Monday, 13 April 2015

Castlemacadam Church Co Wicklow

                                               Above Image: The entrance gate

                                                    Above Image: Entrance door

                                      Above Image: A view upwards to the belfry

                                               Above Image: East facing gable

                               Above & Below Images: Some stone decoration within

                                               Above Image: North facing gable

                                              Above Image: Overlooking the vale

Ever since first seeing a photograph of this ruin online I’ve wanted to make a visit so recently an opportunity arose to do so. It sits dramatically on an elevated ridge above the picturesque vale of Avoca. The very solid looking Church was built in 1819 for the Church of Ireland community and was consecrated in 1821. Some portions of a 14th century castle were apparently integrated in to the structure. The Church surprisingly had a short term of use being superseded by the need for a larger church in 1870. It subsequently fell into ruin and for a while was covered heavily in ivy. Today this has been cleared and it still stands proud silently observing the tranquillity of the valley.
The Churchyard has an adjacent laneway which brings you up to the main gate. This is the best place to park if driving. This main gate however is padlocked which at first was a disappointment to me but however a smaller gate remains open at the foot of the laneway which you would pass on the way up. Once you enter the small gate you are greeted by what is the best view of the ruins. A set of stone steps climb up towards the ridge and the ruins dominate the skyline. This particular view is what prompted my keenness to visit the site.
The ground within the graveyard is uneven underfoot disguised by thick grass but it is far from being overgrown. There seems to be an abundance of table grave slabs which outweigh the remaining grave markers. All of the walls of the Church are still upstanding but it is roofless and exposed to the elements. There’s an open entrance in the South facing wall of the belfry tower which allows access to the interior which is L-shaped. Just upon entering and looking up you can see the roof of the tower is also missing, the light streaming inwards. The nave and chancel are partially overgrown but the fine window carving and some nice stone decoration on the East facing wall below the tower are pleasing to the eye. What is really distinct about these ruins I found is the complete stillness of the place. It is so quiet here that even the passing cars on the road below seem to slip by silently.
There are quite a few ruins of former Church of Ireland Churches scattered about the country mostly ruins of early 19th century structures but this is one of the most interesting and being so close to the pleasant village of Avoca it is well worth a visit. A few kilometres north of Avoca you can also take in The Motte Stone (See earlier post for directions) a huge boulder deposited by a receding glacier around 15000 years ago.  

To find the ruin of Castlemacadam Church head south on the M11/N11 Dublin to Wexford road and after Wicklow watch out for "The Tap" Pub on your right. A short distance later there is a turn onto the R754 beside another pub called "Lil Doyles" Take this right turn which leads to the village of Redcross. On the main street you will see a right hand turn pointing towards Avoca. Take this turn and drive approx. 7KM until you enter the village of Avoca. Cross the bridge over the river at the end of the village at Fitzgerald’s pub. Once over the bridge turn left onto the R752 for Woodenbridge and drive for approx. 800m passing the new Church on your right and just around the following bend you will spot the ruin on your right. Turn into the laneway beside the ruin and drive up and park on the grass alongside the main gate. Then simply walk back down the lane to reach the small access gate in the surrounding wall.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Ardmulchan Church Co Meath

                                              Above Image: The entrance lane

                                          Above Image: Entrance gate & stile

                                          Above Image: Remains of East gable

                                            Above Image: The stone coffin lid

                                 Above Image: Stairs to the left, chamber to the right

                                      Above Image: Vaulted lower chamber interior
                                            Above Image: View up the stairs
                                            Below Image: View down the stairs

