Tuesday 31 October 2023

Ballycarbery Castle Co Kerry


                                           Above Image: Approach road to castle

                                                 Above Image: North East tower

                            Above Image: Castle with car parking area in foreground

This impressive castle was constructed during the 16th century on the site of an earlier 13th century structure. It commands a view over the estuary near Cahersiveen.

The castle was thought to be a residence of the McCarthy Mors who were successful traders and the position of this residence to the estuary was intended for more commercial than strategic reasons. It was later acquired by Sir Valentine Browne, a landowner, who lived in Ross Castle near Killarney. In 1652 during the confederate wars Ballycarbery was under siege by parliamentary forces and suffered damage from heavy cannon fire. In the years following it fell into ruin. Today the high wall that surrounded the castle has been diminished by sixty percent and the entire rear of the castle is now non-extant.

Only one chamber remains vaulted and it is located in the North East tower . It contains an awkward stairs leading to the remains of the first floor with another damaged stair on on the exterior. .Up to a few years ago accessibilty to the ruins was possible but of late the landowner has posted several prohibitive signs denying access probably due to the crumbling stonework but also more likely for insurance reasons as people would be apt to climb the stairs. It was therefore a little disappointing on our visit to discover this situation. I'd imagine there is probably still some trespassing done but any movement around the ruins is highly visible. That aside it is still an easy drive to the site and it's in a scenic spot .There is a rudimentary and very sandy car park right in front of the old field entrance and you can also take a walk down to the strand for an alternate view. While there we met an Australian lad who was very interested in this blog and for whom I have to thank for promoting it down under!

To find the ruins take the turn in Cahersiveen town onto Bridge Street (at the architecturally pleasing community resource centre) Once across the estuary bridge drive for approx. 600m until you reach a small crossroads. Turn left at the crossroads and drive approx. 1.4KM until you see a left hand turn signposted for the castle. Drive to the bottom of this lane until you reach the small car park.

Saturday 30 September 2023

Old Kilmore Church Valentia Island Co Kerry


Above Image: Iron railing denotes former nave
                                          Above Image: View up the tower interior

                                             Above Image: The arched doorway

In the far Southwest of Ireland on the Skellig coast lies the Island of Valentia, a small but un-spoilt corner of the country. The Island not unlike Achill in County Mayo is very close to the mainland and is reached either by bridge or a short five minute journey on a car ferry.
It was on Valentia that we found the rather lonely looking tower of old Kilmore church which served its community for a short period in the 19th century.
It was built during the time of the Board of First Fruits, an institution of the Church of Ireland designed through grants to fund the founding of and improvement of its churches in Ireland.
Kilmore was completed in 1815. It was designed by James Pain and purposed to hold up to sixty people. Years later it became too small to accommodate the growing congregation and so a newer larger church dedicated to St. John the Baptist was constructed in 1860 within the island's singular village, Knightstown.
The old church fell into rack and ruin by the turn of the century after decades of dereliction until finally later in the 2oth century, the nave was completely demolished leaving only the tower as a sentinel to the graveyard it inhabits. An iron railing maps the outline of the now demolished nave.
The ruin is located just off a narrow road the leads from Knightstown towards the lighthouse at Cromwell Point. A small iron pedestrian gate gives access from the roadside and the tower stands on elevated ground within. It stretches three stages in height and is silhouetted against Kilbeg mountain in  the backround. We found the remains of an arched doorway in the South facing wall and within you can see right up through the tower to the now open top. The summit of the tower has a castellated design.
It's a lonely spot in a bucolic setting and the wind seems to swirl in circles around the tower adding to the feeling of solitude that exudes from the place.
To find the ruin, leave from the pier at Knightstown turning left at the Royal Hotel and then driving approx. 250m until you reach a fork in the road at the newer church gate. Take the right hand fork (which is School Road) and drive approx. 1KM and you will see the tower on your left. You can park off road at the gate. Alternatively if you are crossing the bridge from Portmagee take the R565 and drive until you reach the said church gate in Knightstown, then follow the previous directions down School Road towards the tower.

Sunday 13 August 2023

Dungarvan Old Church Co Kilkenny


                           Above Image: The South facing walls of nave and tower

                                Above Image: The North facing wall and East gable

                                        Above Image: A view up the tower interior

I spotted this looming ruin while passing through the small village of Dungarvan in Co Kilkenny. 

