Monday 29 January 2024

Old Slate Quarry Valentia Co Kerry

 

                                               Above Image: Old mining tower

                                      Above Image: Part of the road to the quarry.




                        Above 3 pictures: Quarry cavern with grotto visible in lower two.




While touring the back roads of Valentia Island our attention was drawn to a sign for the Valentia slate quarry. So we drove off the beaten track to be eventually greeted by the sight of a huge cavern.
The slate quarry was originally founded in 1816 by the 18th Knight of Kerry, Maurice Fitzgerald (1772 - 1849).  Its purpose was to supply materials for roofing and flooring. The excellent quality of the slate quickly gained a reputation becoming much sought after and word of it soon reached far and wide.  A dedicated pier was constructed in 1835 for the purpose of exporting the product and subsequently led to the founding of the small village of Knightstown. Both were designed by Alexander Nimmo, the Scottish born surveyor and engineer.
The slate has been utilized by among others the great London cathedrals and in stations on its underground system but also notably in the Paris opera house.
In 1858 one of the quarry buildings was involved with the transatlantic cable project.
Between the years 1880 and 1900 the quarry closed but reopened for a few years until disaster struck in 1911 when a huge rockfall ceased all operations. In 1991 a group of entrepreneurs reopened the operation and hired some Ukranian workers to work the mine so that modern generations could once again avail of this excellent slate.
When we visited there were one or two hard hats walking around but it was generally quiet. I believe that in season a tour can be made to some extent of the mine interior but this was not available on our visit which was unfortunately just out of season.
The huge cavern excavated from the North-Eastern slope of Geokaun mountain is a terrific sight and in the Marian year of 1954, on an upper crevice, two statues were placed to form a grotto. You can see them clearly in the above photos. They were reached by a ladder which now lies on the ground underneath the grotto. On the approach to the cavern is the lonely ruin of a tower which as it turned out was the only remnant remaining of the long gone machine house.
To reach the quarry, leave from the pier at Knightstown turning left at the Royal Hotel and then driving approx. 250m until you reach a fork in the road at the newer church gate. Take the right hand fork (which is School Road) and drive approx. 1KM where you will see the ruined tower of old Kilmore church on your left (see previous post here) Continue driving on this road for approx 1.6KM (be careful as at times this road is very narrow) until you reach a staggered crossroads. Follow the sign for the quarry which is straight ahead and drive approx 1KM and you will then reach the quarry. There is parking in front of the barrier at the cavern.

GPS
51.92354. -10.34278



Tuesday 19 December 2023

Old Greenogue Church Co Meath

 

                                               Above Image: Southern aspect


                                                 Above Image: Roadside stile


                                          Above Image: Entry gate to graveyard



                                               Above Image: Northern doorway


                                    Above Image: Dividing arch and inner building



                                          Above Image: Remains of Western wall


                                                   Above Image: Northern wall



The first mention of a church here which is dedicated to St. Nicholas was in the ecclesiastical taxations of 1302 - 1306 where it was referred to as Greenock. This would probably date the church to at least the late 13th century. It has at times also been referred to as Grenoke. The church served as a catholic church until Cromwellian times when it was then either reformed into a Protestant church or was laid to ruin by the invading army. In any event it's condition is recorded in the 1837 Samuel Lewis publication "The Topographical Dictionary Of Ireland" as being "considerable remains".
On our visit we parked at a roadside gate which had a V-shaped stone stile to the side. The laneway leading up to the church is slightly inclined and made up of gravel and is parallel to another lane leading to a private dwelling. At the top of the gravel path there is an entry gate on the right, with the ruins clearly visible. This is unlocked and it is within the enclosure that our interest lies. The ruins are sited on a grassy ridge of ground facing in an East-West direction and are surrounded by graves on both the North and South sides. All four walls still stand to varying degrees with a complete arched doorway in the North facing wall and partial doorway in the South wall. Between the nave and chancel areas is a large archway and what appears to be a seperate block which may have been a vestry or a possible stronghold for the clergy. It does not fit well into the layout of the inner church so it may have been a later addition. It can be entered through a rectangular orifice in the North wall which is approx two feet from the ground and appears more of a window than a doorway.

