Monday, 18 August 2014

Scariff Water Tower Co Clare

                                Above Image: The Scariff river adjacent to the tower.

We were driving from Gort to Tuamgraney via Scariff when on entering the village of Scariff we spotted this tall tower across the river. It looked like an interesting ruin so we sought about locating it. As it turned out it was not a Castle tower but a 19th century water tower built to supply the infamous Scariff workhouse.
The workhouse was built in 1841 with the intention of accommodating 600 inmates but with the onset of the famine in 1847 things grew out of proportion so much so that by 1851 there were 3212 inmates with little or no food or water and disease rampant. The workhouse was finally destroyed by the East Clare brigade of the IRA in 1921 to avoid it being used as a Black and Tan barracks. Curiously enough the tower was left mostly undamaged.
We found a public park that led us to a point directly across the river from the tower. From there we could see it was fenced off on all three land sides and the only access would be to row across (if you had a boat) or swim! Still from this position you can see what a nicely constructed structure it is and would fool anyone into thinking it was a late medieval castle. A local informed us that a preservation order was put on it and some restoration would take place. It is also apparently a nesting spot for Barn Owls which are a protected species. Worth a look then if in the area and for a closer look bring your bathing suit!

From Gort take the R458 South and about 5Km along there is a left hand turn for the R461. Take this turn and continue to follow the R461 to Scariff (About 29KM). As you enter the town the road runs parallel to the river Scariff and you will see the tower on the other side. About 100m past the tower is a turn in to a public car park. You can park here and follow the river down to the tower.



Sunday, 10 August 2014

Muckinish Castle Co Clare

                                               Above Image: West facing view

                                    Above & Below Images: Semi-blocked entrance

                                             Above Image: Ground floor interior

                                     Above Image: Debris from collapsed North wall

This five storey tower stands on the coast between Kinvarra and Ballyvaughan. Known as Muckinish Castle (Muckinish being translated from Gaelic as Pig island) the Castle is also sometimes referred to as Ballynacregga. The Castle was built c.1450 by the O’Loughlins and is now in a ruinous state, a testament no doubt to a turbulent past. Now the only full wall standing is the South wall. Portions of the West and a good deal of the East remain but the entire North facing wall has collapsed into rubble on the strand below. The ruins remaining stand seventy four feet high and there is a machiolation for defence purposes on the parapet of the South wall.
It’s hard to miss this ruin as it is just off the coast road a little out of Ballyvaughan. A lane way provides access from the main road. Just adjacent to the ruins a series of holiday homes have been built and so parking is easy in the landscaped area just in front of the Castle. When we visited I was struck by the familiarity of the place and realised that I had actually been here before back in the early 1990’s. Nothing seems to have changed much although a little more wall may have fallen and there was as before virtually nobody else around.

The ruins are striking, standing tall over the bay and it is possible to clamber over the edge of the West facing side and climb down to a small entrance just above the beach which is now impeded by the fallen masonry. But still you can get a look inside at the ground floor through one of the windows adjacent.
Standing down on the beach below and with the whole North wall collapsed you can see the innards of the tower. You can clearly see that the first and third floors were vaulted. The Castle sits on a narrow part of an isthmus jutting into Pouldoody bay and definitely would have held a very strategic position.
An interesting site then but I wonder how much more subsidence will take place in the foreseeable future. The landward side seems solid enough but as for the seaward….

To find the ruins take the N67 from Ballyvaughan towards Kinvarra and after about 4KM you will spot the Castle ruins on your left down towards the bay below. A walled lane way brings you directly to them and you can park in front of the Castle.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Drumharsna Castle Co Galway

