Thursday, 16 November 2017

Old Sleaty Church Co Laois


                                               Above Image: Roadside Gate


                                                Above Image: Enclosure entry


                                              Above Image: Southern Entrance


                                                    Above Image: Stone font






                                                Above Image: St Fiacc's cross



                                     Above 2 Images: Second early Christian cross





Tucked away in the backwaters of South county Laois, this small but nonetheless interesting Church ruin was constructed in medieval times on the foundation of a once important early Christian site associated with St. Fiacc, the Bishop of Leinster. It measures approx. 14m x 9m with the East gable seeming to be of later construction
The ruins are enclosed by a boundary wall which is set back from the road in a field. Access is easy by way of a roadway gate and a stile in the boundary wall. 
While the ruins themselves are nothing extraordinary there are some interesting things to see here. Within the wall by the Southern door is a large font looking not unlike a large bullaun stone. Outside the West wall is a tall rather worn looking cross. This is actually St Fiacc’s cross and is a remnant of the older foundation here and is believed to be over 1400 years old. Its plainness belays its antiquity but it is still nonetheless striking. It stands at nearly 3M high. A second smaller cross  standing at approx. 1.5m in height is located in the area adjacent to the Southern wall. It too has suffered the sands of time and is also a remnant of the earlier site.
It still amazes me when I come across these genuine antiquities that lie hidden in out of the way places and this particular place is worth seeking out.
To find the ruins take the M7 heading South and exit at Junction 3. At the top of the ramp turn right on the roundabout and cross over the motorway. On the next roundabout take the exit for the N78 for Athy. After you enter Athy take a left turn at the town square for the R417 to Carlow and drive for approx. 9.5km until you reach Maganey. At the crossroads here take a turn right and cross over the stone bridge on the river. Following the bridge take the next left turn and drive down this country road for approx. 5km.Keep an eye out on the left for the field gate and the ruins just beyond. they are easy to miss. For parking there is just enough room opposite on a grass verge.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

The Jumping Church Co Louth


                                    Above Image: The entrance gate & stile

                                           Above Image: The West gable


                                   Above Image: Remains of South doorway





                                Above Image & 2 Below Images: Ancient stones


                                Above Image: The jumping wall. you can see its
                                                     foundations to the left.





There are many strange myths and legends scattered across this country and one of the most mystifying lies in the backwaters of Co Louth near Ardee.
On a narrow country lane a walled enclosure surrounds the graveyard and the ruins of the 14th century church of Kilmedock, dedicated to St. Diomoc an early disciple of St Patrick.. The ruins are of a long building bigger than most of theparish  church ruins one would normally come across and has been ruinous for several hundred years but this particular church also contains a genuine mystery.
Access to the graveyard is by way of a roadside gate and the first thing to meet your eye is the remains of the West gable. This gable is the subject of the mystery here because it apparently moved by itself three feet to the East of its foundations without falling. The story behind this phenomenon is that this unnatural movement occurred during a severe storm in 1715 but it is hard to imagine a wall of great weight such as this shifting from its foundations without crumbling apart. A stormy wind would more than likely have caused the collapse of the wall rather than magically push it off its foundations. The local legend is that the wall "jumped" supernaturally following the burial of a local mason who had previously abandoned his faith but was still buried within the church beside the West gable. Apparently overnight it jumped to exclude him from the consecrated ground within and this is what the locals found the next morning. A tall story maybe but still  we are left without a logical explanation for this event. Both the storm and the burial did take place but this event remains a tantalising mystery to this day.
The location even with this supernatural baggage is still a very tranquil spot and the grounds are well kept. There are many ancient stones here and within the church a chart depicting the layout of the ruin and the names of many of those interned are listed and mapped out. Most of the gravestones are illegible so this is a great source for those maybe trying to locate the resting place of a relative.
The grounds also contain a couple of interesting 13th century carved stones. 
I stood there for quite a while trying to imagine how this jumping wall came to be and I left none the wiser. But it is a site well worth visiting and I'm really glad I saw it for myself. For families you can regale your kids of ghostly moving walls. They'll love it!
To find Kilmedock ruins take the N2 heading North towards Ardee. About 6.2KM North of Collon you will pass the Hunterstown Inn on your Right. About 300m further on you will reach a crossroads with a right hand turn onto the L5256. Turn right here and continue for approx 600m where you will reach a fork in the road. Keep to the left road and continue on (ignore the pillared lane way on the right, keep to the left hand road) Approx. 550m further you will see the graveyard entrance on your right. There is room to park at the gate.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Fourknocks Co Meath


                              Above Image: Road signs opposite the entrance

                                            Above Image: Entrance stile

                         Above Image: Don't forget the key or you'll have to go back!

