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  &
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.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Old Kilteale Church Co Laois

                                             Above Image: Entrance gate

                                           Above Image: North facing wall

                    Above Image: Entrance door (Rock of Dunamase in the distance)

This very old ruin lies way off the beaten track on a by-road not too distant from the Rock of Dunamase (see earlier post It’s not too difficult to find once you get the directions but I certainly in the past would have unknowingly passed by it several times.
The ruins are situated in the centre of a walled graveyard and date to approx. the twelfth or thirteenth century. The ground within the graveyard is at a more elevated height than at the roadside. It is thought that there may be an association here with Saint Tiedil. I’ve yet to find a record of the history of this Saint anywhere so it would be interesting to know how there is an association.
 The Church would have been Roman Catholic until the reformation and it apparently changed hands along the way as it is recorded as being in use as a Protestant Church during the seventeenth century. When it fell into ruination is unclear but it is listed on the 1837-1842 OS map as being in ruins at that time.
Access is by way of a roadside gate onto maintained but uneven ground. What remains of the Church today is the East Gable with an arched doorway and window along with partial remains of the North and South walls. There is also a small window in the North wall. The West gable has completely disappeared altogether. The foundations measure approx. 42 feet by 26 feet making it a modest little Church but one noticeable thing is that it has been kept clear of the dreaded ivy. The grounds  also appear to be fairly well kept. From this vantage point looking Westward you can get a clear view of the Rock of Dunamase ruins sitting spectacularly in the near distance. It would be ideal to take in both sites in the one trip or if time allows a triple visit incorporating the nearby Ougheval Church in Stradbally (see earlier post )
To find the ruins head West on the M7 motorway and take the junction 16 exit for Portlaoise. At the top of the exit ramp there is a small roundabout. Take the second exit straight ahead for the L7830 for Ballycarroll. Drive down this country road until after approx 3KM you reach a T-Junction. Turn right and drive for approx 200m until you reach a small crossroads. Turn left here and continue for approx 700m and you will spot the ruin on your right. You can park alongside the boundary wall.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Rathcoole Standing Stone Co Dublin

                                Above Image: The Western aspect of the stone

                    Above Image: The ancient cross with the stone in the backround

                                        Above Image: Entrance gate to site

I had heard that there was a peculiar looking standing stone present in a Churchyard in Rathcoole so one early Autumn evening I went there and was lucky to find it in the first churchyard I encountered on entering the village. The location of the stone is in the Rathcoole Church of Ireland graveyard. There are a small number of parking spaces outside and an iron gate for entry. I was thinking that this gate was probably locked but was surprised to find it otherwise. Not being exactly sure at that moment what to expect and if I was even in the correct location I scoured the lawn behind the Church building and eventually found the stone on the East end of the graveyard. Now I believe there are a few of these types of standing stones sprinkled throughout the country but this is the first I’ve encountered. It is a rough looking stone unusually short at about 30 inches in height and 27 inches wide. It is standing at an angle leaning back Eastwards The stone most likely dates back to Celtic times or before and what is peculiar about it is that it has a perfectly smooth elliptical hole carved through it measuring 10 inches by 8 inches.
There are some legends attached to these Holed stones. One story is that in Celtic times prior to or during a marriage ceremony a couple would stand either side of the stone and link hands through the aperture which was at shoulder level. This was done to seal the relationship. Another tale is that on stones with a larger aperture children who had fallen ill with some malaise or other would be physically passed through the aperture and in many cases they quickly recovered health. This superstitious practice has continued to some degree to this day in a particular holed stone called the Tolven stone at St Constantine in Cornwall, England. Both of these types of practice it would seem would not relate to the Rathcoole Stone as the aperture is too small to pass through and not high enough for the linking of hands. So either this stone has another significance to it or that the top part had somehow detached from a taller stone leaving this smaller relic to mystify us today. Approx. 12 feet to the South East of this stone in the graveyard there is also an short but stocky ancient cross of unknown origin also leaning at an angle
To find the stone take the N7 heading West from Dublin to Naas and exit at Junction 4. At the roundabout at the top of the exit ramp take the 2nd exit straight ahead onto the R120 (you will pass Avoca Hand Weavers on your right. Drive to the next small roundabout and go straight through. Drive for approx. 200m and you will see the Church of Ireland behind a wall on your left. As mentioned there are 2 or 3 parking spaces at the entrance gate. Once inside the grounds head around the right hand side of the church and look for the stone in the back of the graveyard just beyond the East gable of the Church.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Newcastle Castle Co Wicklow

                  Above Image: The West & South walls with armorial crest remains
                                       above door