This tall Church of Ireland church was constructed in 1812 as part of the ambitious first fruits initiative which established a swell of new churches with quite a few of them today lying in ruin. This particular one lasted about 90 years of service before it fell into disuse in the early 20th century. The church is single-celled with a tall four stage tower on the West side. It sits on the site of an earlier medieval church which had a bellcote and while no trace of that church remains there are however some ancient grave markers from the time scattered throughout the site. Most of the windows of the tower are now  blocked up including those on the the original level which contained the bell. On the main building there is a large arched window in the East gable and two further windows on the South wall only. The doorway is in the north wall of the tower and while no access is possible to the nave you can see right up through the interior of the tower. The tower itself is architecturally interesting in the way that each level is slightly smaller giving the tower an impression of more height.

The ruin lies in a walled graveyard behind the modern church in Dungarvan village which lies on the R448 between Thomastown and Gowran. You can park in front of the new church and take the gate here in toward the ruin at the rear.

GPS  52° 35′ 11.62″ N, 7° 05′ 39.77″ W

Thursday 6 July 2023

The Cuchulainn Stone Clochafarmore Co Louth


                                             Above Image: The roadside stile

                                   Above Image: Looking back towards the roadside

                                                  Above Image: The inscription

                              Above Image: Roadside wooden effigy on the junction of
                                                     the L3167 and N52

In a rural farm field near Knockbridge County Louth there stands a solitary stone monolith which is not unlike others of its ilk scattered around the country but is in fact one of the more important features associated with Irish myth and legend. For it is here that the great warrior Cuchulainn met his fate and spent his last days in this world.

The large standing stone dates back to the Bronze age and reaches a height of three metres above ground with a width of approx 1.3 metres at it's widest point. There is a name and date inscribed on its side stating "Jim McKenna 1912". This is perhaps the landowner who discovered and restored it upright.

The stone is also known as the Clochafarmore stone (taken from the Gaelic Cloch an Fhir Mhóir meaning Stone of the big man). To add even more history to it the stone is erected in a meadow known as "The field of slaughter". Some ancient arrowheads were found here in the past giving possible credence to it being a battle site and a bloody one for that matter if its name is anything to go by.

Cuchulainn's association with this stone comes from the legend that he met his doom in this field instigated by warriors sent by Queen Maeve of Connacht to kill him.  It was Cuchulainn's vow as a warrior, a vow known as his "Geis" (pronounced gash) never to eat Dog meat or to refuse hospitality. When an old crone (who may have been in the pay of Maeve) had sheltered him and served him dogmeat to eat he could not refuse her hospitality even though breaking his Geis meant he would lose strength. The ensuing battle with Maeve's warriors was long and bloody with Cuchulainn holding fast against them until weakness came upon him. So he strapped himself to a standing stone in the field in order to stay upright and battle them off. Eventually, fatally injured and not appearing to be moving his enemies waited fearing any approach until after 3 days had passed the Morrigan (the pagan goddess of war, witchcraft and death) in the guise of a raven landed on Cuchulainn's shoulder thus signifying the great warrior had indeed passed. This particular moment is captured by a bronze statue sculpted by Oliver Sheppard in 1935 and now permenantly on display at the General Post Office in Dublin.

Access to this stone is by way of a roadside stile which is signposted by the OPW. When we visited it was in April and the meadow was easy to cross. This is farm land so we have to respect the land owners property and not trample anywhere we shouldn't. There is usually a trodden track left by previous visitors that leads you directly to the stone which lies approx 200m from the roadside. The monument itself  to me at least gives off a strange vibe and commands your attention. I experienced this particular "vibe" before when visiting the battlefield at Culloden near Inverness in Scotland. I suspect places such as these are soaked in the events of the past and register a kind of aura to those who walk within their boundaries. 

To find the stone take the M1 motorway heading north and exit at junction 16 onto the N52 for Ardee. Drive for approx 2.5KM until you see a right hand turn onto the L3167. Continue on this road past Stephenstown Pond until you reach a crossroads with the R171 in the centre of Knockbridge Village. Turn right at the crossroads and drive approx 1.2KM until you see the Evan Henry Electrical Engineers premises on your left. You can park here at the fence away from the gate and the stile to the field is directly opposite across the road.

GPS Coordinates: 53°58′28″N 6°27′57″W / 53.974505°N 6.465919°W

Wednesday 31 May 2023

St. Munna's Church Kilmoon Co Meath


                                       Above Image: The entrance gate and stile

                                   Above Image: Remains of the doorway and porch

                                       Above Image: Parts of a window surround

                                      Above Image: Some of the table top tombs

Ireland is littered with partial remains of medieval churches, abbeys and castles but it is unusual to come across what appears to be a part of an ancient ruin that in fact only dates back to the 19th century.

