Monday, 20 June 2016

Old Kenure Church Co Dublin

                                           Above Image: Entrance stile

                                             Above Image: Entrance door

                                             Above Image: West gable

                                                                 Above Image: East gable

This picturesque little ruin lies near the village of Rush in North East Co Dublin. It is situated in an enclosed graveyard which local lore says has been a place of burial for over a thousand years. The Church dates to the late medieval period and has all four of its walls upstanding. The Western gable has a raised bellcote which is now ivy covered and there is an arched window in the East wall. The doorway is in the South wall but is gated and padlocked but it is possible to see some of the tombs within, one of which belongs to the Baron of Strabane and the other of the Palmer family late of Kenure House of which all that remains nearby today is the large Portico (see earlier post). There is a memorial plaque on the North wall of the Church recounting the many victims of Cholera in the area during the great famine. The Church is long out of use and is listed as being in ruins on the 1837 ordnance survey map although much earlier than this is more likely.
Interestingly enough the graveyard also contains the remains of one John Connor an 18th century smuggler locally known as “Jack the Bachelor”. Born in Wexford but brought up in Rush he was heavily involved in smuggling between Rush and the Isle of Man operating out of a cave in nearby loughshinney. Involved as he was in smuggling he was also a very compassionate man and was well liked locally so much so that his funeral was attended by thousands of people.
The ruins today are surrounded by grave markers some dating back to the 18th century. There is a slope on the western side of the church leaving it elevated and although well maintained that the graveyard is some of the stones here are leaning to the side giving the impression of possible subsidence. Well worth a visit and you could tie it in with the Kenure Portico.
To find the ruin of Kenure Church take the R128 heading Northwards from Lower Main Street in Rush. This is the road opposite Hackett's Victuallers. Drive for approx 1.8Km until you reach the old graveyard on your left. There is a left hand turn just past this with a sign pointing to St Catherine's Estate. Turn left and park along here. This road also leads you directly to the Kenure Portico

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Massy's Wood Estate Co Dublin

                             Above & Below Images: Entrance sign and barrier

                                        Above Image: Beginning of the trail

                                Above & Below 2 Images: Ruins of the sawmill

                           Above Image: Possible remains of wheel mechanism

                                             Above Image: The ice house

                                Above Image: Entrance to ice house chamber

                           Above Image:Large tree near entrance to walled garden

                             Above Image: Entrance to walled garden behind tree

                                 Above Image: Another walled garden entrance

                              Above Image Trail to the left inside entrance arch

                                        Above image: Turn right at this arch

                        Above Image: Northern boundary wall and glasshouse ruins

                                 Above Image: Remains of a glasshouse pond

                                   Above Image: Remains of irrigation troughs

                     Above Image & Below 4 Images: Ruins of ancillary buildings at
                                                                      river entrance to gardens

                         Above & Below Images: The remains of the wedge tomb

                              Above & Below Images: Remains of tomb chamber

                  Above & Below 3 Images : The stewards house, stable ruins & belfry

This is a very interesting place to visit in an area steeped with ghostly happenings. The estate lands of the former Killakee House lie at the foot of Montpelier Hill which has upon its summit the infamous Hellfire Club (see earlier post)
The large estate house of Killakee was constructed by Luke White a wealthy bookseller in the early 1800’s. His son Samuel developed areas of the estate into walled gardens that contained some fabulous glasshouses designed by Richard Turner a pioneer in this field. A great variety of different trees were planted and the estate flourished. In 1880 the lands passed to the Massy family headed by the 6th Baron John Thomas Massy. By the early 20th century the Massy’s were in financial debt and unable to upkeep the estate and the last Baron, Hugh Hammon Massy, was evicted in 1924. By arrangement with the bank which was foreclosing the estate the family moved briefly to the steward's house and finally to the small gate lodge. Massy relied on his wife’s small income and became known as the “penniless peer” At times he had been reduced to foraging for firewood on his former glorious estate. He died in 1958. After the Massy departure the house and lands were eventually sold on by the bank to a building company who completely demolished the house in 1941. The formal gardens already overgrown fell back to nature and many new trees were planted turning the area into a forest which was eventually opened as a public amenity by the state.

Having visited the nearby Hellfire Club I was intrigued by the fate of the estate adjacent and had heard that there were ruins of various descriptions still visible in the forest. The remains of the former stables and belfry of the Killakee estate are across the road from the woods and can be seen from the roadside today. The house a former arts centre and restaurant is now a private residence. In the late 1960’s during renovation the then owners had many complaints from builders that they were experiencing apparitions including spectral figures and a ghostly black cat with piercing red eyes.

So off into the woods then. We followed the main trail from the entrance barrier which after a short while led to an old stone bridge over a gurgling stream. A short distance further there is a second bridge but here there is a weir and on the river bank are the ruins of the former estate sawmill. The gables and South wall remain along with some partial ruins at the riverside which I couldn’t identify for sure but may have been part of a structure to hold a mill wheel. Back up on the trail the route forks just after the bridge so we followed the left trail the runs parallel to the river which I believe is called the Owendore. Along this route and signposted are the remains of the Ice house. It is a half cylindrical shaped stone structure built near the river to store lamb and other meat. There appears to be a natural chill here as even on a warm day you can see your breath in the air. Stepping down to take a closer look inside the chamber something moved within it in the dark at the very back. A bit startled we decided that discretion was the better part of valour and moved on rather than explore the movement further. Another of Killakee’s ghosts? More likely it was a large rodent of some sort.

