Monday, 24 October 2016

Old St Michael Church Co Kildare

                                        Above Image: South wall & Doorway

                                Above Image: Information Plaque on South wall

                                         Above Image: Restricted doorway

                                           Above Image: Fenced off interior

                         Above Image: South wall doorway viewed from remains of
                                              North wall

These ancient ruins are of the Church of St Michael. It is believed to have been constructed before 1297 as attested on a plaque positioned on the South wall. It is also believed to have been commissioned by the De St Michael family notable Normans who were patrons of The Crouched Friars having built a monastery for them. This parish Church may have been built for the friars or perhaps the Dominicans who were also preaching in the area at the time although it would lean more towards the Crouched Friars in light of their patrons. It appears to have been in use until the new Church was built in the 1800’s but it was already in disrepair from the 1650’s onward.
You enter the graveyard in which the ruins lie from a roadside gate on the N78 on the East side of Athy. The older section of this graveyard even predates the Church as a place of burial and it is also thought that the dead of the Battle of Ardschull are buried here following the ransacking of Athy by Robert the Bruce in 1315.
The remains of the Church consist of the West Gable, a section of the Southern wall and a small section of the Northern wall. The East gable and remains of The North wall and South Wall have completely collapsed and only foundations or rubble remain. Indeed the rest of the ruins have now been deemed unstable and so some unsightly fencing has been erected around it blocking the still existing doorway in the South wall. The font of the Church is reputedly buried in a grave within the Church.
The ruins are in a very bad state and there is ivy encroaching on the West gable. An unsightly warning sign has been erected on the outside of the gable just adding to the general malaise of the place. This ancient Church is in need of some restoration soon or it may be lost forever. Even in its dilapidated state it has a commanding aspect especially when viewed from the lower graveyard under the West gable.
Throughout our visit we were observed intensely by the only other live occupant of the graveyard, a black & white cat who crouched by the ruins (a sentinel maybe! ) but other than that there was absolutely nobody else about.
To find the ruins take the junction 3 exit on the M9 and take the exit for the N78 heading West. Drive for approx. 8KM and you will reach a roundabout. Go straight through and continue on the N78 for approx. 900m and you will see the semi-circular entrance gate to St Michael’s cemetery on your right. There is no parking allowed anywhere close outside of the cemetery but there is room just inside the gate to fit one or two cars, so this is your best option.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Old Ballymadun Church Co Dublin

                                      Above Image: Entrance gate & stile

                               Above Image: Remaining wall & possible doorway

                             Above Image: One of the many old grave markers

This is a very ancient site and I wasn’t sure if there were any remains of the old Church left but in fact a remnant does exist.
The Church must have been constructed before 1220AD as that is when it was recorded as being annexed by Archbishop of Dublin Henry De Loundres. There was also the cell of a Hermitess here at Ballymadun at this time. The Church was dedicated to All Saints and was probably abandoned after the dissolution in the mid sixteenth century. Indeed it is recorded in John D’Alton’s History of Co Dublin in 1838 as being in complete ruin with one side covered in Ivy. The graveyard was taken under the control of Fingal Co Council in 1939.
The graveyard in which the ruins lie is located at the bottom of a narrow lane adjacent to the Fox Inn pub on a back road from Ashbourne in the townland of Ballymadun. A gate remains unlocked but there is also a large stone stile for access. What remains of the Church now is scant to say the least. All that exists is a long section of the Southern wall standing a little over 2 feet in height with a gap which one might suppose to have been the doorway. The low wall is capped with a flat stone and now seems to serve as a place of rest where you can sit and reflect on the surroundings. The location itself is a very calm and beautiful place and is well maintained and there are some very striking Yew trees in the enclosure. I’ve come across yew trees in many ecclesiastical sites and some have existed for many hundreds of years. apparently their longevity can stretch into thousands of years. It is thought that they were revered in ancient times because of their all year round foliage. While other trees lay bare in the winter the yew flourished providing cover from the weather and in the summertime, shade. This and the fact that the strong toxins in the roots created a clear area around them provided an ideal location to hold ceremonies. This reverence seems to have transferred to the later Christian times and many Churches and Abbeys were built in the vicinity of yews.
So, only a little to see here ruin wise but I’m glad we stopped to visit. It was a beautiful day and this part of the County is so tranquil that it set a good tone to the rest of our ruin hunting that day.

