Monday, 18 May 2015

Tara Standing Stones & Church Co Meath

                                                       Above Image: First view

                            Above Image: The Stones with Church ruin in backround

                         Above & Below Images: The remains of the Medieval Church

On the fringes of the historic Hill of Tara beside a Church dedicated to St Patrick which now serves as a visitor centre are two standing stones in close proximity to each other. These would have been part of a larger quantity of standing stones that in ancient times that were littered around Tara. They most likely date to the Bronze Age (300BC-2500BC). Stones such as these are fascinating to me as they are a tangible and mysterious link to the ancient past and so when I found myself in the area I decided they were worth going to have a look at.
The stones stand on a grassy mound a few yards apart adjacent to the Church and hard to miss as you enter the site. The larger of the two has a faded engraving of what is thought to be the pagan god of fertility Cernunnos. This raises the possibility of them being involved in pagan rituals although equally it could also be the case that they were markers of some sort or a representation of male and female.
Adjacent to the stones are the partial remains of the medieval Church of Tara. Reportedly constructed in the 12th century it was linked to the Knights Hospitallers and was a parish Church until it fell into ruin in the 16th century. Apparently what was left was mostly demolished in 1822 and some of the stone used in the construction of the present Church.  The scant remains of the old Church along with the standing stones form a kind of greeting party to visitors heading for the historic hill and its further antiquities.

To find the Stones take the M3 heading North and at the Junction 7 exit and take the left hand turn at the top of the exit ramp onto the R147. Continue on this road until you reach the second right hand turn approx.1 KM on. This turn is signposted for Tourist Information. Turn onto this road and drive until you come to a T- Junction.  The car park for Tara is a few yards to your left or alternatively you can park opposite if space available. The entrance for the Churchyard is a few yards to the right of the road you just came from. A short walk up a gravel path will bring you to the stones.


Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Old Killashee Church Co Kildare

                                           Above Image: The ornamental gardens

                                     Above image: The small wooden access gate

                           Above Image: Only access on right hand side of this fence

                                                    Above Image: Thorny path

                                          Above Image: Opening in base of tower

                                                 Above Image: Interior of tower

                                                 Above Image: Vaulted ceiling

                                                Above Image: doorway to Nave

                                     Above Image: Believe it or not the East Gable!

                                              Above Image: Ornamental plaque

St Auxilius founded a monastery here in the 5th century giving name to its site Killashee ( Kill-Auxilius or Church of Auxilius). The present ruins here are comprised of an 18th century church of some 30 feet in length with a much older 3 storey tower attached to its West end. The 18th century building replaced a much earlier church giving rise to the speculation that the tower might also date to that time.
I first sought out this ruin when a long laneway led to it from the main road (R448) into Naas. On that occasion I found my advance impeded by a closed gate and a no trespassing sign as dangerous excavations were in place. A local told me that the Church was now only accessed through the grounds of the Killashee House Hotel. I decided to investigate further and return at a later time. That proved to be a year later when I came across an online diagram promoting the hotel and the heritage sites on its grounds and sure enough the Church was marked with nicely lain pathways leading to it from the very nicely decorated gardens to the rear of the hotel. Unfortunately this did not entirely turn out to be the case. I followed the pathway down through the gardens and eventually reached the Nuns graveyard which was also marked on the diagram. Sunken caves were also pictured and these may have been the dangerous excavations mentioned earlier. Any advance in their direction was fenced off. I could see from the Nuns graveyard the tower of the Church jutting above some trees and followed through a small wooden gate. Unfortunately I found that the ruins were surrounded by a high bank of bushes and trees with no visible access. Not wanting to give up too easily I eventually found a small track down beside a fenced off new development that led in the direction of the ruins. Indiana Jones would have shook his head with dismay at the amount of overgrowth and insidious creepers snaking around each other in a web of thorns that stood in my way. A machete would certainly have been helpful. But somehow I foolhardily found my way through it. The whole area around the ruins has been let run rampant with bushes making it difficult to see the actual shape of the Church. Gravestones are covered in the same moss that carpeted the ground underfoot. Eventually at the base of the interesting looking tower I found a small opening not unlike a window and stepped inside to have a look.
Within was a vaulted chamber not very big with signs that some clean-up work had been initiated. The ceilings and walls had been whitewashed and a ladder stood in the corner. There was a lot of rubble about though and it looks like any progress has been abandoned.  An open wooden door leads into the ruins of the Church which like the situation outside is overgrown badly to the point that it was hard to discern the East gable among the tangles. A stone plaque adorned the wall but it was difficult to get close to as the overgrowth impedes any movement toward it. I certainly hope that the hotel will restart a restoration sometime soon as this unusual ruin is slowly but surely being swallowed by nature.

