Thursday, 7 February 2019
This is probably one of the oldest ruins I've visited. This small parish church is dedicated to St. Manchan who founded a monastery here in 645AD. Nothing remains of the original monastery buildings but the church itself was constructed later between the 10th and 12th centuries.
The ruins are not particularly spectacular but there are a few interesting features to be seen here including a Romanesque window in the West wall and some grave slabs dating between the 8th and 10th centuries. An adjacent set of foundations are thought to be that of a priest's house dating back possibly to the 15th century.
People have visited this site for centuries mostly to visit the holy well which lies a short distance behind the graveyard. The well and a holy tree have brought many here to help with problems in their lives. It is said that if you circle the well three times and deposit a small token in the window of the church your prayers will be answered,
Probably the most interesting feature here for me is the remains of the ancient togher which is basically a stone lined pathway and you can walk along this to reach the well and further on the remains of a small oratory called St Mella's cell. St Mella was actually St Manchan's mother.
We spent a good while at these ruins taking in all the features and even found a couple of Bullaun stones, one at the well entrance and another at the road junction outside.
The ruins are little off the main roads but if in the area I would really recommend a visit.
To find the ruins and holy well take the junction 6 exit from the M6 for the R420 to Clara. Drive for approx 2.5KM until you have passed the Tubber GAA grounds on you right hand side. Take the next right hand turn onto the L2018 for Ballycumber. Follow this narrow road for approx 5KM until you reach a crossroads.Turn left here onto Station Road and then a short distance later turn right at the corner pub onto Strawberry Lane. About 1KM along there is a left hand turn onto the R436. Turn onto this road and drive for approx 4KM and you will see a sign for the L3002 for Pollagh. The ruins are on the corner of this junction on your left. Parking at the graveyard entrance is a bit tight so we left the car across the road on the R436.
Wednesday, 9 January 2019
This ancient passage tomb is part of the Boyne Valley network and heritage site which includes both Newgrange and nearby Knowth. While these two tombs are part of an organised tour, Dowth remains out on it's own, but public access to the site is permitted.
The tomb dates sometime between 2000BC to 2500BC and was only partly excavated in 1847 when dynamite was used and caused much damage to the original roof. This has been repaired with more modern concrete. While the interior is not open to be explored the site itself is a very atmospheric and interesting place to visit and walk around.
We found access from the road easily by way of a stile and a pathway. It is quite peaceful here and it's out of the way location ensures that you may only meet a handful of tourists at any given time. The mound itself is magnificent and can be climbed. Although the interior is locked you can get a good view in at the main passage entrance and truthfully I think you would have to enter crawling on hands and knees.The entrance stone appears to be some sort of super-bullaun as it is covered in cup marks. There are also some faint designs on it one being a spiral.Adjacent appears to be the remains of a holy well and a short walk will take you to nearby Dowth abbey ruins (see earlier post here)
As recently as July 2018 another tomb has been uncovered in the Dowth area and also the severe drought during that summer uncovered two henges near Newgrange that would not normally have been apparent. An exciting time for archaeologists then!
To find Dowth take the M1 heading North and at junction 10 just after the Boyne bridge take the exit for the N51 to Navan. Drive approx 1.8KM until you pass the gates of Townley Hall on your right. Take the next left hand turn onto the L1607. Drive down this road for about 1.8KM until you have passed two sharp bends to the right. Continue on for another 1.3KM and you will see the entrance stile on your left. There is room for a couple of cars to park here.
Wednesday, 21 November 2018
We found this very interesting ruin on the same day we visited Aghaviller (see earlier post here) and Old Sheepstown church (see post here). All three sites were very close to each other.
The ruins at Knocktopher are all that remain of the medieval parish church built on the lands belonging to the Canons Regular of St. Augustine.. What is extant today consists of a 13th century tower with a Romanesque doorway, a portion of the North wall showcasing a fine 15th century window, a few parts at foundation level and one tall shard with a box tomb beneath which may be part of the former East wall. The church suffered closure under the dissolution in 1542 and most of it I believe was demolished in the 19th century.
The ruins are now surrounded by a modern an very well kept cemetery. Judging by the scattered remains it must have been a large enough building. the Romanesque doorway in the tower is gated and the vaulted archway beyond contains a 14th century double effigy tomb which doesn't appear to indicate if the internees were persons of note. The archway has also become a sort of storeroom for various stone artifacts some with decorative carvings upon them. We were pleasantly surprised to find the gate unlocked so we could get in and have a closer look. I would suggest if visiting try to also take in the other two sites mentioned earlier.
To find the ruins take the M9 motorway and exit at junction 10. Take the R699 heading East and drive for approx 1.3KM and as you pass through the small village of Knocktopher the road bends to the right. Continue on down this road for approx 250m and you will find the ruins on your right hand side. You can park safely at the gate.
Saturday, 3 November 2018
Situated a short distance from the megalithic tomb of Dowth this often named Dowth abbey is actually a former parish church which was constructed in the late 14th century. It is thought to incorporate some portions of an earlier church on the site. The extant ruins consist of a nave and chancel with a double belfry on the extended Western tower gable.
It was built next to the estate of the Netterville family and fell into ruin due to extensive damage during the rebellion of 1641. The grounds in subsequent centuries have been used as a burial ground. One of the more noted features here is that of a memorial for John Boyle O'Reilly, an Irish patriot who had been transported to Australia in 1868 and managed to escape to the United States where in Boston he made a successful career as a writer and journalist. He is buried in Holyhood cemetery in Massachusetts. A large and impressive memorial now stands in this cemetery at Dowth, his place of birth, Behind the monument on the side with the effigy of a dog are the faint remains of a Sheela-na-gig set in the wall.
When visiting I was impressed that for such an ancient church that all the walls were still standing although some repairs appear to have been made. It is also quite a long structure and has two doorways in the nave on opposite walls.
Nearby as mentioned is the ancient tomb of Dowth which I will cover in a future post. Ideally you can visit both it and the church in the same trip.
To find the ruins take the M1 heading North and at junction 10 just after the Boyne bridge take the exit for the N51 to Navan. Drive approx 1.8KM until you pass the gates of Townley Hall on your right. Take the next left hand turn onto the L1607. Drive down this road for about 1.8KM until you have passed two sharp bends to the right. Continue on for another 1KM and you will see an entrance on the left to Netterville house with a sign pointing to the O'Reilly memorial. Drive up the narrow avenue and you will find limited parking space at the church gate.
P.S. I have recently added more photos of Maynooth Castle to the earlier post. It can be found here