                                         Above image: Approach lane way

                                                  Above Image: The Tomb

                                      Above Image: Steps leading to the crest

                        Above & Below Images: The entrance from the outside and
                                                            viewed from the inside


                           Above & Below Images: The rear recess & lintel stone





                                 Above Image: Domed roof with light apertures




This is a great place to visit. Considering it is only 10 miles from the great tomb of Newgrange which attracts thousands and thousands of visitors each year this remarkable tomb doesn't get the same amount of patronage but in this case this is a good thing. Chances are when you visit you'll be the only one there.
Fourknocks named after the townland "Fuair Cnocs" meaning Cold Hills is a passage tomb which was probably constructed approx. 5000 years ago. It is surrounded by two other passage tombs which are overgrown and inaccessible. Although smaller in size on its exterior to Newgrange, it strangely has a chamber twice the size of its more famous cousin,
What you need to do before you arrive at the site is to obtain a key from the White family who live about 1 mile away on the Kilmoon road. Without this you cannot access the interior.I will give you details at the end of the post.
The site is accessible via a roadside stile which I should mention is not wheelchair friendly. You need to climb over some steps as there is no gateway. A short lane way leads you directly to the tomb. Unlocking the steel door at the entrance is a great thrill and stepping into the darkness with only a shaft of daylight behind you is amazing. The doorway initially is quite low with a couple of steel supports that you should avoid by stooping. Once into the main chamber you can stand tall again. Like all underground chambers and caves there is a steady temperature inside of around 10 degrees Celsius/50 degrees Fahrenheit and it takes a couple of minutes for your eyes to adjust to the littleness of light inside. This site was excavated in 1950-1952 and afterwards a concrete domed roof was put in place as the original roof which would have been constructed of wood had long since disappeared. Within the dome several small apertures were created to allow light to filter through from the outside.Even so I recommend bringing a good torch with you anyway.
Within the main chamber there are three recesses with many ancient flat stones standing between them Each of these recesses were burial chambers. Even in the faint light you can see that visitors have left scores of small trinkets such as coins and coloured pebbles in the same way that people do with rag trees around certain holy wells. The long horizontal lintel stones above the recesses are all carved with diamond shaped or spiral patterns. The tomb itself is supposedly aligned with the winter solstice sunrise as in Newgrange but it's orientation aims it more towards North where it would not capture a sun or moonrise. So we would have to wonder what thought went into its design.
When you have finished exploring the inside take a few steps up onto the crest of the mound for some excellent views. 
Fourknocks is a really interesting historical site and should be visited if you get a chance. I will certainly be returning. When we paid a visit we had the place to ourselves to explore but the keyholder mentioned that earlier that day a bus arrived with 15 people. That would have been a bit less atmospheric an experience.
Okay lets get to the directions. Its a bit off the beaten track so this is the route I chose.
Head North on the N2 from the M2/N2  roundabout towards Slane. After approx 2.5KM you will pass a Topaz Fuel station on your right. Once past the Topaz take the third right hand turn onto the R152 signposted for Drogheda. Drive up this road (you will pass a TOP fuel station on your right) and you will reach two right hand turns close together. take the second right signposted for Garristown. Drive for approx 2.6KM and you will reach a kind of T-junction with a smaller road, keep to the left and continue for approx. 4KM until you see Donnelly's pub on your right. 200m further is a gateway sign on your left for Clogherstown United. Take the next left turn after this.and 450m along this narrow road you will see a white bungalow with a red shed to the right of it. The name White is placed in the stone wall at the roadside. Here you obtain the key. You will be required to leave a €20 deposit which is refundable once the key is returned by 6PM.
Now to find Fourknocks tomb just continue along the road you are on passing through a junction with a stop sign you will then reach a fork in the road with a cottage in the centre. keep to the right lane and you will find the entrance stile to the tomb approx 130m further on your left. There is room to park opposite the stile. Don't forget to lock up when you leave and return the key. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Termonfeckin Castle Co Louth



                               Above & Below Images: The locked entrance gate


                                         Above Image: The projecting tower




Termonfeckin was originally a monastic site founded by St Fechin of Fore in the latter part of the 7th century. The Norman invasion resulted later in the building of two castles in the town but only one survives today. The non extant castle known as "The primates castle" had been used by the Bishops of Armagh over the years most notably by Archbishop Ussher in the early 17th century. It  was partially damaged in 1641 during the rebellion and although still used for several years by James Ussher it fell into further disrepair and was finally demolished in 1830.
The remaining tower is the very sturdy Termonfeckin Castle which was constructed in the 15th or 16th century. It stands three storeys tall with a vaulted second level and a spiral stairs. It has a prominent projecting tower. Originally there was a second projecting tower but it too had been damaged in 1641. Later Captain James Brabazon (1619-1674) repaired and made some alterations to it but it now stands as a ruin.
We visited this castle during a weekday in September with a view to getting a look inside and reaching roof level. I was aware in advance that a key holder had to be located. Actually there is a notice on the gate advising that an entry key may be obtained from the first house on the right of the castle but when we followed the instructions we unfortunately found that there was nobody home and the mobile phone number supplied just rang out. Disappointing maybe as we probably just chose the wrong time to visit. However, I have every intention of returning soon to investigate the interior.
Please note if visiting that the key holder will request a deposit of 50 Euro which is fully reimbursed on the return of the key.
To find the ruin take the M1 heading North and at Junction 10 take the exit for the N51 to Drogheda. At the top of the ramp follow the roundabout to the right until you see the Drogheda exit.. Drive straight through the next roundabout and on the roundabout following that take the second exit to the right onto the R132. Drive for approx. 1.8KM until you reach a set of traffic lights with a left turn onto Patrick Street. Turn left onto Patrick street which once out of Drogheda becomes the R166 and continue for 7.5KM until you reach Termonfeckin. Once you have entered the village and you have crossed over the small stone bridge near the lofty spired church, take the first turn right which is opposite the car park of The Waterside restaurant. Drive up this narrow road and take the first turn left and the subsequently the next turn right down a cul-de-sac.. The castle is located on your right. You can park on the grass margin opposite.