Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Ballyteague Castle Co Kildare

                                      Above Image: South-West facing aspect

                                     Above Image: South-East facing aspect

                         Above Image: Huband Bridge with Castle in the backround

                           Above Image: The canal facing South from the bridge

Locating this Castle was a joy as it is in such a picturesque location alongside a section of the Grand Canal deep in the heart of County Kildare. I was surprised however on researching it later that it is not quite what I thought it to be.
There are records of a Fitzgerald Castle located at Ballyteague of which it is said that one of the
more famous members of that family, Silken Thomas the 10th Earl of Kildare, took refuge in the Castle in 1535 following the nearby Battle of Allen.  Later in 1650 the Castle was badly damaged by cannon fire by invading Cromwellian forces. There was talk of some repair but from what I can gather the sturdy tower house that stands today is not the original Castle but in fact an archaeologically sound reproduction of a Norman tower house constructed by Sir Gerald George Aylmer in 1860 as a folly. Aylmer’s family had inherited the lands at Ballyteague from the Fitzgeralds in 1662. By the early 19th century the Aylmers were almost bankrupt but Sir Gerald George went about a plan of squaring the family finances and indeed subsequently did so and contributed a great deal of good work to the locality including a new road from Prosperous to his newly reconstructed Donadea Castle (see earlier post,) a drainage scheme of the slate river and the partial construction of Kilmeague Village. At this time Aylmer had dabbled in folly’s creating the prominent tower on the Hill of Allen called Aylmer’s Folly (see earlier post). The castle at Ballyteague was designed as a genuine looking three storey Norman style Castle that was pleasing to the eye in a bucolic setting. It is thought that some of the original stone of the earlier medieval tower house may have been incorporated into the building of this folly. The tower was owned by the Thornton family in the early part of the last century and eventually came into the hands of Tom Hendy a well thought of and noted historian who collected and kept many local historical artefacts within the castle. Tom unfortunately died in 2010. This is all the information I could garner on the castle but interestingly enough a well renowned author of some Irish based books called Anita Hendy lives near the castle and indeed one of her Books “The Castle Book” is apparently inspired by Ballyteague. I wonder is Anita a relative of Tom Hendy?
When I visited Ballyteague I expected a ruin and it could very well have been as I had no previous knowledge of it at that point and there is only limited access through a gate in a little grass enclosure on one side. There are some nearby houses but I didn’t think at the time that there to ask if there was any access to the tower and I didn’t want to intrude too much. I wonder if the historical collection is still housed there and if any access is permitted? Maybe someone out there can shed some light.
The Castle is located next to Huband Bridge on the canal and really is worth a trip to see. It’s so peaceful there and though not technically a ruin it may contain parts of the original Fitzgerald Castle now gone in the sands of time.
To find Ballyteague Castle take the R403 heading West from Prosperous until you reach Allenwood. As you enter the village there is a left turn just after the Esso Service Station with a sign pointing to Newbridge. Turn left down this road (R415) and drive for approx 1.5KM until you have crossed two hump back stone bridges. A short distance after the second bridge you reach a third one. Cross over and turn right on the other side and follow the narrow road parallel to the canal. Drive for approx.1.5Km and you will spot the Castle on the far side of the canal. Just before you reach Huband Bridge which leads to the Castle there is a field gate and enough room to pull over. Simply cross the bridge on foot and there is a small metal gate in the wall in front of the Castle 

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Grange Castle Co Dublin

                                       Above Image: The surrounding fence

                       Above Image: East wall displaying chimney and evidence of
                                            once attached building

