Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Nurney Pigeon Tower Co Kildare

                                             Above Image: Entrance stile

                         Above & Below Images: Rock outcrops or castle remains?

                                  Above Image; The older square base section

                                    Above Image: Looking up within the tower

                                         Above Image: Small lower chamber

Sometimes called Nurney Castle this is in fact not the actual castle remains which disappeared many years ago. They were situated beyond the opposite bank of the river that was once part of a millrace.. However there may be some relation between the two as this structure appears to have been built in separate parts. The lower section with its four rudimentary apertures (not quite doorways) is constructed of an older stone cobbled together not unlike the fashion of medieval tower houses. It may have been an outpost of the nearby castle and situated on Pigeon hill as it is gives a commanding view of the area. On the South side of the tower there are two lower apertures that seem to lead into a small chamber beneath giving more credence to this being of use than it is considered today. The upper section is constructed of redbrick and looks more modern probably dating to the 19th century and was fashioned to be a pigeon house probably giving name to the hill upon which it sits. It’s a most unusual looking structure and when you step inside you can see how the tower above tapers to a window to the sky. Little information is forthcoming about it and its origins, the locals call it the pigeon house but I would like to think that it is somehow connected in part at least to the now non extant castle. The hill itself looks to all intents and purposes to be a motte on which a Norman fort would have stood. Whether it is a natural formation or man built is again unclear. On the West facing side of the hill a couple of large boulders jut out of the ground. Again these might be remnants of part of a fortification now long gone or a natural rock outcrop which could rule out the hill being man made as there would be no purpose in placing them where they are. Speculation abound then but I continue to seek more information and perhaps somebody out there might know the truth behind this mysterious structure. Across the road and a few yards South there are the remains of the medieval church covered in an earlier post here. Access to the tower can be made easily by parking in the car park opposite the modern church and just cross the little wooden bridge over the river adjacent to the car park. A couple of stiles are all you need to navigate to reach the base of the hill.

To find the ruin take the Junction 13 exit of the M7 motorway and take the R415 signposted for Nurney. Drive for approx. 6KM until you enter the village of Nurney. Look for the modern church on your right where you will find car parking spaces opposite. The ruin is on the hill behind the car park.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

St Finian's Church Newcastle Co Dublin

                                  Above & Below Images: The medieval tower

                                            Above Image: Medieval chancel

                                   Above Image: The old chancel East window

                                             Above Image: Ornate tomb

                               Above & Below Images: The ancient granite cross

                                  Above Image: The Norman Motte in Winter

                      Above Image: The Norman motte in early Autumn (What looks
                                               like large bowling balls are actually hay packed
                                               in polythene)

I was visiting nearby Newcastle Lyons Castle and spotted what looked like another Castle tower in the grounds of St Finians graveyard. I did not have time to investigate then so I returned recently to take a closer look. Indeed it was a tower and it looked as if it was in pretty good shape. Attached to it is a church still in use and on the East end of the Church are the ruins of the former medieval Church. This part is in fact the original chancel where a great arched window once existed. In the 1600’s with the church now belonging to the Church of Ireland and with a waning of patrons the chancel was deroofed and the window moved to a new gable in the East side of the nave that divided the nave and chancel and created a smaller church. The current single cell church in use was built on the site of the medieval nave in 1775. The tower and chancel are all that remain of the medieval structure which was built in 1400 and was deemed a church of the royal manor of Newcastle. The tower served as a residence for the clergy but was also an important defence along the border of the pale as was its nearby neighbour Newcastle Lyons Castle (See earlier post here). The tower now sporting two new wooden doors is still in use by the church. Th chancel ruins have an entrance door below the great arched aperture where the glass had once been positioned.
Within the graveyard which has been in use since medieval times there are a number of ancient grave markers and also a very interesting granite cross. This cross and an adjacent pillar stone are thought to have been erected in early medieval times or even before as they denote the existence of an early Christian monastery. The cross has a weather worn image on it of a cross within a circle. 
Looking West over the boundary wall of the graveyard you can clearly see what are the remains of a Norman motte, an artificial mound upon which a Castle structure would have been placed.
There is quite a bit of history to see here in Newcastle and is well worth a visit. Also locally there is a Holy well dedicated to St Finian and I will return soon and post some photos of it.
To find St Finians head West on the N7 from Dublin and take exit 4 for Rathcoole. At the roundabout at the top of the it exit ramp take the second exit for the R120 and drive until you reach another roundabout. Turn right here crossing the bridge over the N7. Go straight through the roundabout on the other side and follow the R120 passing straight through four more roundabouts until you enter the main street in Newcastle. Drive through the village and at the other end just before some abandoned deroofed cottages on the right there is an area to park. There is a path through the trees here that leads to the gates of the graveyard. The gate looks locked but usually just has a chain tied around to keep the gate closed.  


