Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Ballyhack Castle Co Wexford

                                               Above Image: The entrance door

                                    Above Image: Machicolation on fourth floor wall

                                           Above Image: The Ruinous top floors

Ballyhack castle is a five storey tower house situated on the Hook Peninsula that was constructed by the Knights Hospitallers of St John one of the two crusading orders of the early Norman period, the other being The Knights Templar. The order of St John had a Preceptory on this site since the beginning of the thirteenth century and they controlled the movement of traffic on the Barrow estuary. They also introduced a ferry system. While the order of St John went about their business their rivals the Templar's were settled across the estuary in Crooke in County Waterford. But in 1308 the well established and very wealthy Templar order was put under threat when the Pope resulting from demands of the then King of France, Philip, ordered their dissolution. The King owed the Templar's a vast sum of money (they were also very notably the inventors of modern banking) and started a campaign accusing them of gross misdeeds.There were accusations which included heresy and they were rounded up, tortured and put to death all across Europe and by 1312 they had been completely disbanded and their lands and wealth confiscated.
The less ambitious Knights of St John built the tower house at Ballyhack in 1450 and fortified it with a portcullis, a murder hole located just inside the entrance and a machicolation above the entrance door on the West wall of the fourth floor. Battlements and a walkway were also constructed. The Knights continued to thrive in this area until the dissolution of monasteries and churches in 1536 when the tower and lands were given to the Etchingham's who lived there until they moved to Dunbrody in the mid eighteenth century.
During the Cromwellian invasion the castle was taken by Cromwell's men and the battlements destroyed and as a result of the act of Settlement in 1652 the tower was used as a point of transportation for those who lost homes and land.
In the 1800's Arthur Chichester built the estate village of Arthurstown as the land lay on the Dunbrody estate. A pier was built in 1829 and the town thrived. The castle stood still and uninhabited on the slopes of the village at Ballyhack for many years until it was partially restored by the OPW and made open to the public. This occurs annually May to August from Saturdays to Wednesdays 9.30-17.00,
Although you can self tour I would recommend taking the guided tour by one of the staff as they are very knowledgeable and also admission is free. You can of course leave a discretionary donation if you wish.
We were informed that the ground floor was the most defensively sound and was generally used for storage and servant sleeping quarters. There are a set of steep stone stairs that lead you upwards and features include some period furniture and knights attire within the floors that have had some restoration done. The top two floors while accessible are still ruinous and shell marks from cannon fire were pointed out to us. The views over the estuary from the high vantage point are spectacular and there is also an opportunity to see the dungeon!
I have to say I myself like my castles ruined where you can explore inside yourself see what damage time has done but sometimes now and again it's good to see a castle that is not inhabited but mostly intact just to get a feel for what they actually looked like in their day. Ballyhack is one of those castles and I found the visit very pleasing and informative.
To find the Castle take the N25 heading West from Wexford Town towards New Ross. After approx 25KM you will pass through the village of Ballinaboola. 4KM out of Ballinaboola you reach a major roundabout (Ballymacar Roundabout) and you take the first exit left (a continuation of the N25).
Drive for approx 5KM and take the slip road following the sign for Arthurstown (R733). At the T-junction on the end of the slip road turn right following the R733 and drive for approx 1.7KM until you reach another right hand turn, a continuation of the R733. Drive for 7KM and then turn right again following the R733. It is 7KM more from here to Arthurstown and when you reach it take a right hand turn onto the coast road and take a short drive towards the ferry pier at Ballyhack. There is parking available in this area and you will see the castle up the hill a little from the pier.
Alternatively if coming from Waterford City take the R683 to Passage East and you can cross on the ferry directly to the pier at Ballyhack. (Cost for car & passengers 8.00 Euro single trip, 12.00 Euro return, Foot passengers 1.50 Euro, return 2.00 Euro)