                                            Above Image: Entrance stile

                                       Above Image: The East facing wall

                                       Above Image: The West facing wall

                                          Above Image: The main entrance

This sturdy tower house is believed to have been built by the Kilkellys in the early 16th century and is recorded as being occupied by Shane Ballagh around 1577. The Castle survived the Cromwellian invasion and was indeed still in use up until the 1920's when it was then occupied by the infamous Black and Tans as a barracks and stories of brutal murders became associated with it. The Castle was finally left badly damaged by the Tans and subsequently fell into ruin.
The Castle stands five storeys high with the second and fourth storeys being vaulted. An attic and battlements take up the remaining fifth storey. A spiral stairway is situated in the South East corner and the building also contains some mural passageways.
The ruins stand close to the roadside of a narrow lane. A wall in front offers a narrow stile but the entrance has been barred up and a thin electric fence put in place presumably to deter cattle although it's so narrow a space I wonder if it's more to deter two legged encroachers.
As mentioned several murders were supposed to have taken place here but there is one recorded case from the 1920's of two brothers called Loughnane who were arrested and incarcerated in the Castle before being brought to a nearby wood and executed. it must have seemed a very stark place to spend their last night alive.
We were on our way from Gort to Kinvarra and took a diversion to have a closer look at the ruin. On approach it really does hold a commanding position. It stands dramatically on pastureland and is certainly one of the tallest of these type of tower houses I have seen. It's a pity that access to the interior is now denied as I would really liked to have explored this one. Still it was well worth the time out to visit.
To find the ruins take the N18 heading North from Gort. Approx. 2.5KM on there is a road that forks left from the main road. You will need to take this left hand fork and drive for approx. 5KM. You will know that you are on the right road as you will pass a modern whitewashed Church with a tall square tower on your left about 1KM in from the N18. After the 5KM drive keep an eye out on your left and you will eventually spot the Castle. Turn left down the lane way and although narrow you will be able to park safely enough just past the Castle on a curve in the road.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Old Davidstown Church Co Kildare

                                        Above Image: The track to the ruins

                                     Above Image: The Enclosure gate & stile

                                          Above Image: Entrance doorway

                                      Above Image: remains of the Bell cote

                                      Above Image: Unusual stone markings

The Townland of Davidstown lies close to the village of Calverstown in Co Kildare. 
The ruins of the old Church dating to the early 19th century are located in a crop field well isolated from the road. The Church must not have had a long term of use as it is stated as being in ruins on the ordnance survey map of 1897-1913.
The ruins are accessed by way of an iron gate on the roadside which also has an adjacent stile. A pleasant walk along a track of about 300 feet through the field brings you to a walled enclosure also sporting a gate and stile.
The Church a simple rectangular structure with remains of a bell cote lies in a very ruinous state now. All four walls are extant but Vegetation has begun to cling to them and although this graveyard is still open it looks as if the church ruins which are not maintained in any way will eventually succumb to the overgrowth crumbling or disappearing like many of its ilk into obscurity. 
There is a doorway is in the West wall and windows set in the East gable where presumably the altar stood and in the North and South walls.
Isolated from the road the Church is a lonely sentinel to the various grave markers that surround it.  One curious stone lies to the south west of the church and has unusual lettering carved on it. Maybe somebody reading can decipher it.
There is an eerie feel to this place maybe more so a kind of loneliness. The ruins stand in the centre of the enclosure and no longer bear any relatively distinguishing features. A simple church that fell out of use in harder times than these.   
To find the ruins take the M7 Dublin to Limerick motorway and at junction 11 take the exit for the M9. At junction 2 take the exit for Kilcullen and at the top of the exit ramp turn right and follow the sign pointing to the R448 for Castledermot. Drive for approx. 3.5KM until you see a turn on the left for the L8008 for Calverstown. Take this left hand turn and drive until you have passed through Calverstown Village. Once through the Village and 400m on you will pass over a small stream and pass by a large five windowed house on your right with a rounded arch door. 100m past this on the left you will spot an iron field gate with a cross inserted in the ironwork. This is the entry point. You can park safely enough just past the gate if you tuck the car in against the hedgerow.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Ballinafagh Churches Co Kildare

                                     Above Image: The Entrance from the roadside

                                        Above Image: A view internally of the tower

                                       Above Image: The remains of the sacristy

                       Above Image: Remains of the Medieval Church in middle ground
                       Below 4 Images: Ruins of the Medieval Church

Two ruins for the price of one! 

Just north of the Village of Prosperous in the Ballynafagh Townland lie the ruins of two churches. The larger is the former RC church of Ballynafagh built in the 1830’s and was maintained until the 20th century but then fell into disuse and was eventually de-roofed in 1985. The smaller ruins are the scant remains of the original medieval church which sit on a mound at the South-East corner of the larger church. Both are contained in a rectangular walled enclosure which is located surprisingly like an island in a field of wheat. 
We visited these ruins on two occasions once when the crop was harvested and again when the crop was in full flourish. I think the latter trip was more interesting as the ruins sat in a sea of wheat which undulated in the wind like an ocean. Access is via a gate at the roadside of a narrow lane. A short trek through a trodden pathway in the wheat brings you to the gateway of the enclosure, the gate itself detached and lain against a wall inside.
The large 19th century Church is still upstanding but beginning to show signs of decay and brambles are slowly beginning to take hold. It is a very bold looking ruin, each corner having sharp finials rising to the sky from four of the twelve buttresses. There is a fine large Arch window on the East wall but all of the windows and the door have been partially bricked up so no internal access is available. There are the remains of a sacristy attached to the North wall and the bell tower stands proudly over the whole affair. One lone large tree shelters the North-East end of the enclosure.
On a mound quite close to the South-East corner of the large church lies the remains of the original medieval church, diminished now to its North wall and foundations of the Eastern gable. Scant though its remains are, they are still a visible window on the past. It’s interesting that both ruins are in so close a proximity attesting that maybe this was deemed ancient hallowed ground and also the fact that they are placed in an unusual location.
Spotting the picturesque ruins from the road would surely entice anybody to stop and take a closer look and indeed its aesthetic has provided inspiration for painters and photographers alike. A really interesting visit was had and I would  recommend it to you.

