main gate of the church (details are posted on a sign on the oratory gate).
So quite a bit to be seen then and on a good day it is a very pleasant way to spend an hour or two. If you have children, make up a list of things to find in the grounds, they'll have plenty of fun running here and there trying to locate them.
To find the ruins take the M3 motorway heading North and continue until you reach the end of motorway sign. Just beyond this is a roundabout, Take the third exit to the right signposted N52 for Dundalk and then take the first exit on the subsequent roundabout again for the N52. Drive for approx 1KM until you come to another roundabout. Take the third exit signposted for the R147 to Kells and drive approx 500m until you see a Supervalu store on your right. Just past this take a right hand turn onto Circular Road. Follow this road down to the junction with Cannon Street (R163). Turn left and drive approx 200m up Cannon Street and you will  see the round tower on your left. Public parking is available on this street and there is an an entrance gate by the round tower. If it is closed the main entrance is on the junction of Market Street and Church lane.

Friday, 6 December 2019

Old St. Seachnall's Church Co Meath

                                             Above Image: Entrance gate

                                        Above Image: Tomb within the arch

                 Above Image & 3 Images Below: Some of the window head fragments

These few remains may seem a bit insignificant but I always like to investigate ruins no matter how small they may be.
This single pointed arch and half of another are basically all that remains of the medieval parish church of St Seachnall. St seachnall is reputed to be a nephew of St. Patrick and died in 448AD. It is believed that his remains are buried in what is now the South east corner of the present churchyard.
The church was built in the 15th century on the site of the original monastery which was finally destroyed by fire in 1143. The church remained in use until the 17th century when it was noted by the Bishop of  Armagh that it was in ruins. Isaac Butler writing in 1749 said that the chancel was ruinous but the tower still stood. Over the years since then these too became non-extant, A new church for the Church of Ireland community was built in 1813 and is still in use today standing adjacent to the remains of the earlier church. You can find a font and decorated lintel stone from the previous structures within the new church.
The existence of this arch suggests that the nave had an aisle and that the church would have been quite bigger than the normal structures built around this time. Below the arch there is a tomb inserted and around the base of the piers are fragments of window heads from the long gone church.
The ruin can be found in the graveyard of the present Church of Ireland in Dunsaughlin which derives its name from the Gaelic "Domhnach Seachnail" meaning "The  Church of Seachnall"
To find the ruin take the M3 from Dublin heading North and exit at junction 5. Follow the roundabout around to the right and take the exit listed for the R147 to Dunsaughin.A few metres on there is a second roundabout. Turn left here again following the signs for the R147, It is approx 10KM to Dunsaughin and when you drive through the village you will pass the Village Grill on your right which is located further down the main street. The entrance to the churchyard lies between the Village grill and the Veterinary Hospital. A short drive up the avenue leads you to the small church car park.

Monday, 11 November 2019

Kilree Monastic Site Co Kilkenny

                                      Above Image: The entrance gate and stile

                                                   Above Image: A lot of bull?

                                           Above Image: The graveyard entrance

                                            Above Image: East gable of church

                                     Above Image: buttressed West gable of church

                                               Above Image: West gable doorway

                                                  Above Image: Inner archway

                                                   Above Image: The altar tomb

                                          Above Image: The imposing round tower

                                           Above Image: The stile to the field cross

                                    Above Image & Below 2 Images: The high cross


There are many atmospheric ruins spread throughout Ireland and this must count as one of the top ten. On approaching this site your attention is immediately drawn to the striking round tower jutting upwards from the treetops and you know at this point you are going to see something special.
The name Kilree one would assume comes from the Gaelic for Church (Kil) and King (Ri) but in fact it is named after the saint Rhuidche (pronounced Ree) so it is the church of Ree. The site is ancient and the 29m high round tower dates to the 10th century. It towers above the site with its conical cap missing and crenellations present instead, The doorway is unusually lower than normal at about 1.8m from the ground. There are no steps inside the tower as it originally consisted of wooden floors accessed by ladders and ropes. These apparently were still in existence until at least the mid 19th century. Today only the wild vines creep upwards inside.
The site as mentioned is ancient with a record of the O'Neill Northern high king of the Niall Caille drowning in the Kings river in 844AD and supposedly buried beneath the high cross adjacent to the site, The Medieval church dates to the 10th century with a chancel being added in the 12th century.
Kilree came under the control of the Augustinian priory of Kells in the mid 13th century. Kells is a really fine set of ruins not far from Kilree and was the subject of an earlier post to be found here.The church was disestablished in 1539 during the dissolution and has fallen into ruin since.
When we pulled up at the gate a family were leaving the site and I asked them was there any sign of the bull in the field as a large sign on the gate gave warning. They just laughed and said "Nothing but cows in there" I would imagine that the farmer although obliged to let the public access the graveyard  would probably still rather they didn't. At the time of visiting I was on crutches after an accident and the idea in my mind of me trying to outrun a bull while on sticks played out in my head 000like something from a Buster Keaton movie!
In the end there was no hide nor hair of a bull and even 0the main field gate was unlocked. A short 50/60 yard stroll took us to the gate of the enclosure and a pedestrian swing gate gives access.
I was struck immediately of the tranquility of the site. The ruins are surrounded by trees and the light streamed through them in a very pleasing way. A lot of the gravestones have Celtic type crosses on them lending even more antiquity to the general atmosphere here. It was so quiet, We had a good look around and found the church doorway in the West gable. Both the East and West gables have antae, which is where the side walls extend beyond the gables. The west gable is also supported by two buttresses which were placed here by the OPW in 1940 to prevent the collapse of the gable.
Within the church the nave and chancel are divided by an archway. It is quite noticeable that the original Romanesque style arch had been supported from collapse by a new arch built underneath.
There are a few interesting grave slabs to view here but the most interesting feature is the altar tomb belonging the Richard Comerford' Baron of Danganmore and his wife Johanna St Leger. The only date visible is that of Johanna's death in 1622. No matter where you are in the church I noticed that the round tower outside looms above it.
If you leave the church and go around the base of the round tower to the side opposite the tower doorway you will find a stile in the wall which leads to a field where you will find the Kilree high cross. The cross is about 50 yards from the tower but beware the field can be a bit mucky due to the movement of cattle therein.
The cross now worn by the weather still has some interesting designs to see. It dates to the 9th century and stands approx 2.75m high. It is missing a former capstone but is still a great example of its type. I wonder if Niall Caille's remains are actually buried beneath?
The site is really worth making a visit to and is accessible all year round, While in the area you could also visit nearby Kells and make a day of it,
To find the Kilree ruins take the M9 motorway and exit at junction 9 for the N10 to Kilkenny. Once on the N10 take the first left hand turn which is signposted for the L4200 to Callan. Drive for approx 1.7KM until you reach a crossroads with the R697. Turn left here and drive 5KM until you enter Kells. When in the village you will see a pub called "Shirley's" on your right. Take the left hand turn just past this pub and drive for approx 450m until you see a right hand turn opposite the car park for Kells priory. Turn right onto this road and drive for approx 2KM and you will spot the round tower on your right. You can park by the roadside opposite the field gate entrance. Beware of the bull!