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Moyglare Castle Co Meath

                                 Above Image: North-West & South-East facing walls

                                           Above Image: South-East facing wall

                                        Above Image: Close-up of North-West wall

                                           Above Image: Bases of existing walls

                                                Above Image: Moyglare Church


Moyglare Road meanders Northwards out of Maynooth. Along its route, virtually unnoticeable unless you are actually looking for it, lies the remains of Moyglare Castle. The history regarding the origin of this castle appears to be lost in the swirling sands of time.
The Castle, bearing in mind its size and location, has all the attributes of the result of the statute decreed by Henry VI in 1429 stating that in order to protect the pale from marauding Irish clans a sum of £10 would be paid to any supporter of the crown who would build a fortified tower of specific dimensions on or along the borders of the pale. That's an equivalent of £6,250 by today's standards. Taking into consideration that today the remains of Moyglare only ascend to the first floor above the entrance, its dimensions otherwise fit the bill of the King's suggested castle specifications and also  the fact that its location is near Kilcock (which was on the border of the pale) increases the possibility further.
As to its fate and eventual ruination, the only other piece of information I could garner from research is that the land was owned in 1640 by one George Wentworth. This was just before the time of the  English civil war. George Wentworth went on to fight in that war on the side of the Royalists, He was the brother of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Stafford who was himself a Royalist and also Lord Deputy of Ireland from 1632 to 1640. It would then be of no surprise if Cromwell's forces on moving towards Drogheda in 1649 and taking into account Moyglare's Royalist owner would most probably have left Moyglare castle destroyed in their wake. The gaping hole on the South-Eastern wall looks to all intents and purposes like the result of cannon fire.
The remnants of the castle today are slowly being engulfed by ivy and encroaching trees. The walls though crumbling away at the top appear defensively thicker at their bases. Within the scant walls of the first floor there are the remains of a fireplace.
We would like to have gotten closer to the ruins but they appear to stand now on private land belonging to Moyglare Stud Farm one of many horse breeding farms in the area. As a result of this, especially in Summer and the proximity of the farms, there is an abundance of flies ready to lay siege upon the unsuspecting visitor who dares to exit their cars or stand still in any one spot too long.
A short distance from the castle is the church of St. Paul, which has a nicely designed tower and spire which was built in 1870. The church sits upon the site of an ancient medieval church built prior to 1300 which remained partially in ruin since the 1640's but was eventually demolished to make way for the new church. No traces remain of the medieval structure and the new church itself is now privately owned. Behind Moyglare Stud Farm there also lies oddly enough an airstrip (just in case you are travelling in by Cessna!).
To find the ruins take the junction 7 exit for Maynooth from the M4 onto the R406, When you reach the traffic lights at the T-junction with the R148 in Maynooth turn left and then take the first turn right and drive for approx 2.8KM along Moyglare Road. Keep an eye out on your left for a green sign welcoming you to County Meath and then about 200m on take the next left turn.(there are the remains of a wall based postbox on the corner). 200m along there is a fork in the road. On the left fork is Moyglare church while about 70m down the right hand fork is the castle. It is situated behind a fence and hedgerow. Its a quiet enough road and we parked at the edge with no problem.Watch out though for those pesky horseflies!

Friday, 26 June 2020

Chapelmidway Church Co Dublin

                                             Above Image: The entrance gate

                                              Above Image: The East facing wall

                                             Above Image: Roof markings on wall.

                                         Above Image: Segmented East doorway

                                                   Above Image: A fireplace?