To find the ruins take the Junction 7 exit of the M4 motorway for the R406 heading South for Straffan. Drive for approx. 5KM until you reach a roundabout at Barberstown. Turn right off the roundabout onto the R403 for Clane. Drive until you reach Clane and the road swings left onto the Main Street. Drive about 100M and take the right turn continuation of the R403 at the restaurant called “The Tigger”.  The road is signposted for Prosperous. It is a 4KM drive to reach the crossroads in Prosperous. Turn right here at the church and about 700m along, the road divides. Take the left hand fork and drive for approx. 2.5KM. You will pass a sign for “The Kildare Maze” on your left and the left hand turn for the ruins is about 600m past this. Once on the lane way you can park at the small gate entrance to the field on your right about 300m up the lane.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Old Bannow Church Co Wexford

                                          Above Image: The entrance stile

                                      Above Image: South wall entrance door

                                                 Above Image: The Font

                                             Above Image: Stone coffin

                                           Image Below: The grave slab

                                           Above Image: The East window

                   Above & Below Images: The Prince Michael Sepulchre & Plaque

                   Above & Below Images: Two views of Bannow Bay with the Saltee
                                                       Islands on the horizon

These interesting ruins are located on a sandy headland overlooking Bannow bay where the Normans first invaded Ireland in 1169. The Church constructed in the 13th century in a Romanesque style is the only remnant of the lost Norman town of Bannow which is said to have sunk beneath the sands in the 16th century when the silt in the bay rose and swept over Bannow Island. The town which was of some importance and had nine ‘named’ streets disappeared with the exception of the top of the chimney of the town hall. The church only survived because it was positioned 30 feet above sea level.
The Church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary consists of a nave and chancel and is now surrounded by a more modern graveyard enclosure. The walls of the Church are crenellated giving it a very fortified appearance.
We came across this ruin purely by accident. We had taken a trip down to Bannow Bay to see where the Norman invasion had initiated and spotted the large structure in the distance on our way back. Never one to turn down an opportunity to see a good ruin I diverted us to have a look. A small sandy car park is provided as the Church is surrounded by a graveyard still in use. A stile gives you access and you enter the ruins by a doorway in the South wall of the nave. A small font lies just inside but apparently a more ornate font was removed in the past and now resides in the Church in Danescastle.
There are some interesting artefacts to see within including a large stone 14th century grave slab and an open stone coffin. The chancel area contains a large arched East window and some tombs.
Outside the walls a portion of the North wall has been smoothed for it seems to use as a hand ball court. I have noticed this several times before in places such as Newtown Church in Co. Kilkenny (See earlier post) Is this a peculiarly Irish thing?
At the North eastern end a large sepulchre stands attached with a memorial plaque dedicated to Prince Michael of The Saltee Islands and his wife Anne. In 1956 Michael Neale a colourful and quite wealthy character self declared himself Prince of the offshore Islands which he had purchased in 1943 and subsequently turned into a bird sanctuary. He and his wife lived periodically in this self styled micronation until their deaths in the 1990’s and his son Prince Michael II has now taken up the mantle. Visitors are allowed to visit the Great Saltee Island only during certain daytime hours.
So this small diversion turned out to be a quite interesting visit. The Church of Bannow stands silently now alone on its windswept location the only testament to the lost town but I have to say it was well worth the time to make a visit in what is a very historical area.
To find the ruins take the R736 south from Wellingtonbridge and drive for approx. 4.5KM until you reach a T-Junction. Turn right following the sign for “The Bannow Drive” and continue for approx. 4KM until you reach a fork in the road with two signs one pointing right to “Bannow Island” and the left for the “Bannow Drive”. Follow the right for “Bannow Island”. Approx. 400m later there is another fork in the road and you will see the ruins in the distance on your left. Follow the left track and it will lead you to the car park.