                                          Above Image: The granite cross

                                  Above Image: Remains of the glebe house

                                 Above Image: well opposite the glebe house

                                    Above & Below Images: St Finian's well

As mentioned above a second visit here was on the cards and I managed to get the chance fairly quickly. The day was a much brighter one than previously so I took the opportunity to take a couple more photos of the Church and cross. I also found the remains of the glebe house adjacent to the Church which apparently is open to the public during the Summer. Opposite the glebe house a gated well is set into a stone wall. This is one of two in the village area but the other and more interesting one one is located nearby on the Lyons road and is known as St Finian's well and has been used as a source of healing for over a thousand years. To find this well just follow these directions. As you reach the end of the village where the Church ruins are located the road bends to the left. Just follow this road until you have passed the castle ruins on your left then take the next right hand turn.and the well is approx 150m down the road on your right. It's tucked away a bit but can be spotted easily enough. To park I would advise on the left hand side a little past the well as this can be a busy enough road and is narrow.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Askeaton Castle Co Limerick

Askeaton Castle was built by William De Burgo in 1199. It stands on a small island in the River Deel. During the Desmond rebellion in 1580 the walls were blown when news was heard of the of the fall of nearby Carrigafoyle Castle. It was finally dismantled as a viable fortress by Cromwellian forces in 1652. The shell remains today but there are fragments of a 13th century wall and a 15th century Banqueting hall. The castle stands by the bridge in Askeaton and is surrounded in this wonderful little heritage town by it's own Hellfire Club to the east and the nearby ruins of the Franciscan friary built in 1389. When we visited, the castle was closed to the public as some structural renovation was being conducted but we were regailed with all sorts of information by a very helpful lady in the tourist office by the bridge.
To reach Askeaton take the N69 from Limerick. Parking is readily available near the tourist office.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Kiltimon Castle Co Wicklow

                                     Above Image: One of the four bartizans

                                   Above Image: The walled garden enclosure

This picturesque castle with its decorative bartizans is located in a circular walled garden of Dunran Demesne on a back road South of Newtownmountkennedy.  It has long been the subject of speculation as to the authenticity of its age.
Originally Kiltimon Castle was a three storey Norman tower built circa 1550. It was later occupied by the O'Byrnes a powerful Irish clan prominent in Wicklow but was lost to them with their lands during the Cromwellian invasion in the 1600's. A print by Gabriel Beranger (1725-1817) from 1750 shows the castle in complete ruin. It is from here that the unsurety begins. In 1781 the Estate was owned by General Robert Gun Cunningham (1726-1801) who went about a large renovation of the house and lands and in doing so built this present castle as a garden folly. It was thought that this was at a different location to the original Kiltimon Castle but an investigation revealed that some inner sections were actually of medieval date so in fact he had the folly built up from the ruins of the original castle. It is somewhat ironic that the folly that is purporting to be a ruin is in fact a ruin that is now a fol!y! 
When I visited I had hoped to get closer but the large gates of Dunran remain squarely locked. I could see plainly over the wall a pathway leading from the drive leading down to the gate of the circular walled garden. The roadside wall is one of those distinct types devilishly built with pointed capstones designed to make access difficult, and I have to say it does its job well. I would hope to return again and see if access is allowed by the owners, in the meantime it is still worth a visit if in the area especially as it is in close proximity to both Newcastle Castle and Old Killadreenan Church (see earlier posts here & here )
To find the ruin head South on the M11 Dublin to Wexford motorway and exit at Junction 13 for Newcastle. The exit loops round to a small roundabout. Take the left hand exit signposted for the R772 to Newtownmountkennedy. Follow the road for approx 400m until you reach a T-Junction (you will pass the ruins of Killadreenan Church on your right). Turn left at the junction and drive for approx 1.4KM until you reach signs saying "No Through Road Local Access Only" with a small road slanting off to the right. Turn right onto the small road and drive for approx 850m until you see the castle jutting above the wall on your right. It is narrow along here but I managed to park a little down from the castle location. It's not a busy road so you should be okay for a short visit. 