To find the remains of Ballymadun Church take the N2 Northbound from the M50. After approx. 4KM it becomes the M2. Continue until you reach a roundabout where the N2 continues to the left. Turn right at the roundabout onto the R135 for Ashbourne and about 350m later take the first left hand turn onto Ballymadun Road. Drive for approx. 1.2KM until you come to a fork in the road with a small triangular grass margin with a tree on it. Turn onto the right lane and drive until you reach the Fox Inn pub. The lane to the graveyard is to the right of the pub and you can drive down to the graveyard entrance gate where there is room for a couple of cars to park.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Turlough Abbey Co Mayo

                                        Above Image: Entrance gate & stile

                                             Above Image: Entrance door

                           Above Image: Crucifixion plaque above entrance door

                                             Above Image: The Chancel

                                                  Above Image: Tomb

                         Above Image: Second crucifixion plaque to left of window

We came across this impressive ruin quite by accident. On returning to Castlebar from Straide where we had been visiting Ballylahan Castle (see earlier post) I just happened to see a road sign for the Abbey as we whizzed by the junction. So never one to miss an opportunity I turned back so we could take a look.
The ruins are of varying antiquity. The original site is thought to have been founded by St Patrick in 441 and was under the auspices of the Bishop of Armagh but none of the original Abbey buildings are in left in existence so the term Abbey today really refers to the original site. A very striking but lower than normal size round tower was constructed in the ninth century and stands at about 68 feet tall and is quite wide at the base roughly 17 feet in diameter. The original entrance door now blocked up stands at approx. 12 feet above ground level. There is another door at ground level now also inaccessible that would seem to indicate that the monks must have used the tower for some different purpose later on and needed easier access. The conical top of the tower had partly fallen into ruin but  was repaired in the late 19th century. The original Abbey was dissolved in 1635 and the lands passed to John Fitzgerald originally of Kilkenny who was transplanted from there to Mayo and given nearly half of the estates of Colonel Walter Bourke of Turlough who lost the lands after the Battle of Aughrim. it was Fitzgerald's family who constructed the present Church in the late 17th or early 18th century.
The rather plain walls belay a very sturdy cross shaped Church with triple round headed windows in the semi-circular shaped chancel area.
Above the main entrance door is a carved stone crucifixion plaque and there is another on the Southern transept beside a window in the West facing wall between the Church and the base of the round tower. These plaques were usually produced to be used in secret worship during the repression of Catholicism in Ireland. One of the plaques is dated 1625. 
Placed within the ruins is the tomb of George Robert Fitzgerald which is dated 1786 attesting to the Fitzgerald influence on the Church construction.
The ruins sit on elevated ground in the middle of the rectangular graveyard enclosure and are a very very striking feature on the surrounding landscape. Even though they are away from the main road they still attract quite a few visitors as we found out on our own visit. 

To find the ruins take the N5 from Castlebar towards Dublin and approx. 9KM out of Castlebar you will come across a left hand turn signposted for Turlough Abbey. Turn left and continue for approx. 375m until you reach a crossroads. Go straight through the crossroads and approx. 200m along you come to a fork in the road and the main road veers to the right. Continue on the main road for approx. 150m and you will arrive at the graveyard enclosure containing the ruins. There is ample space for parking outside.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Rush Castle Co Dublin

                                         Above Image: The entrance stile

                          Above & Below Images: The Enclosure & the entry point

                                       Above Image: Remains of spiral stair

                                          Above Image: Entrance doorway

                                           Above Image: Vaulted chamber

                                      Above Image: Small adjacent chamber

                                     Above Image: Possible chimney interior

I was recently in the area of Rush visiting a few of the ruins there such as Kenure Portico and Old Kenure Church (both previous posts) but it was only on researching an ordnance survey map for the post on Kenure Church that I discovered that there were the remains of a Castle that I hadn’t been aware of and it was literally across the road from the Church. So recently on a drive back from Skerries I diverted to try and locate this ruin. I found the road leading into St Catherine’s estate which had the Church ruins on the left. On the right side was a low boundary wall surrounding the playing field of Rush Athletic F.C. There are two small pedestrian gaps in the wall and I discovered that the one further West led directly to a fenced off Ivy covered ruin to the left of a white spectator barrier. I have to say it’s in a bad state. The Council erected the fencing because of anti-social behaviour and so the ruins have just been let go to ground somewhat. I circumnavigated the fence only to find that at the rear part of it had actually been knocked down. Poking around a bit I saw the remains of a spiral stair leading nowhere as the remains now are only about six or seven feet high but below it was a doorway that looks as if it led into a vaulted room. I suspect this to be the original ground floor of the castle and not the basement as the land level around it has probably risen over time. It was mostly dark inside with light just streaming in from a single window aperture , a small adjacent chamber and the doorway I was entering from. I went in with some trepidation and was glad I was wearing some decent boots as the floor inside was strewn with broken glass and flattened plastic bottles. Hardly remnants of battle. It’s so disheartening to see an historical site in such a state no matter how small it is. I don’t really blame the Council they tried to protect the structure from vandalism but this could be an interesting place if cleaned, maintained and more importantly respected by those visiting. Across the vaulted room another doorway led to a small chamber which looks as if it might have been a kitchen area because above you the walls taper into what looks like a chimney. This appears to be the highest point remaining. Most of the other walls have been diminished a lot above ground but I still got a sense of history here. Of its origin it’s hard to determine. It could be a Butler Castle as the lands in this area were granted to Edmund Butler in 1315 when he was created Earl of Carrick. Or indeed it could be one of the numerous £10 castles built in the early 15th century to defend the pale, although I’m not sure that the Irish Clans such as the O’Tooles and O’Byrnes made coastal attacks and most of these type of castles were built on the inland perimeters of The Pale.