                                        Above Image: Vaulted roof in the chamber

Chapelmidway draws its name from its location which is halfway between St. Margaret's and Kilsallaghan both also recorded as being ecclesiastical sites.
The remains of this medieval church circa early 15th century are situated on elevated ground within a walled enclosure.The Church which was in use certainly up to the dissolution of Irish m
onasteries and churches by Henry VIII between 1536-1541 was recorded in 1615 as being ruinous. The final nail in the coffin was struck by Cromwellian forces who mostly destroyed it in 1649 as they moved towards Drogheda. In later years the grounds were used for burials with the earliest stone recorded here as being from 1740.
A narrow lane leads up to graveyard from the roadside and we were greeted on both sides by barking dogs who sprang into action literally at the sound of a leaf being trod on. To be fair they were in adjacent garden enclosures which were fenced and so presented no physical inconvenience to the us.
On first sight of the ruin it appears to be a square structure with a doorway in East side and the remains of a narrow tower on the East/North Corner. On looking inside the doorway the chamber within was quite small, too small for a church and had what looked to be the remains of a fireplace on the inner West wall. Strangely too, the room was vaulted and from this I could only assume that this was a supplementary part of the church and not the main nave or chancel. As I discovered later it is in fact the remains of quite a large West tower and what I thought to be a small tower on the corner was actually remains of the East/North corner of this larger tower. Evidence is also present of an extended building with the sloped mark of a former roof on the taller part of the East wall. Apparently a reasonably large church had once been attached as some of its foundations were discovered almost 25 feet to the East of the ruins.There is also evidence of a former staircase on the outer South wall leading up above the vaulted chamber.This area is partially covered in ivy.
The ruins that have survived have left us a most unusual looking structure and are well worth a look. Hidden from view now by the modern housing on the roadside it would be so easily overlooked but once you enter the enclosure it is just feels soaked in history.
To find the ruins take the junction 5 exit for Finglas from the M50 onto the N2. Once on the N2 drive approx 500m and take the exit left for Coldwinters. This leads to a T-junction where you turn right and drive 1.4Km to Kilshane Crossroads. Turn right here and drive to the next roundabout where you turn left onto the R122. Drive on for approx 900m and then take a left at the sign pointing to St Margaret's (R122). A few metres on you reach a T-junction. Turn right here and follow this road until you have passed a left hand turn signposted for Mulhuddart (R121). 500m further on you will reach a small row of bungalows on your left. The lane way up to the ruins lies between the 2nd and 3rd house. There is just enough room to park at the foot of the lane.

Monday, 15 June 2020

O'Brien's Tower Co Clare

                                         Above Image: An Branan Mor Sea Stack

                                     Above Image: Part of the Pathway to the tower

                                   Above Image & Below Image: Views of the Cliffs

Cornelius O'Brien a wealthy landowner of the estate of Birchfield and of some 10,000 acres was a parliamentarian representing County Clare for around 20 years beginning in 1832. His legacy appears to live in the existence of this tower and the various improvements he paid for in making it accessible to visitors more than in the fact that he was a well to do landlord. Many speak today of his treatment of the tenantry in harsher words than those in the day who applauded his vision of early tourism.
The castellated tower was a folly he built to impress visitors and indeed some of his lady friends as well with it's commanding views of the famed Cliffs of Moher
There was apparently also a tearoom built inside along with a staircase to the top and a large cast iron table outside. He built the tower in 1835 and with new pathways leading to it attracted flocks of people. The tower over time was weathered by the salt air sweeping in from the Atlantic and in 1970 it was decided to renovate it and open a small visitor centre nearby. Between 2005 and 2007 a larger brand new centre was constructed into the landscape and covered over so that it blended pleasingly into its surroundings
Today you can visit the centre and if by car it will cost 8 Euro per adult for entry, a price I find a bit punchy if I might say. This fee includes entrance to the centre, car parking and access to the cliffs. To enter O'Brien's Tower it is another 4 Euro. But truth be told the views at ground level are spectacular enough. I like the look of this little tower as it stands like a sentinel above the vast ocean that sweeps up against the cliffs with the next port of call just above the 53rd parallel being Belle island off the North coast of Newfoundland.
If you are on foot you can bypass the visitor centre and it is on an  honour system that you will pay at the centre. Locals tell me that it is a right of way to the cliffs and have never been asked to show a ticket. But if you wish to have the visitor experience inside you can always opt to pay at the visitor centre itself.
We were impressed by both the new pathways and the views from there. The tower is well worth a visit and I have heard that since my visit it has been newly rendered with lime to match how it originally looked, From the tower area you can look down also on the magnificent sea stack called "An Branan Mor" and the distant Hags Head which I hope to visit as soon as this pesky virus moves on.
One word of advice try and visit early in the morning or late evening to avoid crowds, tour buses etc.
This site can become extremely busy at times.
To find the tower take the N67 South from Lisdoonvrna and follow the signs for the cliffs. Approx 2Km out of the village take a right hand turn onto the R478 again following the "Cliff" signs. Drive for approx 8KM on the R478 until you see the car park on the left. This is where you pay the entrance fee, so if you are just walking up to the cliffs only then it would be advisable for the driver only to park the car and join the others on foot as the charge applies to each person in the car. Alternatively if visiting during June - August a shuttle bus serves several towns to the cliffs. See info here  https://www.cliffsofmoher.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Cliffs_of_Moher_Shuttle_Bus.pdf and prices here https://bookings.cliffsofmoher.ie/