A church in Kilmoon had been mentioned in the ecclesiastical taxations of 1302-1306 but there are no extant remains of this structure as it fell into complete ruin in the mid 17th century. A monastery was also thought to have been in this area possibly founded by St. Moen whose name may have morphed into St. Munna after which the remains here today are named. 

The present ruins are the remains of the Western doorway and porch and some of the West wall of a Church of Ireland church built in 1816 as part of the Board of First Fruits initiative and costing approx. £500. A further £100 + was recorded as being granted for repairs around 1837.  The ordnance survey 25" map (1881-1913) records St. Munna's as a church in use during that period. When the church was demolished is unclear and why the remains of the doorway were left is a mystery. I  have scoured the Anglican records online but as yet have not turned up any answer.

The graveyard in which the ruin stands is buried (pardon the pun) down a narrow lane behind The Snailbox Pub & Restaurant just off the N2 to Slane. It is accessed by a set of gates or over a stone stile in the surrounding wall and is well maintained as it is still in use. Some of the older graves are table top tombs.

While we wandered around the structure we found a couple of pieces from a window surround which have been placed beside the arch. The existence of a more ancient graveyard possibly dating back to 500AD came to light a few years back when two skulls were discovered by workers digging near The Snailbox. The skulls were examined by the state pathologist who determined their age.

The ruin while not extensive is worth stopping to view especially as it is in an area that is near to so many different historical spots. 

To find the ruin take the N2 heading North toward Slane driving approx 5KM from the roundabout coming off the M2. Take a left hand turn onto the L5007 just before the sign advertising The Snailbox. Drive to the end of this narrow lane until you reach a T-junction. Turn left and about 50m on turn right following the lane past the pub on your right. A few metres on you will see the word "stop" painted on the road. Turn left here down an even narrower lane which leads directly to the gate of the graveyard. You can park on the grassy area at the gate.


53°34'10.8"N 6°27'30.6"W

53.569662, -6.458486

Friday 28 April 2023

Moygaddy Castle Co Meath


                                                 Above image: Roadside gate.

                                              Above Image: Castle entrance door

                                       Above Image: Spiral stair in North East corner

                                            Above Image: First storey doorway

                             Above Image; Alcoves on ground floor West wall interior

                                  Above Image: Vaulted ceiling above second floor

                                        Above Image: View from interior outwards

                                                     Above Image: Outer West 

                               Above Image: Outer East wall and attached remains
                          Above Image: View of nearby bridge from North face of castle

                                                Above Image: North facing wall

This is a real little gem of a tower house nestled, at least for the moment, in a bucolic setting in South County Meath. An ongoing housing development nearby will somewhat swallow it up at some future date leaving it as a centrepiece to some modern surrounds rather than the meadow it currently resides in.

The castle tower appears to be similar to the Ten Pound castles commissioned by the crown in the 15th century to aide on fortifying the borders of the pale.

It was mentioned as being in the possession of Sir George Wentworth in the 1640's. He also owned lands at Moyglare where we found another castle ruin (see earlier post here). In 1892 the remains of this tower were conserved by the owner of the Carton Estate which lies adjacent over the county border in Kildare, The owner, the fifth Duke of Leinster, also modernized the parapet where another floor once stood. Only for his intervention it would have collapsed into complete ruin. The tower now stands with three storeys and from the road is partially sheltered from sight by a large tree especially I would say when it is fully leaved. I was surprised at the tower's actual height upon getting up close to it.

As mentioned it lies in a meadow close to a secondary but busy enough road and it was too narrow to park at the field gate and access by the stile in the wall. Upon finding the field gate unlocked and no movement either human or bovine in the field we just opened the gate and drove down the grass to the tower. We did of course close the gate behind.

The tower stands on a slight rise within the field and adjacent to the Blackhall Little Stream which runs under a nicely built stone bridge nearby. This stream is a tributary of the Rye Water.

The original doorway of this tower was placed in the Northwest wall but was bricked up over time. The only doorway now is in the Southeast wall and on approach appears gated. So it was with some surprise that I found it unchained and easily opened. The ground floor within contains a small chamber with a couple of wall alcoves and a narrow spiral stair in the Northeast corner. A barrel vaulted ceiling is exposed above what would have been the first floor. There is a small garderobe area and then the second floor. All in all it is still in reasonable condition thanks to the conservation work. A partial wall extending from East wall appears to be buttressing of some kind rather than the remains of an attached building.

This was a nice find and I hope that the ongoing development in the area will leave the tower away from the housing so that it can be protected further down the line.