The trail past the Ice house dips down following the course of the river and we began to notice the existence of some stone walls on our right hand side among the bushes and trees. Eventually we came to area dominated by a very tall tree. To the right of this was an arched entrance in the wall. This was one of the many entrance ways of the former walled gardens. We entered through this doorway and turned left following pathway parallel to the high wall until we came to another archway. Turning right here we could see the opposite wall through the trees and about half way across to this we saw more ruins to our left. Here are the remains of the great glass houses. All that remains now are the irrigation troughs and pool depressions for exotic flora that stretch many yards in length. Scattered around are small pieces of glass which may actually be remains of the glasshouse and not from some recent antisocial gathering. Beyond the glasshouse ruins is the northern boundary wall with a gap that allows you to climb down into the ruins of an ancillary building that overlooks the river and brings an end to the walled garden area. Apparently the walled gardens have had their share of stories mostly a spectral figure spotted even during daylight hours and some visitors have had the strong feeling of being observed. Hugh Hammon Massy maybe, still wandering his former estate? Who knows? Ourselves we didn’t encounter anything unusual on our visit in the walled garden area apart from a rope with small noose dangling from the large tree outside the walls.
If you work your way back to the bridge where the sawmill is situated there is another interesting sight to see. Just between the weir bridge and the other stone bridge is a track leading up into the forest. Follow this up until you see a dip-like a gully on your left. Just beyond this behind the remains of a small stone wall is a tree with a megalithic wedge tomb at its base. The tomb was discovered in 1978 by archaeologist Patrick Healy. Most of the stones had been taken and used to construct the aforementioned wall but you can still clearly see the remains of the rectangular chamber. At the time of its construction this hill would have likely to been bereft of trees and the tomb wold be overlooked by nearby Montpelier and Cruagh mountain. It’s a strange little remnant hidden away but worth visiting and is curiously not signposted in any way by the forestry commission.  

To find Massy’s wood take the R116 Southbound from the roundabout at Taylor’s Lane in Rathfarnham. Take the first right turn onto the R115 and then the second turn left which is a continuation of the R115 (known as Stocking Lane). Drive approx. 800m to a roundabout and continue straight through it. Drive a further 2.5KM and you will see the entrance barrier to Massy’s estate on your left a little after the Timbertrove Store & Cafe. About 50m further on the right is the entrance to the Hellfire Club car park. Park here and just walk back to the estate entrance. Opening hours for the car park are April to September 7.00am-9.00pm and October to March 8.00am to 5..00pm. Keep an eye out for any ghosts!


Monday, 23 May 2016

Rockfleet Castle Co Mayo

                                       Above Image: A corner machicolation

                      Above Image: The inlet and flat rock landing area in foreground

While this Castle presently does not fit strictly into the category of a ruin it was ruinous for a considerable length of time in the past until some renovation took place. Rockfleet Castle (aka Carrickahowley Castle) was constructed by Richard Burke in the mid sixteenth century.  In 1566 Burke married Grace O’Malley who became famously known as The Pirate Queen. On Burke’s death in 1583 Grace retained the Castle and it became one of her bases of operation raiding cargo vessels that navigated the nearby channel. She also had two other Castles, one on Clare Island and the other, Carrickkildavnet, on Achill Island (see earlier post). When her Brother was captured by the Crown forces she pleaded with the Queen for his return vowing to surrender her fleet of raiding ships. A deal was struck with a codIcil attached that Grace use her vessels to aid the English rather than attack them and to this she agreed. She died in 1603 and Rockfleet eventually fell into ruin. In the 1950’s a descendant of Grace called Owen O’Malley began a restoration of the Castle and now during the summer months a key can be obtained locally to view the inside. When we visited further restoration was taking place so entry was unfortunately inhibited at that time.

The tower stands dramatically on an inlet off Clew Bay. I was always enamoured by pictures of the Castle and made sure when finally in the area to take a detour to see it. Consisting of four storeys it stands roughly 60 feet in height. It was built with defence in mind and has some machicolations at roof level. A flat rocky area adjacent to it makes a perfect landing spot. I wonder how much plundered stock was hauled over it during the pirating era from the large fleet of ships that Grace had moored here.
Under normal circumstances a key is available at a local farm house and I believe you can explore most of the levels inside. The signs on the door at the moment refer to repairs for health and safety reasons. 
This Castle is well worth a visit and standing on its lonely spot it's not hard to imagine the history that took place here. I will certainly return again to view the interior. 

To find Rockfleet Castle take the N59 from Newport to Bangor Erris and about 7KM out of Newport you will see a left hand turn signposted for Carrickahowley Castle (Rockfleet). Turn left and follow the road down about 1KM and you will reach the Castle.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Old Nurney Church Co Kildare

                                                  Above Image: Entrance stile

                                                 Above Image: Single window

An undemanding little ruin this. I Spotted it driving through Nurney in Co Kildare one afternoon so I thought I’d stop to have a quick look. A quick look was indeed the case as very little remains today of this small parish church of medieval origin which is nestled in the centre of the old graveyard. There is a stone stile in the boundary wall just to the left inside the gate of the new church that gives easy access or alternatively you can use a small metal gate positioned in the roadside wall. Ivy has encroached quite a bit on the ruin now but regardless of that it is still in a very poor state. The East gable is the most prominent remnant only distinguished by a single narrow window which is struggling desperately to hold its own against the rampant ivy. There are partial remains of the South wall but only scant foundations of the North and West walls left to see. To all intents and purposes this ruin is certainly going to ground. The vegetation will eventually put pressure on what remains. A shame really as another little part of history will disappear forever.

To find the ruin take the M7 Dublin to Limerick motorway and take the exit at junction 13. At the top of the exit ramp take the R415 signposted for Nurney. Drive for approx. 9KM and as you enter the village you will spot the graveyard on the right. You can park opposite the new Church.