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Old Kiltartan Church Co Galway

                                              Above Image: The entry gate

                                                Above Image: The East gable

                                          Above Image: Entry Door in North wall

                                                 Above Image: Inner East gable

                                       Above Image: Interior of East gable window

                                                   Above Image: Tomb Niche

                                                Above Image: Inner West gable

This medieval church ruin lies a little over two miles North of Gort in County Galway. The church is dedicated to St. Attracta a contemporary of St. Patrick.The dedication is a little surprising as the patron saint in this area is generally St. Colman and a number of places have been named after him. His remains are buried in the nearby site of Kilmacduagh (see previous post here).
While the church commemorates St. Attracta the townland of Kiltartan is taken from the Gaelic Cill Tartain, or Church of Tartan.
We found the ruin while travelling in the area and stopped for a look. It was sited in an oval shaped walled enclosure. where a metal swing gate allows easy entry into the cemetery. The peace and solitude of this location is almost deafening, the silence broken only by the occasional crows that seem to congregate for some reason in graveyards.
You can enter the ruin by way of a nicely arched doorway in the North wall which is gated but thankfully unlocked.
The remains measure approx 65' x 25' and all walls are standing although there is some degree of deterioration on The West gable which also has a growth of the dreaded ivy attached to it.
Inside the ground is a bit rough underfoot but there are quite a few graveslabs peppering the floor which aid in moving around. A very tall and prominent yew tree is growing within the walls..
In the inner North wall an arched recess is located containing a crucifix and what looks to be the remains of the font from the church. This recess at first I thought might been a Sedlia or seating for priests but on closer inspection appears to be a Tomb Niche.
There are several narrow windows in the church but the most interesting is the triple lighted window of the East wall which is the most decorative.
Local history records that the church was used as a protestant church after the reformation and when it fell into ruin is unclear. Two facts available are that it is listed as ruinous in 1837 on the Ordnance Survey map of that time and also that a new larger Protestant church was built in Ballyhugh, Gort around 1810. So the larger church may have taken the congregation and closed up the smaller church as was the case with many small churches at that time..
To find the ruin take the N66 heading North on the main street out of the village of Gort and when you reach the roundabout take the third exit signposted for the R458 to Ardrahan. Drive for approx 2.5KM until you have passed through a small crossroads with the L8525. About 80m past this a small road forks to the left. Turn onto this road and continue for another 100m where it forks again. Stick to the left hand fork and you will find the ruins on your right approx 300m ahead. You can park easily enough in the small car park adjacent to the ruin.

Thursday, 7 May 2020

Old St Fintan's Chapel Sutton Co Dublin

                                Above Image: Entry gate and keeper's cottage ruin

                                             Above Image: Bellingham family plot.

                                                Above Image: West gable door

St.Fintan was a 6th century monk later canonized and was associated with the important monastic site of Clonenagh. It is still unsure how his association with Sutton came about. The fact that the name Sutton is derived from Gaelic "Sui Fhiontain" which translates to The Seat of Fintan would indicate some relationship with him in some form or other. To locals the old graveyard at Sutton is the resting place of Fintan and the small church was a shrine to him bearing his remains when they were transferred to Sutton when Clonenagh ceased to be in the 12th century. The little church is thought to date to the ninth century leaving the idea of it being too early a construct to be a shrine still shrouded in mystery. There is a non-extant holy well named after him not to far from the graveyard and the new church also bears his name. So one would assume that he had some connection with the area.
The chapel ruin was probably used later as a local place of worship and at approx 16' x 8' in size must be one of the smallest chapels in the country, but I believe the little church of St Benan on Inishmore in the Aran Islands is thought to be the littlest at approx 12' x 7' in size.
When I visited St Fintan's I found the chapel at the West end of the old graveyard. There is the ruin of an old keeper's cottage at the entrance gate. The East window of the chapel is bricked up leaving only two small windows in parallel with each other on the North and South walls. The doorway is in the West wall and is gated and locked and the interior looks quite overgrown. On my visit the small belfry on the West wall was covered in ivy and so is what remains of the roof. I Believe the walls slant up at an angle but the apex of the roof is missing being replaced by a metal grill. This too is overgrown at the moment. The belfry mentioned was a later addition to the chapel giving more evidence of it being used as a small place of worship. At its North wall a fenced area has been erected to contain the graves of members of the Bellingham family.
When the chapel fell into ruin is unclear but there is a print in the National Library by Eward McFarland from 1853 depicting the chapel as ruinous.
To find the ruin take the R105 towards Howth and turn right at Sutton Cross onto Greenfield Road. It is signposted as the scenic route. After approx 900m the name of the road changes to Carrickbrennan Rd. Continue for another 800m and you will see the new cemetery on your right. The old graveyard entry gate is just beyond this. You can park at the wall of the new cemetery.