Thursday, 9 February 2017

St. Catherine's Chapel and Mill Co Dublin

                                        Above Image: St Catherine's chapel

                            Above Image: Chapel viewed from the grassy mound

                                                 Above Image: Mill ruins

                                  Above & Below Images: Mill yard & stables

                                           Above Image: Gable of the mill

                    Above Image & Below 2 Images: The castellated lower yard gate

                                     Above Image: St Catherine's Well in 2011
                                     Below Image: The Well in 2017

The foundation of a monastery on these lands in 1219 by the priory of Canons of the order of St Victor and dedicated to St Catherine gives St Catherine’s park's name its origin. The monastery’s benefactors included Waris De Peche and Adam De Hereford chief Anglo-Normans in the area. After the dissolution of Abbeys in the 1530’s the priory land and house were leased by the crown and this remained the norm until they were bought by Robert Butler in 1795 who renovated the house and made many structural additions. The lands then passed to a relation through marriage named David La Touche a prominent Huguenot banker. He had not resided there long when the house was destroyed by fire and so a new house bearing the same name was constructed in 1798. This building remains today more modernised and now serving as a hotel called Leixlip Manor.
The lands have become a public park retaining the name of St Catherine and within are some remnants of the old estate. These include the castellated gate and wall of the lower yard in which there are the ruins of stables and a mill. These have been cordoned off and many dangerous building signs placed upon them. But there is apparently restoration work afoot and so on my last visit I was surprised to find the usually austere black security gate open and unattended. Of course I took the opportunity to have a stroll around the yards but it wasn’t possible to enter the large mill ruin. What was milled here I’ve yet to discover it may have been a flour, oil or even a sawmill but there is a small stream running adjacent which leads into the Liffey waters which may have served as a millrace. The stables seem full of debris from the house possibly the one that was burned or the derelict farmhouse adjacent to the mill. One item was the remains of a toy rocking horse. The mill and farm buildings all now abandoned combined with the castellated gate give an impression of the grandeur that the estate must have had in its day.
Very close to the stream on one of the pathways outside of the mill and stables is St Catherine’s well founded at the time of the priory and now maintained visited as a healing well. A short walk down from the well heading into the parkland are the ruins of a small chapel which some records state was built in the 18th century as a family chapel most likely when the additions were being made by Robert Butler. I believe that during the latter part of the 19th century it was used a school but that it fell into disuse and ruin after 1900. It too now lies fenced off with danger signs upon it but truthfully a little clearing out and restoration and it would be fine. The ruin lies at the bottom of a grassy hill which I believe is the location of the former priory that was destroyed.
It’s an interesting little quarter within the park and well worth a visit. The park is usually open until 5pm in winter and 9pm in summer. Two entrances from different directions are served by car parks. The one I took was the one leading in from Laraghcon just over the Liffey bridge from Lucan Village.
To find the ruins cross the Liffey Bridge heading Northwards out of Lucan Village. Follow the main road straight through two roundabouts and approx. 300m after the second roundabout there is an entrance left onto a lane. (It is signposted for St Catherine’s) Follow the lane which bends at one point to the right and then subsequently to the left. This leads you to the car park. Once out of the car follow the trail on the West end of the car park through a black barrier. Follow this road adjacent to some sports grounds until after a bend to the right there is a small left turn. Follow the left turn to the bottom past the locked security gate (through which you can see the former stables) and turn left. This gives you a proper view of the mill through another gate and also on this path to the right of the gate is the holy well. If you continue down this pathway to the junction at the end and turn left this will lead you directly to the ruined chapel.