                                            Above Image: South aspect

                              Above Image: Close up of garderobe on South wall

                                            Above Image: Northern aspect

Firstly thanks to Kevin Andrew for putting me in the right direction for this.
Grange Castle is a three storey late medieval tower house that was constructed in approx.1580. The Castle was remodelled around 1750 when a two bay two storey addition was made to its western aspect. Features include a vaulted basement, a tall slim projecting square tower and a garderobe on its Southern side. An antiquarian drawing by Gabriel Beranger from 1773 depicts the tower with crenellations and the new hall attached It also displays some ancillary buildings which have since been demolished  Evidence of a ditch which had a stone causeway over it was discovered in excavations in 1997. A long approach lane once ran from the Castle from its Northern side towards the Grand Canal where there was a gatehouse. In its time it appeared to be quite isolated and this is clearly evident on early ordnance survey maps. Who constructed and resided in the Castle I have still to discover but apparently the site was occupied in some manner until the 1970’s. The development of one of the world’s largest bio-pharmaceutical business parks swallowed up Grange Castle and this park is now about 60% occupied with continuing construction taking place. For years I assumed Grange had been demolished until Kevin posted on the blog mentioning that he had passed it in a car one day. It didn’t take me long to find its location and I made tracks there within a few days.
I visited on the August bank holiday Monday and of course all of the businesses on the park were closed. Nice and quiet then. As there is a through road for traffic there was no problem entering the park but it is a bit labyrinthine and took a few doubling backs on the many internal roundabouts to finally spot the ruins on a large grassy area set back from the road. I parked nearby as there were no restricting signs although security vans were whizzing around at intervals being the day that it was and I’d imagine it would not have been such a good spot to park on a busy weekday. I proceeded after parking to cross the expanse on foot towards the ruin. The ruin has been surrounded by a tall metal fence with a heavily padlocked gate and many warning signs, but you can see all aspects of the Castle by walking around the perimeter. The overgrowth on the West side is a bit rough and I got covered in stickles but otherwise it was fine. The garderobe (or toilet) chute is still intact on the South wall but all of the windows in the Castle have been blocked up with some adjoining parts on the East of the building now missing exposing partial evidence of a chimney. Overall it remains a scarred and rather grim edifice reminding me a little of Athcarne Castle in Co. Meath (see earlier post). The grounds around here are also apparently a haven for bats which are a protected species. I’d imagine at night and coupled with this gaunt ruin the atmosphere must be very eerie. I managed to traverse the whole perimeter hoping in vain for a breach so I could get a bit closer but it was not to be. The secrets of Grange Castle remain firmly locked up to the visitor with maybe the only successful intruder being the occasional bat.
To find the ruin head West on the New Nangor Road (R134) and following the major junction with the R136 you will come to a small roundabout.  Take the right hand exit into Grange Castle Business Park and drive until you reach a roundabout with the company Pfizer on your right. Go straight through the roundabout and you will spot the ruin in the near distance on your left. Try to find a safe place to park which would be too hard if it is not during working hours. There is a small left hand turn lane on the opposite side of the road just before the next roundabout. You could spin around the roundabout at park in there. It’s only a short walk across the grass to the ruin.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Brownshill Dolmen Co Carlow