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Rockbrook Standing Stones Co Dublin

                         Above Image & Below 4 Images: Southern stone (X4 on map)

                         Above Image & Below 3 Images: Northern stone (X3 on map)

                         Above Image: Boundary stones (X1 & X2 left to right on map)

                                       Above Image: Gatepost stone (X5 on map)

                                      Above Image: Boundary stone (X6 on map)

                                Above & Below Image: Paddock stone (X7 on map)

                            Above Image: Map showing stone positions.(Kilmashogue
                                                     stone is X8 on map)  Map © Google Maps

We set out to see this pair of standing stones only knowing the name of the road that they could be found along. The Tibradden Road is a narrow road and virtually impossible to find a safe parking spot on so we by passed the entrance to it at the junction with Mutton Lane and continued on to the next left turn which is a small cul-de-sac named St. Brendan's Terrace and parked there. We then walked back to Tibradden Road and we were glad we did as while walking the 300 or so metres down to the field which contained the stones we came across what looked to be two further stones set into the boundary wall acting as gateposts to a now bricked up gateway. (X1 & X2 on map above)  We found two more just beyond the point where we could see the pair of standing stones in the field again set into the wall acting as gateposts.(X5 & X6 on map). X5 has a metal gate attached that just would not open) It is most likely that these are not the original positions of these 4 stones but then again one of two might just well be.
With no proper access gate we had to clamber over the boundary wall to get access to the field stones. The ground was lower in the field than on the road so we just looked along the inside of the wall until we found a spot a bit higher. There were one or two cows in there but no prohibitive signs. The two stones in the meadow we named X3 and X4. X3 is the more Northern of the pair and stands at approx 2.0m in height and leans at an angle to the East. The Southern stone X4 is approx 1.8m high and is more straight only leaning slightly Westward. Although these stones aligned with each other they did not appear to have any distinct alignment with the boundary wall stones. They do appear to have an alignment with yet another stone which we discovered was positioned in a field on the opposite side of the road and on private ground in what appeared to be a paddock. A better view can be had from the fence on Cloagh Road which is a road leading off Tibradden Road about 80m past position of the field stones.The stone appears to approx 1.5m in height and again is leaning, this time in a Southerly direction.
If in fact that the alignment is deliberate then the 4 boundary stones may have originally been positioned to form a series of way markers, but to where?  The stones at Rockbrook we think may be associated with another standing stone that is positioned in nearby Kilmashogue. It is marked X8 on the map. (see earlier post here) The stone there aligns with the wedge tomb in the woods and further than that the Fairy Castle passage tomb on Two Rock mountain.(see post here) Take away all the modern roads and buildings and you may have had the makings of a Bronze age trail to an important burial site high on a mountain. It is food for thought anyway. Interestingly none of the 8 stones we have seen are marked on any Ordnance Survey map which I find curious as they certainly have some historical significance. There may be other stones hiding from view along Tibradden Road as the wall in parts succumbs to overgrowth or some may be hidden in the trees beyond it, but what we came across was proof enough for us that this was more than an ordinary site and the origins and meaning of these stones are still shrouded in mystery.
To find the standing stones take the Edmondstown Road (R116) leading South from the roundabout with Taylor's Lane and drive for approx 2.2KM until you pass the Merry Ploughboy pub on your left. About 300m past the pub take the next left turn (a road sloping down adjacent to the main road) About 120m along, the road veers to the left with another road going straight on. The road veering left is Tibradden Road down which you will need to walk and the road straight on is Mutton Lane. Drive onto Mutton lane and park in the road which is next left. This is St. Brendan's Terrace. Walk back to Tibradden Road and follow our route on foot as mentioned above.