Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Castle Rag Co Kildare

Here’s a small one to be getting on with. Constructed in the early part of the 15th Century Castle Rag is typical of the type of tower house built on the £10 Castle grant initiated by King Henry VI in order to build modest but defensive Castles that would dot the perimeter of the pale in an effort to deter marauding Irish clans.  A good number of these tower houses were built and occupied as residences with battlements attached.
The ground floor in this Castle has a vaulted ceiling while the first floor is the residential part and contains a fireplace. The Battlements are constructed above this and on the North East corner there is a projecting turret. Ivy is beginning to encroach a little on the uppermost part.
This particular Castle lies on private land behind Jigginstown house on the outskirts of Naas and could so easily be anonymous as only those entering the housing estate adjacent would be likely to notice it. It can be viewed at a short distance from the roadside of this housing estate. I’d like to have had a closer look but there were several horses wandering around the field and the land had a real no go feel about it. If in the area again I will try to see if I can locate the landowner and get permission to access it.

For the best view of the ruins take the R445 from Naas main street towards Newbridge. About 1KM along you will pass an Aldi supermarket on your left. Take the first left turn after this and drive for approx. 130m until you see a right turn onto Primrose lane. Follow this a short distance to a T-junction with Primrose Avenue. Turn right at the junction and follow the road around a bend. Park along here. The castle can be seen in a field on the right behind a perimeter wall.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Old Ferns Abbey & Cathedral Co Wexford

                                              Above Image: Part of the vaulting

                          Above Image: Could be a bullaun but more like a cross base

                                               Above Image: Spiral stair in tower

                                       Above Image: Remains of the Cathedral

                                             Above Image: Cathedral North wall

                                             Above Image: Cathedral South wall

                                  Above 2 Images: Artefacts in the Cathedral area

A monastery was first founded here in the 6th century by St Aidan (aka St M’Aodog) but it was in 1158 that Diarmuid McMurrogh first constructed an Abbey for the Augustinians. It was dedicated to St. Mary. While waiting on the Norman invasion to whom he was allied, McMurrough took refuge in the Abbey in 1167. The Abbey remained in use until the dissolution in 1539 when the lands were passed to the English crown.
The intriguing looking ruin is located in a field behind the current Church of Ireland building and is accessed through the grounds of said Church. The most striking feature is the unusual tower standing some 60 feet of which the lower half is square and the upper half round. There are narrow defensive windows in the upper half. Some of the barrel vaulting is still evident in the chancel of the Romanesque styled Church and there is also a sacristy to the rear of the chancel.
Adjacent to the Abbey are the remains of the 13th century Cathedral founded by Bishop John St John. The cathedral came under attack by Fiach MacHugh O’Byrne in 1577. He was later forced to aid in rebuilding it. Only partial amounts of side walls of the chancel remain today containing 5 pointed arch windows in the North wall and just 1 in the South wall. There are some ancient crosses and grave slabs also on display here. Striking ruins that are easily accessed and worth seeing if in the area.
To find the ruins take the N11 Dublin to Wexford Road. The town of Ferns is directly on this route. As you enter the Town you will spot the large Church of Ireland Church on your left. You can park at the gate. The ruins of the Abbey & Cathedral can be accessed directly from these grounds.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Old Grallagh Church Co Dublin