On an outer wall there is a plaque with the following inscription:

"In Memory of
Fr. Pat Ferrall P.P.
Greenogue, Donaghmore.
1789 / 1801
Active in the Rebellion of 1798
He was a stern and uncompromising Patriot R.I.P."

Singer Sean Dunphy who represented Ireland in the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest is among those buried in this graveyard.

To find the ruins take the M2 heading North and exit at junction 3. Follow the long slip road until you reach the Nine Mile Roundabout. Take the third exit signposted for the R125 to Swords. Continue on this road for approx 2.4KM and you will spot the ruins on elevated ground on your right. You can park offroad in front of the stile without inhibiting access to the private dwelling gates adjacent.

 Coordinates: 53.4885 | -6.34932

Tuesday 31 October 2023

Ballycarbery Castle Co Kerry

 


                                           Above Image: Approach road to castle

                                                 Above Image: North East tower


                            Above Image: Castle with car parking area in foreground


This impressive castle was constructed during the 16th century on the site of an earlier 13th century structure. It commands a view over the estuary near Cahersiveen.

The castle was thought to be a residence of the McCarthy Mors who were successful traders and the position of this residence to the estuary was intended for more commercial than strategic reasons. It was later acquired by Sir Valentine Browne, a landowner, who lived in Ross Castle near Killarney. In 1652 during the confederate wars Ballycarbery was under siege by parliamentary forces and suffered damage from heavy cannon fire. In the years following it fell into ruin. Today the high wall that surrounded the castle has been diminished by sixty percent and the entire rear of the castle is now non-extant.

Only one chamber remains vaulted and it is located in the North East tower . It contains an awkward stairs leading to the remains of the first floor with another damaged stair on on the exterior. .Up to a few years ago accessibilty to the ruins was possible but of late the landowner has posted several prohibitive signs denying access probably due to the crumbling stonework but also more likely for insurance reasons as people would be apt to climb the stairs. It was therefore a little disappointing on our visit to discover this situation. I'd imagine there is probably still some trespassing done but any movement around the ruins is highly visible. That aside it is still an easy drive to the site and it's in a scenic spot .There is a rudimentary and very sandy car park right in front of the old field entrance and you can also take a walk down to the strand for an alternate view. While there we met an Australian lad who was very interested in this blog and for whom I have to thank for promoting it down under!

To find the ruins take the turn in Cahersiveen town onto Bridge Street (at the architecturally pleasing community resource centre) Once across the estuary bridge drive for approx. 600m until you reach a small crossroads. Turn left at the crossroads and drive approx. 1.4KM until you see a left hand turn signposted for the castle. Drive to the bottom of this lane until you reach the small car park.

Saturday 30 September 2023

Old Kilmore Church Valentia Island Co Kerry

 