                                Above Image: View of the West wall and Motte

                             Above Image: Ruins as viewed from the Churchyard

I previously spotted this unusual ruin a while back while heading for the nearby ruins of Killadreenan Church (see earlier post). It was a late spring evening and light was failing when I had finished the Church visit so I made a note to return again to check out what looked to be a Castle. That revisit took place just after Christmas this year as we happened to be in the area. It was a mild and breezy day for December and quite cloudy but nonetheless we decided to take some time out to have a look.
The ruin is known locally as Newcastle Castle of which history records was built by Hugh De Lacy, Lord of Meath around 1172AD under the command of Henry II and became an important fortification of The Pale. Indeed it may have originated as a Motte & Bailey as the Motte-like mound that still exists today would attest. The Castle known as Newcastle Mackynegan fought off the attacking O'Toole and O'Byrne clans many times before eventually succumbing to defeat and finally destruction in the 16th century.
So in fact the ruins that we see today on the hill are a bit puzzling and certainly open to debate. Some say that this is not the original Castle but a fortified Elizabethan manor built on the site. An environmental protection agency report from 2007 lists it as a 17th century L-Plan gatehouse, but a lot of research has found that elements within far predate the Elizabethan era. Another suggestion is that this is in fact the original gatehouse of the Norman Castle that has been extensively re-modelled for domestic use and indeed the great barrel vault within like most barrel vaulted chambers tend to withstand the ravages of time. I myself lean towards the latter theory as it tends to fit to most of the evidence available. There is a plaque on the roadside wall stating Royal Oak Castle 1172 (another name it was known by because of its strong association with the English crown) and most older ordnance survey maps mention a Castle in ruins and not "the site of". Locals also tend to refer to the ruins of the "Castle" and not the "Manor" and while this could be just local terminology I think there's more here than meets the eye.
 As far as being an Elizabethan manor, there are remnants of some coats of arms above the doorway, a practice of the time among the gentry. I suspect that some remains of the gatehouse were greatly added to converting it to a domicile. However, who resided here and until when is still uncertain and much of the research I've done has not brought anything to light.
The ruin is highly visible from the roadside and reminds me somewhat of Puck's Castle in Co Dublin (see earlier post). The Motte and ruins appear to be on private land and a gateway and drive allows access to a different view of the ruins. There are no restrictive signs but the field gate is locked which generally speaks for itself. I would like to get a closer look here so I intend to return and find the land owner and ask permission to enter. If the ruins had been out in the wilds of the countryside I'd probably have been over the fence and gone, but in this case there is some ambiguity and also the sound of a nearby dog.(Man's best friend, scourge of the ruin hunter!)  Funnily enough during our visit nobody passed along the road that I could enquire further about access. I did spot a Glebe Warden locking the door of the Church opposite but he had disappeared before I reached the spot where he had been. Since the visit I've come across the land owners name so no problem then I'll just have to go back and besides I've recently heard of another Castle ruin quite close by that will add icing to the next visit.
To find the ruins head South on the N11 Dublin to Wexford Road and at Junction 13 exit for Newcastle. The exit reaches a small roundabout. Take the 2nd exit on the right again posted for Newcastle and drive for approx 1.2KM and you will spot the ruins on your left. You can park in the lane way opposite to the right of the Church.


I was passing this Castle about a month after my last visit so I thought I'd stop and take a few new photos as the day was much brighter. Incredible weather for mid-January. I got talking to a builder working in a small site opposite the Castle and he confirmed that it was set on private land but that he had taken a stroll up there one day on the sly and the Castle he said was pretty much waterlogged inside. I still intend to make another trip out and get up close. In the meantime the ruins seemed to have acquired a couple of new residents, two very docile white horses.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Old Rathfeigh Church & Motte Co Meath

                                 Above Image: Entrance gate & watch house

                       Above & Below Images: Evidence that there is actually ruins
                                                                beneath the overgrowth

                                       Above Image: Overgrown East gable

                                    Above Image: Hidden window in East gable

                                         Above Image: Sunken nave area

                         Above Image: Some onlookers from the adjacent meadow

                            Above Image & Below 2 Images: The Rathfeigh Motte

Out into Ireland's ancient East again and this time we found Rathfeigh Church or Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary which lies in a very bucolic setting situated down a country lane adjacent to a modern church. The ruins are positioned in the centre of a walled graveyard and are in a fairly overgrown state. The Church is believed to date to at least the thirteenth century as it is mentioned in the Church taxes of Pope Nicholas IV in the early 1300’s.  A simple nave and chancel design it is recorded as being in ruins as far back as 1641.
Today only a section of the West wall and parts of the chancel survive to some extent with the rest of the walls now at foundation level. The area of the nave itself has become rather sunken down and is rampant with overgrowth. Indeed the graveyard itself is in a rough state and seemingly not maintained, subsequently the ruins remain hidden under a blanket of overgrowth and are slowly being engulfed by nature. I had a devil of a time locating what was a window in one section of the East wall.  On the perimeter of the South wall of the graveyard and set partly into the graveyard is what looks to be to all intents and purposes to be a shed, but this is actually the remains of a watch house. I’ve come across these before for example the Cruagh watchtower in Dublin (see earlier post) These were watch posts that would be manned to ensure that the devilish art of body snatching would not take place. This watch house probably dates to the mid 1700’s and more than likely fell into disuse after the ghoulish practice ceased. A new door and roof have been added and today it is perhaps used to store tools for the modern church grounds.
At the entrance of the lane leading to the Church ruins is a large grassy mound visible beyond a field gate. This is in fact a large Norman motte upon which a bailey or wooden fortification would have stood. It is approx. 25 feet in height with its base diameter around 204 feet tapering to 105 at the summit. Although most of these mottes were built by manpower there is some speculation that because of its size it may originally been of ancient origin.
To find both the ruin and the motte take the N2 heading North from Ashbourne and drive for approx. 8.5km until you see a left hand turn signposted for the L1002 to Rathfeigh. Turn left here and drive for approx. 1.2km until you reach a fork in the road. Tale the left hand road at the fork (again signposted for Rathfeigh) and continue for approx. 400m where you will reach a T-Junction. Turn left  here and after a few metres take the first right hand turn. You will spot the motte on your left beyond a field gate and the ruins are approx. 100m along at the end of the lane. Ample room is available to park here.