To find the ruins take the Junction 9 exit of the N7 and follow the signs for the R445 to Naas. Drive straight through Naas and just outside the town you will reach a roundabout. Go straight through the roundabout and approx. 1.5KM ahead you will reach the Killashee House Hotel on your left. Head up the driveway towards the Hotel and park in the car park in front of the Hotel. To reach the gardens face the hotel and go around the left hand side of the building to the rear. Follow the pathway past the ornamental fountain and you will arrive at a fork in the path. Turn left for the woodland walks and then immediately right and follow this track until you see a small wooden gate just off the track to the right. You will see the tower above the trees. Once through the gate the only near access to the ruins is to turn left and walk a few yards down towards the development of a new building. As mentioned a thorny access track is just above a low embankment on your right.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Irishtown Castle Co Dublin

                                         Above Image: South facing aspect

                                  Above Image: Doorway in East facing wall

This modest castle was constructed in 1601 by Alderman Patrick Browne on lands passed to him. He and his wife resided there but its term of use was quite short. During the rebellion in 1642 the castle then defended by a garrison of 10 men found themselves conscripted into the confederate army and the Castle as with nearby Deansrath Castle (see earlier post) was lay siege to by English forces and no doubt suffered the same fate as Deansrath which was almost destroyed. A view of Irishtown Castle by the artist Gabriel Beranger from 1772 shows the Castle Roofless and pretty much in ruin.
Today the castle remains are surrounded by a modern housing estate and serve as a kind of monument within the estate given its own little corner in a cul-de-sac.
I visited on a quiet Friday morning to have look at this ruin with its brief but interesting history. The door on the East side is boarded up and there is a single small window in the South wall other than that it is featureless. The Castle in relation to the 1772 print looks decidedly shorter so it must have diminished over time. It remains anonymous in its surroundings but still I wonder how many residents know what history is literally on their doorstep.
Thanks go to Sinead Burke for pointing me in the direction of this ruin.

To find the ruin take the R113 heading Northwards from Newlands Cross and drive for approx.3.5KM until you reach a roundabout with a sign pointing left for Fonthill Retail Park. Take the 3rd exit on the right onto the R833 (Coldcut Road) and then the first left turn onto Greenfort Avenue. You will see the Ruin ahead of you. At the top of Greenfort Avenue turn Left and then take the first right onto Old Tower Crescent. This leads you directly to the Castle. 

Monday, 13 April 2015

Castlemacadam Church Co Wicklow

                                               Above Image: The entrance gate

                                                    Above Image: Entrance door

                                      Above Image: A view upwards to the belfry

                                               Above Image: East facing gable

                               Above & Below Images: Some stone decoration within

                                               Above Image: North facing gable

                                              Above Image: Overlooking the vale

Ever since first seeing a photograph of this ruin online I’ve wanted to make a visit so recently an opportunity arose to do so. It sits dramatically on an elevated ridge above the picturesque vale of Avoca. The very solid looking Church was built in 1819 for the Church of Ireland community and was consecrated in 1821. Some portions of a 14th century castle were apparently integrated in to the structure. The Church surprisingly had a short term of use being superseded by the need for a larger church in 1870. It subsequently fell into ruin and for a while was covered heavily in ivy. Today this has been cleared and it still stands proud silently observing the tranquillity of the valley.
The Churchyard has an adjacent laneway which brings you up to the main gate. This is the best place to park if driving. This main gate however is padlocked which at first was a disappointment to me but however a smaller gate remains open at the foot of the laneway which you would pass on the way up. Once you enter the small gate you are greeted by what is the best view of the ruins. A set of stone steps climb up towards the ridge and the ruins dominate the skyline. This particular view is what prompted my keenness to visit the site.
The ground within the graveyard is uneven underfoot disguised by thick grass but it is far from being overgrown. There seems to be an abundance of table grave slabs which outweigh the remaining grave markers. All of the walls of the Church are still upstanding but it is roofless and exposed to the elements. There’s an open entrance in the South facing wall of the belfry tower which allows access to the interior which is L-shaped. Just upon entering and looking up you can see the roof of the tower is also missing, the light streaming inwards. The nave and chancel are partially overgrown but the fine window carving and some nice stone decoration on the East facing wall below the tower are pleasing to the eye. What is really distinct about these ruins I found is the complete stillness of the place. It is so quiet here that even the passing cars on the road below seem to slip by silently.
There are quite a few ruins of former Church of Ireland Churches scattered about the country mostly ruins of early 19th century structures but this is one of the most interesting and being so close to the pleasant village of Avoca it is well worth a visit. A few kilometres north of Avoca you can also take in The Motte Stone (See earlier post for directions) a huge boulder deposited by a receding glacier around 15000 years ago.  