Above Image: Iron railing denotes former nave
                                         
                                          Above Image: View up the tower interior


                                             Above Image: The arched doorway






In the far Southwest of Ireland on the Skellig coast lies the Island of Valentia, a small but un-spoilt corner of the country. The Island not unlike Achill in County Mayo is very close to the mainland and is reached either by bridge or a short five minute journey on a car ferry.
It was on Valentia that we found the rather lonely looking tower of old Kilmore church which served its community for a short period in the 19th century.
It was built during the time of the Board of First Fruits, an institution of the Church of Ireland designed through grants to fund the founding of and improvement of its churches in Ireland.
Kilmore was completed in 1815. It was designed by James Pain and purposed to hold up to sixty people. Years later it became too small to accommodate the growing congregation and so a newer larger church dedicated to St. John the Baptist was constructed in 1860 within the island's singular village, Knightstown.
The old church fell into rack and ruin by the turn of the century after decades of dereliction until finally later in the 2oth century, the nave was completely demolished leaving only the tower as a sentinel to the graveyard it inhabits. An iron railing maps the outline of the now demolished nave.
The ruin is located just off a narrow road the leads from Knightstown towards the lighthouse at Cromwell Point. A small iron pedestrian gate gives access from the roadside and the tower stands on elevated ground within. It stretches three stages in height and is silhouetted against Kilbeg mountain in  the backround. We found the remains of an arched doorway in the South facing wall and within you can see right up through the tower to the now open top. The summit of the tower has a castellated design.
It's a lonely spot in a bucolic setting and the wind seems to swirl in circles around the tower adding to the feeling of solitude that exudes from the place.
To find the ruin, leave from the pier at Knightstown turning left at the Royal Hotel and then driving approx. 250m until you reach a fork in the road at the newer church gate. Take the right hand fork (which is School Road) and drive approx. 1KM and you will see the tower on your left. You can park off road at the gate. Alternatively if you are crossing the bridge from Portmagee take the R565 and drive until you reach the said church gate in Knightstown, then follow the previous directions down School Road towards the tower.

Sunday 13 August 2023

Dungarvan Old Church Co Kilkenny

 

                           Above Image: The South facing walls of nave and tower

                                Above Image: The North facing wall and East gable



                                        Above Image: A view up the tower interior



I spotted this looming ruin while passing through the small village of Dungarvan in Co Kilkenny. 

This tall Church of Ireland church was constructed in 1812 as part of the ambitious first fruits initiative which established a swell of new churches with quite a few of them today lying in ruin. This particular one lasted about 90 years of service before it fell into disuse in the early 20th century. The church is single-celled with a tall four stage tower on the West side. It sits on the site of an earlier medieval church which had a bellcote and while no trace of that church remains there are however some ancient grave markers from the time scattered throughout the site. Most of the windows of the tower are now  blocked up including those on the the original level which contained the bell. On the main building there is a large arched window in the East gable and two further windows on the South wall only. The doorway is in the north wall of the tower and while no access is possible to the nave you can see right up through the interior of the tower. The tower itself is architecturally interesting in the way that each level is slightly smaller giving the tower an impression of more height.

The ruin lies in a walled graveyard behind the modern church in Dungarvan village which lies on the R448 between Thomastown and Gowran. You can park in front of the new church and take the gate here in toward the ruin at the rear.


GPS  52° 35′ 11.62″ N, 7° 05′ 39.77″ W


Thursday 6 July 2023

The Cuchulainn Stone Clochafarmore Co Louth

 


                                             Above Image: The roadside stile



                                   Above Image: Looking back towards the roadside


                                                  Above Image: The inscription


                              Above Image: Roadside wooden effigy on the junction of
                                                     the L3167 and N52


In a rural farm field near Knockbridge County Louth there stands a solitary stone monolith which is not unlike others of its ilk scattered around the country but is in fact one of the more important features associated with Irish myth and legend. For it is here that the great warrior Cuchulainn met his fate and spent his last days in this world.

The large standing stone dates back to the Bronze age and reaches a height of three metres above ground with a width of approx 1.3 metres at it's widest point. There is a name and date inscribed on its side stating "Jim McKenna 1912". This is perhaps the landowner who discovered and restored it upright.

The stone is also known as the Clochafarmore stone (taken from the Gaelic Cloch an Fhir Mhóir meaning Stone of the big man). To add even more history to it the stone is erected in a meadow known as "The field of slaughter". Some ancient arrowheads were found here in the past giving possible credence to it being a battle site and a bloody one for that matter if its name is anything to go by.

Cuchulainn's association with this stone comes from the legend that he met his doom in this field instigated by warriors sent by Queen Maeve of Connacht to kill him.  It was Cuchulainn's vow as a warrior, a vow known as his "Geis" (pronounced gash) never to eat Dog meat or to refuse hospitality. When an old crone (who may have been in the pay of Maeve) had sheltered him and served him dogmeat to eat he could not refuse her hospitality even though breaking his Geis meant he would lose strength. The ensuing battle with Maeve's warriors was long and bloody with Cuchulainn holding fast against them until weakness came upon him. So he strapped himself to a standing stone in the field in order to stay upright and battle them off. Eventually, fatally injured and not appearing to be moving his enemies waited fearing any approach until after 3 days had passed the Morrigan (the pagan goddess of war, witchcraft and death) in the guise of a raven landed on Cuchulainn's shoulder thus signifying the great warrior had indeed passed. This particular moment is captured by a bronze statue sculpted by Oliver Sheppard in 1935 and now permenantly on display at the General Post Office in Dublin.