                                 Above Image: Remains of second storey chamber

                              Above Image: View of Church ruins from second storey

                    Above Image: View of Dunmoe Castle through second storey window

                        Above & Below Images: Views of the Boyne & Dunmoe Castle

On a Norman constructed Motte overlooking the River Boyne are the ruins of Ardmulchan Church. The tall bell tower is likely to have been constructed in the late 13th or early 14th century while the nave and chancel date about a hundred years later. It is believed that the Church was still in use up to the early part of the 17th century. Its strategic position on the Motte which sweeps steeply down to the river would attest that this was an important Norman position and it is thought that later the stones from a castle was used to construct the perimeter wall of the graveyard.
The ruins are tucked away from the main local road and are accessed by a narrow and frankly pot- holed lane of which a gate at the end is usually open during daylight hours. Once through the gate the lane bends right and leads you to a gravel car park and the graveyard itself. The view from this spot out over the Boyne valley is breath taking, the river winding upstream and the ruins of Dunmoe Castle (See earlier post) clearly visible on the opposite bank.
There is a stile in the perimeter wall of the graveyard but on my visit the gate was unlocked. The tower is very striking sitting aloft the Motte and when approached from its South side you can see the foundations of the side walls and the partial remains of the East gable where a large window would have been. This gable is quite overgrown. In between this and the tower the once interior is strewn with broken rock and gravestones. There is one particularly unique object here a stone trapezoidal coffin lid sporting a very decorative cross.
At the tower itself there are two openings one leads down into a small vaulted chamber where bell ropes once hung from the belfry through three apertures. The other opening leads to a very worn stone stairs some of the steps badly cracked or even missing but as they say nothing ventured nothing gained so I clambered up them. Unfortunately it just led to an open chamber with a grassy floor although there is a good view of the surrounds from here.
This is one site you really should visit, not only for the ruin but for the great view from its vantage point.
To find Ardmulchan Church take the N2 heading North from exit 5 on the M50. About 2.5Km before Slane there is a left hand turn onto the L1600 signposted for Navan/Trim. The turn is just after a large sign on your left referring to Newgrange monument and the Battle of the Boyne. Once on the L1600 drive through Beauparc station and you will come across a TOP service station on your right. Approx 2km past this is a small laneway on the right with an abandoned house on the corner. It’s easy to miss as the sign pointing to the graveyard has been turned out of view but if you drive slowly and keep an eye out you should be OK.
Once on the lane follow it through to the car park. The gate halfway down is usually open until 10pm in summer and 4pm in winter.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Urlingford Castle & Church Co Kilkenny

                               Above Image: Approach to the Castle (Church on right)

                                   Above Image: the remaining Southern facing wall

                                             Above Image: The partial East wall

                                             Above Image: The medieval Church

                                       Above Image: Entrance stile to graveyard

Urlingford Castle & Church lie in close proximity to each order on opposite banks of the River Goul. The five storey Castle was built in the 15th century by the Mountgarret Butlers a significant landowning family and would have had a large defensive bawn surrounding it. A print from 1781 depicts attached buildings to its North facing wall and a partial wall along its West side but it was pretty much abandoned and ruinous by then. All of the additional structures and indeed parts of the castle were demolished and used to build the nearby Mill. All that remains of Castle today is its South facing wall and slivers of the West and East walls leaving the Castle jutting up shard-like from the ground.
The castle lies on private land but can be pretty much plainly seen from the road side gate. It still looks very commanding Its remaining wall standing to its full height with the exception of its fifth floor window which is missing leaving a gap at the centre top.
Although the Castle is divided from the Church by the river, the road runs over the Goul and the Mill graveyard in which the Church stands is easily accessible by way of a stile in the wall at the bend of the road. The Church is also believed to have been constructed in the 15th century and added to over subsequent years. Records show that by the last decade of the 19th century it was completely covered in ivy, but a massive restoration project in the 1970’s uncovered it and it remains that way today. All of the walls and gables stand to full height and are in very reasonable condition but even so it remains a very plain structure with few features of note. The Castle remains the most aesthetically pleasing of the two.
To find the ruins take the M8 heading South and exit at junction 4 taking the first exit off the roundabout on top of the exit ramp onto the R693. Drive to the next roundabout and then take the second exit right onto the R639. After about 500m you will enter Urlingford. In the village take the right hand turn at Bowden’s store onto Mill rd. Drive for approx. 350m and you will spot the Castle ahead of you. Parking adjacent to the gate is possible.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Clondalkin Round Tower, Church & Castle Co Dublin