                                    Above Image: Entrance to lane in corner

                                  Above Image: A section of the entrance lane

                                           Above Image: Portal entrance

                              Above & Below Images: Views of the chamber area

                                     Above Image: The enormous capstone

This massive remnant of the early Neolithic age has to be seen to be believed. The Brownshill Dolmen derives its name from the hill on which it stands in the former estate of the Browns on which it is located. It is also known as the Kernanstown Cromlech. Actually in fact it is the remains of a portal tomb and it has two large orthostats at the entrance to the chamber to attest to this. It is most likely to have been constructed by early settlers sometime between 4000BC and 3000BC
The huge Dolmen can be seen from the roadside and is accessed by way of a long narrow lane that leads you directly to the site. The massive capstone weighing well in excess of 100 tonnes and thought to be one of if not the largest of its kind in Europe is just awesome. It slopes downward from the entrance where it rests on some boulders at the rear. How it was placed must have taken a lot of effort on the part of man and animal to achieve the goal. Once constructed this now massive structure would have been buried under an earthen mound with just the entrance showing and a large boulder placed in front. The large entrance stone is still to be seen today. We were visiting Carlow Castle (see earlier post) and decided to make a diversion to take in this impressive site so it is well worth your time if in the area to take time to pay a visit.
To find the Dolmen take the M9 motorway to Waterford and exit at junction 5 for the N80 to Carlow. At the top of the ramp turn right on the roundabout and cross the bridge over the motorway. Go straight through the next roundabout on the other side and follow the N80 for approx. 3KM until you reach yet another roundabout. Turn left at this roundabout and a few yards later take a turn right onto Link road. (There’s a building at the junction with an odd wooden door not unlike a Hobbit door!). Follow this road through a crossroads and you will reach a T-Junction. Turn right at the junction onto the R726 (Hackettstown Rd). Continue along this road for approx. 1KM and you will pass a line of car dealerships on your left. Immediately past these on the right is a parking area. The lane way leading to the Dolmen is in the South corner of this rectangular area.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Ashtown Castle Co Dublin

                                    Above Image: Approach from the car park

                                             Above Image: Entrance door

                                  Above & Below 2 Images: Interior ground floor

                                         Above & Below Images: First floor

                                              Above Image: Second Floor

                        Above Image & Below Images: Third floor roofing & gallery

                                       Above Image: Part of the spiral stair

                             Above Image: North facing wall with old lodge layout
                                                    in foreground (hedges)

Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes this Tower House appeared out of the ruins of Ashtown Lodge in the Phoenix Park. While technically not a ruin as is the normal brief of this blog, it did need restoration and is a fine example of what might be one of the £10 Castles which I have covered numerous times including such examples as Lanestown and Newcastle Lyons Castles in Co Dublin and Fraine and Donore Castles in Co Meath and so I think Ashtown certainly deserves a look.
This Castle emerged from the dismantling of Ashtown Lodge. The Lodge was constructed in the 1770’s and incorporated the existing Tower House into the new building. In 1782 it became the residence of the Under Secretary for Ireland. Then in the 20th century the lodge finally became the residence of the Papal Nuncio and remained so until 1978. The discovery of substantial dry rot rendered the building from being further habitable and so it was decided to demolish it and in doing so the Tower House was discovered underneath one section of the building when the exterior plaster was being removed. It is not clear why its existence had been forgotten but now having been found it became the focal point for a restoration that began in earnest in 1989.
The date of construction of the castle is a little unclear but it is thought to fit the specifications of the aforementioned £10 Castles sanctioned by Henry VI in 1429 to aid in defending the Pale. It was certainly in use in the 1600’s recorded as belonging then to one John Connell and it was apparently surrounded by a great deal of working farmland.
When we visited I was most impressed by the Tower and the area around it. There are hedgerows at the base of the Castle which look to all intents and purposes like a maze but are much too low for this and are in fact a layout reflecting the original foundations of Ashtown Lodge which gives you an idea of how the Castle had been incorporated. On reaching the Castle door I was disappointed to find that it was locked up. This was remedied very quickly when I enquired at the visitor centre and was offered a free tour. A very pleasant and knowledgeable lady called Bernie took us through the four floors of the building relating the history as we went along. It was interesting after visiting so many wonderful ruins of these type of Castles to get an insight just how they might have looked in their time.
Some alterations had been made to the original castle in the restoration. Some Georgian style windows were installed and new wooden floors and roof. The spiral stone staircase which has trip steps to confuse any unwanted invaders dates to late medieval period and may have replaced an earlier wooden one. It’s a narrow staircase but easy enough to navigate.
Both the first floor and second floor contain fireplaces, the second floor being the actual living apartment while the top floor was a garret or attic which has now been turned into a gallery of sorts. I must say the rooms were well lit by the windows and the whitewashed inner walls also contributed to this. I always thought that the whitewashing was a modern touch but It was explained that in those times lime was used to cover the inner walls as an extra sealant and kill any unwanted bacteria so the modern whitewashing is used simply to reflect this. A lot of Castles were also painted on the exterior. The actor Jeremy irons who bought a Castle in Co Cork controversially painted it pink which led to some local objection but in fact this was one of the colours that would have been originally used. Pink in those days was seen as a strong masculine colour while the softer blue was attributed to femininity. There are wall walks on top of the Castle which were originally crenellated but the crenellations were removed in the restoration. Access to the wall walks is by way of the garret level. This is a terrific tour and I would highly recommend a visit especially if you have visited the great ruins of other towers and want further insight. Opening hours for the site are May-October Daily 10am-17.45pm and November to April Weds-Sun 9.30am-17.30pm. Tour is free of charge. There is also a nice Café and a Victorian walled garden on site.