Access to this stone is by way of a roadside stile which is signposted by the OPW. When we visited it was in April and the meadow was easy to cross. This is farm land so we have to respect the land owners property and not trample anywhere we shouldn't. There is usually a trodden track left by previous visitors that leads you directly to the stone which lies approx 200m from the roadside. The monument itself  to me at least gives off a strange vibe and commands your attention. I experienced this particular "vibe" before when visiting the battlefield at Culloden near Inverness in Scotland. I suspect places such as these are soaked in the events of the past and register a kind of aura to those who walk within their boundaries. 

To find the stone take the M1 motorway heading north and exit at junction 16 onto the N52 for Ardee. Drive for approx 2.5KM until you see a right hand turn onto the L3167. Continue on this road past Stephenstown Pond until you reach a crossroads with the R171 in the centre of Knockbridge Village. Turn right at the crossroads and drive approx 1.2KM until you see the Evan Henry Electrical Engineers premises on your left. You can park here at the fence away from the gate and the stile to the field is directly opposite across the road.


GPS Coordinates: 53°58′28″N 6°27′57″W / 53.974505°N 6.465919°W

Wednesday 31 May 2023

St. Munna's Church Kilmoon Co Meath

 


                                       Above Image: The entrance gate and stile

                                   Above Image: Remains of the doorway and porch



                                       Above Image: Parts of a window surround

                                      Above Image: Some of the table top tombs



Ireland is littered with partial remains of medieval churches, abbeys and castles but it is unusual to come across what appears to be a part of an ancient ruin that in fact only dates back to the 19th century.

A church in Kilmoon had been mentioned in the ecclesiastical taxations of 1302-1306 but there are no extant remains of this structure as it fell into complete ruin in the mid 17th century. A monastery was also thought to have been in this area possibly founded by St. Moen whose name may have morphed into St. Munna after which the remains here today are named. 

The present ruins are the remains of the Western doorway and porch and some of the West wall of a Church of Ireland church built in 1816 as part of the Board of First Fruits initiative and costing approx. £500. A further £100 + was recorded as being granted for repairs around 1837.  The ordnance survey 25" map (1881-1913) records St. Munna's as a church in use during that period. When the church was demolished is unclear and why the remains of the doorway were left is a mystery. I  have scoured the Anglican records online but as yet have not turned up any answer.

The graveyard in which the ruin stands is buried (pardon the pun) down a narrow lane behind The Snailbox Pub & Restaurant just off the N2 to Slane. It is accessed by a set of gates or over a stone stile in the surrounding wall and is well maintained as it is still in use. Some of the older graves are table top tombs.

While we wandered around the structure we found a couple of pieces from a window surround which have been placed beside the arch. The existence of a more ancient graveyard possibly dating back to 500AD came to light a few years back when two skulls were discovered by workers digging near The Snailbox. The skulls were examined by the state pathologist who determined their age.

The ruin while not extensive is worth stopping to view especially as it is in an area that is near to so many different historical spots. 

To find the ruin take the N2 heading North toward Slane driving approx 5KM from the roundabout coming off the M2. Take a left hand turn onto the L5007 just before the sign advertising The Snailbox. Drive to the end of this narrow lane until you reach a T-junction. Turn left and about 50m on turn right following the lane past the pub on your right. A few metres on you will see the word "stop" painted on the road. Turn left here down an even narrower lane which leads directly to the gate of the graveyard. You can park on the grassy area at the gate.


GPS

53°34'10.8"N 6°27'30.6"W

53.569662, -6.458486