                                         Above & Below Images: The large cross

                           Above & Below Images: The two faces of the smaller cross

                                Above & Below 3 Images: Remains of the old Church

                      Above Image: The ancient font with Church remains in backround

                                             Above Image: Close up of the font

                                  Above Image: The tower as viewed from St Johns

                                    Above Image: Entrance door to the round tower

                                     Above Image: Tully's Castle on Monastery Rd

                                      Above Image: The North East facing aspect

                                      Above Image: The South West facing aspect

                                  Above Image: The replica tower on Monastery Rd

A monastery at Clondalkin was founded in the 7th century by St Mochua and it grew into a very sizable site over the subsequent years. The tall round tower, one of the finest examples in the country, is believed to date to the late 8th century or early 9th century and is a testament to time still retaining its conical cap intact. The site was ransacked many times notably by the Vikings in which the tower no doubt played an important part in defence for the clergy. Today unfortunately nothing remains of any of the other monastic buildings.
The tower stands over 90 feet tall and has four windows at its top which mirror the points of the compass. A couple of years ago the tower was opened to the public one Saturday but otherwise it remains squarely locked up. Its iconic stance dominates the village and is close to a narrow but very busy road. It is best viewed from the grounds of the Anglican Church of St John across the road where a wall impedes the view of the noisy traffic. Indeed St John's was built in 1787 and stands on the site of the former medieval church (circa 13th century) which was demolished to allow the construction of the new church. However a tall 12 foot sliver remains and is possibly part of the chancel of the old church. It is now a national monument and a very striking feature in the Churchyard.
I went to photograph the tower one Friday morning and was aware that St John's church grounds contained the remains of the medieval church but I did not expect to find the gates open which they were and so the visit became all the more interesting. Within the grounds of St john’s it remains quiet and peaceful and I remained undisturbed during my visit. At the rear of the church are some remnants of the old monastic times. There are two stone crosses. The smallest depicts both a ringed and a Latin cross on its faces while the larger granite cross which may have originally been a boundary or grave marker stands proudly a few yards apart from the smaller cross. Along the boundary to the right of the new Church is a large granite baptismal font which may date back to the original monastic times. Again it is very impressive and I find the manner in which all of these items have been preserved and placed a credit to those involved in doing so.
Nearby on Monastery Road are the remains of what is thought to be a 16th century Castle. Locally called Tully’s castle as this was the name of a previous owner it has been mentioned in records as being Clondalkin Castle. The remains consist of a tall narrow tower and part of an adjoining building on its North West side. There are two door like apertures on its Southern West side. The ruins now form part of the garden wall of a modern house. The tower may have been part of a number of castles built to protect the pale but seems too narrow to have been a residential tower so it would lead one to suspect it might be an ancillary tower to a much larger non-extant castle.

To find the ruins take the R113 (Fonthill Rd) heading Northwards from Newland's Cross on the N7. Drive for approx. 500m until you reach a crossroads with Boot Rd. Turn right here and drive for approx. 800m, you can’t miss the tower ahead of you. For parking your best bet is to continue on past the tower and park in the Mill shopping centre a little way further on the left. Parking is free and only a 3 minute walk back to the tower. Be sure to check if the gate to St Johns opposite is open so you can view the other antiquities. The best time for access would probably be a Sunday morning when service is held at 11.15am. To find Tully’s Castle leave the car park at the mill centre and go straight through the traffic lights to the road directly opposite. Follow this curved road until you reach a set of lights at the Village cafĂ©. At this junction turn left and drive approx. 200m and you will spot the Castle on your right. You can park at the shops opposite.
As an interesting aside about 400m east of Tully’s Castle on the same road is a replica of the round tower at the entrance to a large car park. Worth a look for the heck of it.