Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Old Duneany Church Co Kildare

                                               Above Image: The roadside gate

                                     Above Image: Entrance gate to the enclosure

                                                  Above Image: The way in!!

                              Above & Below Images: Only visible parts of the walls

                                           Above Image: The remains of the font

It was on a really warm spring Friday that I found myself in the backwaters of Kildare on another ruin hunt. I’d read that there was a medieval Church ruin at Duneany and so I set about finding it. On locating the townland a drive down a long narrow lane brought me to a gate in a stone wall. Beyond this a short wire fenced track led into pastureland to another gate that sported a cross. I knew then that I’d found it!  This gate was part of a circular enclosure wall and was unlocked but anticipation was slowly drowned as I tried to navigate the uneven ground within that was covered with high grass. A number of times I almost tripped on rocks hidden by the overgrowth. I could not for the life of me see any ruins. Finally amongst the leaning weatherworn headstones in a clump of trees and bushes in the centre of the enclosure I came across the remains of a font which apparently dates back to approx. the 13th century. This would date the Church to this time period also. According to records this font was supposed to be located within the Church so I reckoned that this must be where I was. Whatever remains of Duneany now is so covered over with vegetation that that I could only find traces of a wall strewn with dead ivy. I came across something similar at Castlefarm (see earlier post) but at least at that location there was some more structure evident. What I’m increasingly finding on my visits to these sites is the rising amount of decay not by natural erosion but by neglect. Overgrowth is rampant in places. These historical structures are part of the fabric of the landscape and while I appreciate that landowners cannot afford the time or in many cases the cost of preserving these structures I think that the maybe the OPW should become more involved at local level in keeping these monuments visible. Many local authorities and indeed local people often get involved in clean ups on ruins but sadly there are not enough of these positive minded people around to deal with the more rural or remote sites. This rant aside I still always get something out of my visits to these ancient places and the feeling of antiquity always shines through no matter how great or little there is to see.
To find Duneany Churchyard take the M7 heading West and exit at junction 13. At the top of the exit ramp take the first left hand turn onto the R415. Drive for approx. 800m until you reach a crossroads. Take the right hand turn onto the L7024 and drive for approx. 6.5KM until you reach another small crossroads (There is a bungalow with a conservatory on the right). Turn down the left hand lane at the crossroads and approx. 400m along you will spot the Iron gate on your left. You can park safely here.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

St Finghin's Church Co Clare

                                                Above Image: The East gable

                                 Above Image: The Tower on the South West Corner

                              Above & Below Images: Two aspects of the East gable

This striking ruin lies adjacent to the River Rine in the village of Quin in Co Clare. It is thought to have been constructed by the DeClares in the late 1270’s as a parish Church and dedicated to St Finghin ( a Saint of which little is known of but who may have been associated with St Columba in the 6th century) It is a single cell Church long and narrow with a fine triple lancet window in its Eastern gable. A three-level tower of an unusual design was added to the Church in the 1500’s and was linked directly to the interior.
This ruin is close to Quin Abbey which is situated across the Rine. The area around the ruins of St Finghins has been nicely landscaped and is easily accessible from the main street through an iron gate. The most striking feature has to be the tower standing at approx. 56 feet on the South West Corner. It leans slightly but otherwise It’s in reasonable condition. Its design to me looks a little more continental than the usual square towers seen in this country. The North wall of the Church is missing but the South wall with its entrance door and window remains intact. The other interesting feature is the East gable with its triple windows still looking very ornate after all these years. This is a very aesthetically pleasing ruin and appears to be well maintained and is well worth your time to visit especially on a sunny day as the surrounds are quite attractive.  
To find the ruins take the M18 heading South and exit at Junction 12. At the top of the exit ramp take the first left hand turn. Drive for approx. 4.5KM until you reach a crossroads with the R469 and a sign pointing right towards Quin. Turn right and drive for approx. 5.5KM until you reach Quin village. Just after the Abbey Stores the road swings left into the village. Continue and you will find the entrance gate to the ruins just opposite the Monks Well Inn. Ample parking available in the village.