To find Ashtown Castle enter the Phoenix Park onto Chesterfield Avenue and when you have reached the Phoenix monument roundabout at the centre of the park turn onto North Road adjacent to Aras an Uachtarain. There is almost immediately a turn left signposted for the visitor centre. Follow this road up and there is a car park at the top.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Glasmore Abbey Co Dublin

                                     Above Image: Windows in West wall

                                                 Above Image: Doorway

                                          Above Image: East facing aspect

Glasmore Abbey is believed to have been founded in the seventh century by St Cronan Mochua. It thrived under his tenure so much so that it unfortunately drew undue attention from Danish invaders stationed in Malahide, a position they held from where they executed raids and plundering on various Abbeys and Monasteries. Glasmore was attacked and destroyed only a few decades after its construction and its entire community ruthlessly slaughtered.
What is known today as Glasmore Abbey on actual viewing seems quite small for a possible Abbey and indeed Fingal county Council have reported that historically according to the Martyrology of Oengus and the well renowned Annals, the Abbey was positioned South of Swords and not North as this structure is, so this of course is leading to some confusion and doubt. The nearby St Cronan’s well may have given the ruin association with the Saint but its true origin remains a bit of a mystery. It is believed judging by the stonework to be dated to the late medieval period which would certainly discount its authenticity as the Abbey. It measures roughly 30 feet by 30 feet in size and is located on a green area in a large modern housing development called Cianlea on the fringes of Swords in County Dublin. The ruins have been surrounded by a fence for protection as in July 2000 they were deemed dangerous by a council inspector and the developer of the new housing estate agreed to clear off the ivy and reinforce the walls where necessary so that development of the estate could go ahead. Even with its surrounding fence it is still possible to see all aspects of the ruin clearly. There are windows in all of the walls and a doorway on the Northern side but the ruins show a structure of an unusual design not looking particularly ecclesiastical and also as pointed out by the council not containing evidence of a chimney that would indicate that it might have been some form of dwelling.
So what is it? For certain it is listed on the 1837 ordnance survey map as Glasmore Abbey (In Ruins) so it has been called that for nearly 200 years or more. But other than that there appears to be no other information that would lend credence to it being the actual Abbey. In the past any excavations have not revealed what remains to be part of a larger structure so it is what it is. From the information I can garner we are still left with a doubt and a continuing mystery. However in any case it is an unusual little ruin and worth a look if you happen to be in the area.

To find the ruin take the R132 Northwards from the roundabout at Dublin Airport and at the second roundabout thereafter (Pinnock Hill Roundabout) turn left for Swords. Drive until you pass a pub with a thatched roof called The Lord Mayor’s and take the next left hand turn onto Church Road. At the top of the road at the large Church take a left hand turn onto Brackenstown Road.  Drive on until you reach the sixth right hand turn which is St Cronan’s Avenue. Turn right onto the Avenue and continue until you reach the third left hand turn into an estate called Lioscian. Follow the road in around a left bend and turn right at the T-junction. A few yards later turn right at the next T-junction. You will see green area ahead at which you can park alongside. The ruins are in the green area.