To find the ruins take the junction 7 exit from the M4 motorway and take the R406 towards Maynooth. Once you have reached the T-junction in the village with the R148 turn right following the sign for Carton House. Continue on this road out of the village and straight through the next roundabout driving approx 550m until you see a left hand turn onto the R157 to Dunboyne. Turn onto this road and drive approx 800m to the roundabout. Drive straight through and continue approx 400m until you reach a left turn onto the L22143. The ruins are in a field approx 400m down this road on your left. Parking here is not easy so either park if you can as we did or find a safe spot nearby and walk back.


53°23'40.3"N 6°34'50.0"W

53.394529, -6.580562

Friday 24 March 2023

Cromogue Church & St. Fintan's Well Co Laois


                                    Above Image: Steps up to ruins from entrance

                                         Above Image: Remains of the bell tower

                                                Above Image: Entrance to nave

                                      Above Image: Detail of entrance door arch

                                               Above Image: East gable interior

                                     Above Image: Entrance in Southern facing wall

                          Above Image & Image Below; West gable & remains of tower

                                Above Image: Remains of Southwest corner of tower

                                             Above Image: Entrance gate to well

                                                 Above Image: St. Fintan's well

The remains of church of St. Fintan can be found amongst a labyrinthine series of narrow country lanes that lie between Mountrath and Abbeyleix.

The ruins mostly date to the 12th century but have been embellished further by the addition of a bell tower during the late medieval period. St. Fintan had established a monastery in Clonenagh (see earlier post here) around 548AD and is quite revered in this part of the country.

The church roughly measures 14m x 8m with a divided nave with the said bell tower built at its Western gable. It is positioned upon elevated ground within an enclosed is graveyard that has decipherable stones dating as far back as 1737. These graves are all located on the South, East and West sides, the Northern side traditionally left as unconsecrated ground. Some internments were later made within the walls of the nave. Its period of use is unclear but it is safe to say it fell foul of the suppression in the 16th century and is definitely classed as ruinous on the 1837-1841 ordnance survey map.

After a drive down some winding country lanes we finally encountered the ruins and managed to park a little precariously outside the gates of the graveyard enclosure. Access is via an iron gate in the South wall. A small flight of stone steps in the embankment within brings you level with the ruins.    

The remains of the bell tower appear split in two leaving a gap where the South and West walls of the tower once stood. In between this gap, which leaves a tall independent shard (the corner remains of the South-West corner of the tower), is the entrance to the nave positioned on your right hand side. This at one time would have led directly into the tower from the nave but is now left open to the outside. 

Within, the ground is rough and contains a few graves. The walls are bare and featureless with a little ivy encroaching here and there. There is a window in the East gable and what appears to have been the main entrance in the Southern facing wall with a few steps leading into the church from this doorway.

There is an old tale that a clan named Phelan incurred the displeasure of St. Fintan in some manner or other. It must have been fairly serious as he laid a curse upon them warning that any male members of the family would suffer either blindness or lameness before the age of thirty and that all would turn as grey as badgers within the same period. Later he regretted the curse and imposed upon himself  a practice that on every Christmas eve he would say an outdoor midnight mass even in fiercely inclement weather for the souls of the deceased Phelans.

As in most cases on our visit we encountered no other visitors and so when we had finished our tour we headed a short distance Southwest to view the holy well dedicated to St. Fintan. This is a very nicely adorned and very ancient well nestled in a small landscaped close shaded by a huge tree. As at most Irish wells there are mementos hanging which have been left by visitors as rememberences of loved ones and as prayers for their souls. Stones from the well are said to have healing powers and there is a definite strong local belief in this.

As mentioned this ruin is a little off the beaten path so follow these directions.Take the junction 18 exit from the M7 motorway and at the roundabout on top of the exit ramp take the R445 signposted for Castletown. Drive for approx 3KM then take a left turn onto the L26943. Continue on this road for approx 4.2KM until you reach a T-junction. Turn right and continue for approx 1.5KM until you reach a crossroads with a large church opposite. Turn left here which is the L5675 and drive approx 1KM until you reach a crossroads with the R430. Turn left here following the sign for Abbeyleix for approx. 1KM and then take the first right hand road (L5658) and drive approx 400m until the road forks. Take the right hand lane and look for the graveyard gates approx 100m along. You can park directly at the gate but the lane is narrow so allow room for any possible passing vehicles. If you wish to subsequently visit the well then continue on down this lane for approx 100m and take the left hand fork in the road. The entrance gate to the well is approx 100m along on your right hand side. Again space is tight so park close to the gate. 

GPS FOR CHURCH 52°57'32.3"N 7°24'50.8"W

52.958971, -7.414110

GPS FOR WELL 52°57'27.3"N 7°24'52.7"W

52.957589, -7.414644