Friday, 2 January 2015

Taghmon Church & Castle Co Westmeath

                              Above Image: The entrance gate & stile (to the left)

                                    Above & Below Images: The Sheela-na-gig

                              Above Image: An ecclesiastical head carving above
                                                   Northern door

                                Above Image: Large machiolation on South wall

                                Above Image: An interior view of part of the cell

                               Above Image: View of the Castle from the Church

                                      Above & Below Images: Taghmon Castle

Located in the pleasant Westmeath countryside this impressive structure when first viewed from the road really demands your attention.
It was constructed as a parish Church in the mid 15th century on the site of an ancient 7th century monastery founded by St Munna (Aka St Fintan). The Church was greatly fortified primarily by it's stocky tower and also by its numerous crenellations. The Church had been ransacked in 1452 by Farrell MacGeoghegan and so the tower became a refuge for the clergy in the event of any further attack. After the reformation the Church was passed to the Nugent family who found out later during their tenure that Cromwell's army and according to rumour Cromwell himself was using it as a bivouac in order to attack their Castle. The Church being disused became almost ruinous by the early 17th century. Records show it as being revived in the 1750's and some restoration done around a century later creating a place of worship for the Church of Ireland Community. It is now no longer in use and under state care.
The two bay single cell interior has a vaulted roof as do some of the floors in the four storey tower. The interior is now an empty shell and usually locked up but there a few interesting features to the exterior.
The site is accessed by a stone stile directly to the left of a wrought iron gate. The first exterior feature that greets you is that of the Sheela-na-gig over the window in the North wall. These type of carvings that appear at first to be rude figures are actually an ancient form of effigy designed to ward off evil. They are found quite prolifically in both Ireland and Britain.There are also some ecclesiastical head carvings to be found on the other walls. On the South wall is a large machiolation which is another defence feature normally associated with fortified castles. This could be used to pour down boiling liquids or cast rocks on any assailants below.
The great fortified tower itself almost diminishes the nearby Taghmon Castle tower which now sits in a farm field slowly crumbling away and being increasingly infested by ivy. We were very impressed by the Church at Taghmon and it was well worth the time to visit. The Castle, which is accessed up a narrow lane way across from the Church, seems less impressive and in fact looks like it might have once been a corner turret for a larger structure. Access is possible over a field gate but bear in mind it is on private farm land. When we visited, a rather vocal hound of some sort was tearing at the hedgerow between us and him on the lane way to the Castle. Dogs and Bulls, the bane of Castlehunters!
To find Taghmon Church take the N4 heading West from Mullingar and take the junction 17 exit for the R394 signposted for Castlepollard & Crookedwood. Drive along the R394 for approx. 7KM and then take the right hand turn onto the L1618 at Murray's "The Wood" pub at Crookedwood. Drive for approx. 2KM and you will spot the Church on your right. You can park alongside on the road safely enough.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Ballybrack Dolmen Co Dublin

                                                  Above Image: South aspect

                                                  Above Image; West aspect


                                          Above Image: Close-up of the capstone

                                                  Above Image: Portal chamber

                                 Above Image: Amazing that this portal stone is only
                                                        just tipping the capstone

                                                    Above Image: East aspect

There are many megalithic portal tombs dotted around the country but this particular Dolmen as with the Brehon Chair (See earlier post) is located within the confines of a modern housing estate.
Looking strangely orphaned as it sits alone in the middle of a green area surrounded by housing this rather nice looking example of its kind has amazingly stood here since about 2500BC. Some surrounding stones appear to be missing but it still looks quite solid. The capstone measures approx. 7 feet by 6 feet and is supported by upright portal stones measuring about 4.5 feet in height.
Being located in the vicinity of close human interaction naturally some damage has been done to the Capstone by some uncaring persons in the form of graffiti most of which thankfully has faded. In the portal chamber, which you can actually gain access if you want, more evidence of neglect is to be found in the form of broken glass. Sad to say that this happens to what is in fact a national monument.
Because of its location I found any form of activity around it seemed to draw curious attention especially if you are photographing it. It took 3 visits for me to actually get up close and photograph it without interruption of some kind. A midweek morning was the best time to visit I found. It really is surprising to find such a gem still surviving in such an unusual location so kudos must go to the planners for working around the Dolmen instead of levelling it. A really nice monument then and very easy to access.

To find the Dolmen take the N11 South and just before the Loughlinstown roundabout take the left hand turn onto Commons Road. Drive for approx. 600m until you reach a crossroads with the R119 (Shanganagh Rd). Turn left here and drive until you reach a roundabout. Take the first exit left onto Cromlech Fields and 100m on take the first right hand turn onto Aran Avenue. Drive another 100m and take the next turn right. You will spot the Dolmen in a green area ahead of you. There is a small parking area to the right of it.


