Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Old Ballymagarvey Church & Cross Co Meath

                                            Above Image: Entrance gate

                                               Above Image: West gable

                                               Above Image: East gable

                                         Above Image: West face of cross

                                          Above Image: East face of cross

Here we find another Church ruin that is slowly being entirely covered in creeping ivy and really should be cleared as the graveyard around it is so well manicured. It’s almost as if it is being deliberately let go to ground.
The Church thought to date to the mid 1600’s is built on hallowed ground that far precedes its construction. Both gables still stand although as mentioned they are hidden by overgrowth. The North and South walls have almost completely collapsed and are also overgrown. A long narrow window most certainly exists in the East gable although it's hard to see it clearly at the moment.
This is a particularly pleasant part of the county and the Church is positioned on elevated ground above the River Nanny a small distance from Balrath crossroads. If maintained this would be a very striking ruin especially viewed from the main road. A new development Ballymagarvey Viillage is the access point and you find the graveyard enclosure just before the entrance to this. There is room to park outside the walls and a metal gate offers entry to the site. I walked around the ruins but found myself shaking my head at the condition of them. I realise that there are so many of these old churches around but I myself think that these historic remnants should be given room to breathe as they can illustrate the history of this land for future generations. (I'll step off the soapbox now!) 
Just inside the South enclosure wall a large stone cross is to be found. This is the sixteenth century Balrath Cross which was moved to this site during the widening of Balrath crossroads where it had stood as a wayside cross for hundreds of years. The cross is very detailed with a Pieta on its East face. There is also an inscription here stating it was "beautified" in 1727 by Sir John Aylmer and his wife Catherine. A crucifixion is carved on the West face and there are carvings of masks on the arms.
This is a very quiet and reflective spot which we visited after revisiting Athcarne Castle (see updated previous post)

To find the ruin and cross take the N2 heading North from the M50 motorway and drive until you reach a roundabout at Ashbourne. Turn left here continuing on the N2 Northbound for approx. 11KM. You will reach a left hand turn onto the R153 for Navan. Turn here and 200 metres along this road take the first left into Ballymagarvey Village. You will see the ruin on your right hand side and room to park at the enclosure wall.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Lord Meath's Lodge Co Wicklow

                               Above & Below Images: The beginning of the trail

                                      Above Image: View back towards Bray

                                       Above Image: Approach to the Lodge

                                      Above Image: Rock outcrop above ruins

                                    Above Image: Remains of Arched doorway

                                       Above image: Remains of a fireplace

                          Above & Below Images: Remains of steps to the estate

                            Above Image: View of ruins from above with Dalkey &
                                                  Howth in the backround

                             Above Image: The cliff walk beyond the lodge ruins

               Above Image & Below 4 images: Views of the railway from the cliff walk

                                     Above Image: Remains of Toll gate posts

I came across this interesting little ruin during some online research on the area. I had previously visited Bray Head to see the old ruin of Raheen a cluig Church (see earlier post) which is located at the start of the Bray to Greystones cliff walk. The walk which runs approx. 7km is a must to do as the panoramic sea and cliff views are not to be missed. Along this route you will find the ruin of Lord Meath’s Lodge.
The Lodge’s history is strongly associated with the construction of the rail line South from Bray by the Dublin Wicklow & Wexford Railway Co. which began in 1850 and opened in 1856. Originally an inland route was planned across the Glen of the Downs but an objection from Lord Meath of Kilruddery estate scuppered plans because he declared that the railway would divide his estate in two. So the difficult Bray Head section was the only alternative. It involved several bridges and tunnels which had to be bored through the rock and the great engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel was in involved in this. The cliff path was constructed during construction to allow equipment and construction workers to be facilitated. After the railway opened the public were allowed to use the cliff path but again Kilruddery estate intervened and Lord Meath the 11th Earl William Brabazon (1803-1887) deemed that the path crossed the estate land and so a lodge was built as a toll house and a gate installed across the pathway to which a toll of one penny was charged to anybody wanting to continue on to Greystones. It was manned by an individual whose sole task was to collect the tolls. This levy was active Saturday to Thursday only as on Fridays the gate was locked so that the Brabazon family could use the cliff path for their own leisure activities.
For easy access we parked the car in the Raheen car park from where you can see the aforementioned church ruin just above it and we then took the path to the left that starts the cliff walk. There is another path to the right up through the woods that leads to the summit of Bray Head. This can be quite strenuous a climb at times. The Cliff walk is a lot easier and it gets narrower at intervals huddling to the cliffs which are netted to avoid subsidence. It only took about 10 – 15 minutes to reach the lodge ruins. Along the way you peer down on the parallel running railway and the rocky sea inlets. The lodge is nestled below a less rocky part of the cliff although there is a single huge rock outcrop just above it.
The lodge was designed as a two story dormer style building and was built using redbrick and locally sourced stone. It had an arched doorway of which only a remnant of the arch remains. Within, the overgrowth is a bit wild but you can still get an idea of the overall shape of the place and there is also the remains of a fireplace. There is a gable that is still standing which may have been originally the Southern end but some further building continues beyond it covering a set of stone steps that lead up to, well…nowhere! Originally they led to the Kilruddery estate but now they just end in scrub land. There are great views though from the top of the steps of the surrounds and the ruins below. When the tolling ceased here I have still to discover but the lodge has been in ruin a long time.
A short walk past the lodge some of the rail tunnels can be viewed. One the original tunnel mouths which led to a timber trestle bridge can still be seen but an accident which killed 2 people and injured 23 in 1867 put paid to the tunnel/bridge system and tunnels were later constructed further in on the cliffs. Also on this walk on an inlet just prior to the Lodge is a point called the Brandy Hole which contained a huge cave which was used by smugglers bringing contraband in from France and it is thought that a there was a tunnel leading from the cave inland. The cave was destroyed during the rail construction.
I found this a very interesting visit and the walk continues all the way to Greystones where rather than trailing the 7km walk back to Bray you can simply hop on the train for the short return journey. Bearing this in mind if you are planning on returning by rail it would be better if coming to Bray by car to park along the esplanade which is nearer the Bray rail station than the Raheen car park. It’s not a long walk to the cliffs.
To find the Raheen car park take the junction 5 exit of the M11 and at the small roundabout turn onto the R761 which leads directly onto the main street in Bray. Continue along the main street until you reach the old town hall building which now houses a McDonalds. Keep to the left of the hall and continue for approx. 850m until you see a left hand turn onto Putland Road (There is a large cross at the corner of the turn) Turn left onto Putland Road and continue until you reach the second of two crossroads and turn right here onto Edwards Road. Continue on through the next crossroads onto Raheen Park. Halfway down the road veers right but a lane way continues straight on. Take this lane way as it leads directly to the car park.

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.