                                           Above Image: Entrance gate & stile

                                                  Above Image: The Holy Stone

                                                  Above Image: The Holy well

                                               Above Image: Interior of the well

                                         Above Image: West gable of Church

                                                  Above Image: Foundations

                                          Above Image: Side view of West gable

This small ruin is located in a cemetery that is still in use that lies on a  by-road between Garristown and Oldtown in a particularly nice area of countryside in North Co Dublin.
The partial remains of a medieval Church consists of some of the foundations of the nave and partial remains of the West gable. Judging by the shape of the remaining foundations it would not have been a particularly large building to begin with. The remains are located on a grassy mound at the centre of the graveyard. Not much is known of the Church history but it fits the brief of many of the small parish churches constructed during that period. It is now unfortunately slowly crumbling away as the amount of stone rubble in its vicinity would attest. Our visit was not in vain though as the site also contains a couple of other interesting items.
The first is located outside the boundary wall at the entrance gate and is in the form of a large boulder. This is locally known as “The Holy Stone“. On one side a large hole passes right through it which in itself is unusual and legend has it that if you lie on your back adjacent to it and put your arm straight through the aperture it will cure any backache! Try it and see.
The second is a holy well which Inside the graveyard on the Southern perimeter path. This is reputedly dedicated to St Michael but there is some doubt to this. The well is housed beneath a stone structure which reminds me in its shape of St Kevin’s kitchen in Glendalough though without the little tower. There is an un-gated entrance and a set of steps down to the well. The top step has a carving of a shamrock upon it. On either side of the inner walls are two small alcoves containing cups if you wish to partake in the water, even though this is a holy well I’m not sure if this would be entirely healthy!  For a time the well waters had dried up but apparently this is no longer the case as there was a good deal of water visible when we visited and when disturbed air bubbles gurgled upwards indicating a conduit of some sort beneath the rocky floor.
So there you have it a mixed bag then but in a very bucolic setting and an interesting visit was had all the same.  To find the ruins take the M2 Heading North until you reach a roundabout with the N2 and R135. Take the left turn onto the N2 and drive for approx. 4km until you see a right hand turn for the L5007. Turn right onto this road and drive until you reach Garristown. As you approach the village go straight through the crossroads at the cemetery down a narrow road called chapel lane and you will reach a T-junction. Turn left and follow this road for approx. 4.5km until you reach another T-junction. Turn right following the signposted R122 towards Oldtown. About 400m later you will see a small lane way veering off the R122 to the right. Take this lane way and approx. 350m on you will reach the Grallagh cemetery which will be on your right.. You can park safely at the boundary wall.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Kilmacduagh Monastic Site Co Galway

                                      Above Image: The round tower and Cathedral

                                      Above Image: Noticeable lean on round tower

                                           Above Image: The Abbot's Glebe house

                          Above Image & 2 Images Below: Interior of the Glebe house

                                       Above Image: Church of John the Baptist

                                           Above Image: Interior of the Cathedral

                         Above & Below Images: approach to the Monastery Church

                                              Above Image: Monastery Church

                                  Above & Below Images: Part of the ambulatory

                               Above Image: View back from the Monastery Church

This is an amazing historical site. In the seventh century a Monastery was founded here by St. Colman MacDuagh hence the origin of the name Kilmacduagh (Church of the son of Duagh). It evolved into a place of importance in the twelfth century when it became a diocese, a seat of a Bishop. The round tower is thought to be from between the tenth to twelfth century while the new monastery was founded for the Augustinians in the thirteenth century. It was ransacked on several occasions and eventually fell foul of the dissolution in the 1500’s.
The rural location of this site really lends to its appeal. It seems to sprawl over a large area. The most notable feature has to be the tower which at 111 feet is the tallest of its kind in Ireland. The entrance door is an incredible 21 feet from the ground which would be a formidable deterrence to would be attackers. Also of note is that the tower actually leans about two feet from the perpendicular. The tower was restored somewhat and documented by Thomas Deane in 1879 funded by the local gentry of Coole Park Estate.
The tower and the Abbey Cathedral ruins are in close proximity in what is now a graveyard. The cathedral dates to the thirteenth century but it is thought that the West end is of much earlier origin possibly the eleventh century. Before this there would have been a wooden constructed Church. Surrounding the graveyard are a number of other ruins including The Church of John The Baptist (parts of again which could be eleventh century), The Church of Mary, the Monastery Church and Teampuil Beg MacDuagh to the South of the graveyard.
The Glebe House or Abbot’s House dating from the thirteenth century stands to all intents and purposes as a fortified tower house and it is accessible for a €5 deposit by way of a key from a nearby B&B. A sign directs you there. Luckily enough on our visit some Canadians staying at the B&B happened by with the key and invited us along. A great deal of restoration has taken place on this particular building and a wooden stairs inside brings you upward to a second floor. Apart from a couple of dead birds on the lower floor There was really not a great deal more to see but still it was nice to get inside.
A pathway adjacent to the Abbot’s house leads you a short distance North East of the round tower to a further set of ruins known as O’Heynes Abbey or the Monastery Church. Here as well as the main building you can see a somewhat stranded gable end of a building with a doorway and nicely carved window above. Also the foundations of the ambulatory are visible and from the west end of these ruins there is a great view back at the round tower and the ancillary ruins.
This site is really worth making time to visit. We spent maybe an hour and a half taking them all in. To find the ruins take Church Street heading South West from the square in Gort. Drive for approx. 5.5KM and you will see a right hand turn signposted for Kilmacduagh. You will easily spot the round tower so just drive towards it. A car park is provided at the site