Friday, 19 December 2014

Old Castlefarm Church Co Kildare

                                  Above Image: When is a Church not a Church?

                                                  Above Image: Roadside stile

                                                Above Image: Enclosure stile

                                              Above Image: Entrance burrow

                                Above Image: Remaining Ivy covered wall in Nave
                                Below Image: Wall remains

Above Image: The font & broken base
Don’t know what to think of this one! I didn’t anticipate that there would be very much left of this small Church ruin but I wasn’t expecting what was literally an ivy cave
The medieval Church here at Castlefarm was founded by the Canons regular of St Augustine on the
site of an earlier church founded by St Briga in the 5th century. The Canons unlike cloistered monks sought to deliver their ministry and the sacraments to the general public. This particular Church belonging to the order has now been reduced to just the East gable and the divisional wall between what was the nave and chancel. There is supposedly a narrow window in the standing gable although with all the ivy it’s hard to ascertain and that just about sums up the site.
The Church is located in a barley field on a back road near Suncroft in Kildare and a there is a stile in the roadside wall which you could very easily miss driving by. Once over this stile your adventure begins along a dirt track to the circular boundary wall of the graveyard in which the ruins lie. It is thought that stone from a local castle was used to construct this wall in the 19th century. Cut into this wall is another stile, V-shaped and quite narrow put here by the county council and it very nearly done me a mischief trying to squeeze through it.
I stared around the site looking for visible ruins but only a very tall clump of trees and ivy was visible near the centre. I walked towards it and saw that there was what amounted to a hole in the bushes. Entering I discovered I was actually within what was once the nave. I could partially see the East gable at the other end and some visible wall. This site had really gone to ground. There were several grave markers within and also the remains of a font now lying amongst the fallen leaves on the ground with part of its base beside. It is believed that some graves within the enclosure may have been famine graves from the late 1840’s.  
The last internment took place here in 1978 so the site seems to have been pretty much forgotten as the state of the ruins would attest. Still I found this an interesting visit if only for the fact that this ancient place is still accessible and there was certainly a feeling of antiquity standing within the confines of the leafy burrow.

To find the ruins take the M9 heading South and at junction 2 take the exit. At the top of the exit ramp turn right onto the R448 for Castledermot. Drive for approx. 11KM until you see a right hand turn signposted for the L4002 to The Curragh. Turn onto this road and drive for approx. 900m until you spot a farmyard entrance with a large shed like structure on you right. The stile to enter the field is in the wall literally just past the shed. Once over the stile follow the track alongside the side of the shed and you will reach the graveyard enclosure.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Old Kinsealy Church Co Dublin

                                                Above Image: The entrance stile

                                                  Above Image: Entrance door

                                   Above Image: chancel arch & mausoleum
                                   Below 2 Images: The Austin Cooper Mausoleum

This small medieval church stands in a grassy graveyard on a back road en route to Portmarnock. It is dedicated to St Nicholas of Myra and is thought to have been in use until the 17th century. At one time this church would have stood closer to the sea but the coast land has extended over the centuries leaving the ruins now further inland.
The ruins are accessed by a roadside gate or by a stile in the boundary wall and the ground within is a little uneven underfoot in places.  What remains today are the nave, a chancel arch and a tall West gable sporting a twin arched belfry. Within the ruins on the East end is a mausoleum with the remains interred within of the prominent antiquarian & artist Austin Cooper (1759-1830) former owner of Abbeville House in Kinsealy. There is an entrance door in the South facing wall of the Church and a Chancel arch on the East end. It is a plain looking ruin but in a picturesque semi-rural setting which may not be the case much longer as developments are planned for the area around it. Hopefully they won’t encroach too much. I would hate to see the ruin becoming an ornament in grounds of some gated estate.
To find the ruins take the exit for the R139 at the Junction 3 exit of the M50. Continue on through the following roundabout until you reach the crossroads with the R107. Turn left at the crossroads and drive for approx. 3KM until you reach a right hand turn at Chapel Lane. It is identified by a whitewashed Church on your right at the junction. Turn down chapel lane and drive for approx. 400m until you spot the ruins in a field on your left. You can park safely enough on the left just at a gate in the South east corner of the boundary wall.