To find the ruin take the R128 heading Northwards from Lower Main Street in Rush. This is the road opposite Hackett's Victuallers. Drive for approx 1.8Km until you reach the old graveyard on your left. There is a left hand turn just past this with a sign pointing to St Catherine's Estate. Turn left and park a little way up this road which is called The Drive. You will see the boundary wall with pedestrian gaps opposite. Enter by the gap furthest in. 

Monday, 5 September 2016

Deserted Village Achill Co Mayo

                    Above Image: The lower Southern slope of Slievemore mountain

                        Above Image: Typical cottage with possible stable addition

           Above Image: What appears to be the Nephin Beg mountains in the distance

                                 Above & Below Images: Single door entrances

On The Northern end of Achill Island a little North of Keel and South East of Dugort lie the remains of Slievemore Village an almost mile long series of ruined cottages scattered along the lower Southern slope of Slievemore mountain. Consisting of a main village and two ancillary villages in close proximity they are a poignant example of Ireland’s past.
Archaeologists believe there was a settlement here at least as far back as Anglo-Norman times. The cottages themselves were more than likely from a later date and families occupying them were certain to have been living under the control of a local landlord. Times were hard and many would face eviction if they did not pay the rent. When the great famine arrived in 1847 the residents were devastated by it and some moved out to Dugort to be near the sea so they could attempt to live on catching fish. Many others emigrated at the time and also in successive years thus leaving the village eventually abandoned. Eerily deserted the village remained that way and began to fall into ruin. Interestingly enough up to the 1940’s a practice called booleying was in effect. This would take place during the summer months when cattle were grazed on the mountainside and people from nearby villages would use the remains of the cottages as temporary domiciles while they tended the herd. In most cases young people would be involved in this. Eventually even this practice died out and now the village is now truly deserted except of course for the thousands that visit it every year.
We paid a visit during the Summer and on Slievemore because of its exposed slope it can get quite warm. There was fair amount of people about but there are so many ruins to wander around that you frequently found yourself alone. While we were there a rescue helicopter was scouring the mountain for a man who had gone missing while hillwalking. They thankfully found him in the end incapacitated on a high part of the mountain. We kept to the safer lower level and walked up the track heading West from the car park and worked our way back down exploring the cottages one by one. The ground is uneven in places but easy enough to navigate. There are upwards of 100 cottage ruins here, most were one room structures built in the same fashion as the field boundary walls that are prevalent here in the West of Ireland, constructed not with mortar but by stacking and slotting the large stones into place. They vary in size some with substantial remains others at near foundation level. They are all almost parallel to each other in a North-South direction with the scant remains of a very old pathway in between. Looking at these humble abodes I can only imagine that life must have been very hard in those times with potatoes being the main staple diet and when famine swept the land these poor souls would have been hit the hardest. I found it a very sobering experience and certainly made me grateful to be returning to the comfort of our Hotel.
These are really a very interesting set of ruins, it’s not often you find an entire village in this state of affairs so if you find yourself in the vicinity of Achill it is well worth a diversion to view Slievemore. Achill which is the largest of the Islands off the coast of Ireland is so close to the mainland that a simple short road bridge at Achill sound is all you have to navigate  

To find the ruins take the N59 heading West out of Mulranny (or Mullaranny as it is also known) and just as you leave the village there is a left turn onto the R319. Take this turn and follow the road until you reach Achill Sound (approx. 15KM). Cross the bridge at Achill Sound and continue on the R319 for approx. 14KM until you reach the village of Keel. Just after the prominent Minaun View Bar take a turn Right and follow the narrow road for approx. 2KM until you cross a narrow stone bridge. Just after the bridge the road forks left and right. Follow the narrow left hand lane right to the top which leads you to a graveyard and a car park. You will see the ruins of the village on the left. Please note on this last narrow stretch after the bridge if you spot a tour bus heading in the other direction from the ruins stay where you are until it passes as you will never get by it on the lane itself.