To find the ruin of Castlemacadam Church head south on the M11/N11 Dublin to Wexford road and after Wicklow watch out for "The Tap" Pub on your right. A short distance later there is a turn onto the R754 beside another pub called "Lil Doyles" Take this right turn which leads to the village of Redcross. On the main street you will see a right hand turn pointing towards Avoca. Take this turn and drive approx. 7KM until you enter the village of Avoca. Cross the bridge over the river at the end of the village at Fitzgerald’s pub. Once over the bridge turn left onto the R752 for Woodenbridge and drive for approx. 800m passing the new Church on your right and just around the following bend you will spot the ruin on your right. Turn into the laneway beside the ruin and drive up and park on the grass alongside the main gate. Then simply walk back down the lane to reach the small access gate in the surrounding wall.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Ardmulchan Church Co Meath

                                              Above Image: The entrance lane

                                          Above Image: Entrance gate & stile

                                          Above Image: Remains of East gable

                                            Above Image: The stone coffin lid

                                 Above Image: Stairs to the left, chamber to the right

                                      Above Image: Vaulted lower chamber interior
                                            Above Image: View up the stairs
                                            Below Image: View down the stairs

                                 Above Image: Remains of second storey chamber

                              Above Image: View of Church ruins from second storey

                    Above Image: View of Dunmoe Castle through second storey window

                        Above & Below Images: Views of the Boyne & Dunmoe Castle

On a Norman constructed Motte overlooking the River Boyne are the ruins of Ardmulchan Church. The tall bell tower is likely to have been constructed in the late 13th or early 14th century while the nave and chancel date about a hundred years later. It is believed that the Church was still in use up to the early part of the 17th century. Its strategic position on the Motte which sweeps steeply down to the river would attest that this was an important Norman position and it is thought that later the stones from a castle was used to construct the perimeter wall of the graveyard.
The ruins are tucked away from the main local road and are accessed by a narrow and frankly pot- holed lane of which a gate at the end is usually open during daylight hours. Once through the gate the lane bends right and leads you to a gravel car park and the graveyard itself. The view from this spot out over the Boyne valley is breath taking, the river winding upstream and the ruins of Dunmoe Castle (See earlier post) clearly visible on the opposite bank.
There is a stile in the perimeter wall of the graveyard but on my visit the gate was unlocked. The tower is very striking sitting aloft the Motte and when approached from its South side you can see the foundations of the side walls and the partial remains of the East gable where a large window would have been. This gable is quite overgrown. In between this and the tower the once interior is strewn with broken rock and gravestones. There is one particularly unique object here a stone trapezoidal coffin lid sporting a very decorative cross.
At the tower itself there are two openings one leads down into a small vaulted chamber where bell ropes once hung from the belfry through three apertures. The other opening leads to a very worn stone stairs some of the steps badly cracked or even missing but as they say nothing ventured nothing gained so I clambered up them. Unfortunately it just led to an open chamber with a grassy floor although there is a good view of the surrounds from here.
This is one site you really should visit, not only for the ruin but for the great view from its vantage point.
To find Ardmulchan Church take the N2 heading North from exit 5 on the M50. About 2.5Km before Slane there is a left hand turn onto the L1600 signposted for Navan/Trim. The turn is just after a large sign on your left referring to Newgrange monument and the Battle of the Boyne. Once on the L1600 drive through Beauparc station and you will come across a TOP service station on your right. Approx 2km past this is a small laneway on the right with an abandoned house on the corner. It’s easy to miss as the sign pointing to the graveyard has been turned out of view but if you drive slowly and keep an eye out you should be OK.
Once on the lane follow it through to the car park. The gate halfway down is usually open until 10pm in summer and 4pm in winter.