Monday, 1 February 2021
Thursday, 14 January 2021
In the centre of Naas town these two sites are adjacent to one another, so it seemed appropriate to document them in the same post.
The remains of the castle of Naas stands a bit
forlorn now on a patch of private land. It is slowly falling into disrepair and is in desperate need of care which is a shame as it incorporates parts of one of the oldest Norman structures in the country.
The castle according to local history, which today in its present form is known as St. David's castle, was once called the castle of King John. He had visited Ireland twice once in 1206 and then again four years later. On his subsequent visit it is said that he formed a parliamentary assembly and this is likely to have taken place in the recently built castle.
Naas became a Norman stronghold and was given powers by Henry IV in 1409 that allowed taxes to be collected and to have the town fortified. The castle found itself included in these plans and became a part of the walled structures surrounding the town. The castle was restructured and the town became a vital part of the defence known as "The Pale"
The tower we see today has within it a stone staircase and consists of three storeys. The vaulting is still extant from the original Norman structure.
In the 1730's it was converted into a dwelling house for the rector of the Church of Ireland and so its association with St. David's came about. A house was also added to the structure around this time.The building's last occupant was a Kildare surgeon but it has not been occupied since his death and the castle and land was sold in the early years of this century.
Today it is heading for ruin but the local council set a feasibility study into its possible future use but backed off somewhat at the resulting cost of renovation. Apparently during the latter part of 2020 the site was sold to a new owner who wishes to live there. Hopefully this might mean that the owner will conserve and restore this important piece of local history.
Adjacent to the castle is St David's Church. This was originally the site of an early Christian building but was replaced by the Normans with a church dedicated to the Welsh Saint 'St David'. In the early 13th century it was recorded as being a possession of the Knights Hospitallers. The church in existence today was constructed in 1620 and incorporated a good deal of the old Norman building. Roughly 150 years later the steeple of this church had become ruinous and rather than repair it a decision was made to demolish it.
In 1781 the 3rd Earl of Mayo Joseph Bourke (1736-1794) who was bishop of Ferns and Leighlin and soon to be Archbishop of Tuam planned to replace the old steeple with a very impressive tall new structure that would be visible for miles. Bourke's family were from Naas and this may have been a pet project for him. Construction began but for some reason (probably the cost of such a venture) it remained uncompleted leaving only a roofless tower without a steeple. The bell placed inside the tower is said to date back to 1674. A plaque on an inner wall provides a quote from Bourke from 1783 "I found a ruin and left a steeple".Sadly his proclamation was a tad optimistic it seems.
To find the ruins take the junction 10 exit from the M7 motorway and follow the signs for the R445 to Naas. Once you cross over the motorway bridge travel straight through the next three small roundabouts following the R445 and drive until you reach a T-junction with South Main Street in Naas. Turn left here and continue until you pass Naas Town Hall on your left. The white pillared gates of St. David's Church are a few metres further and on the right hand side between two small shops. A pedestrian gate is usually open to visit the church grounds and while the bell tower is easily accessible the castle is only partially visible from the church grounds where it is fenced off or from the gate on nearby Church Lane that borders the grounds. In relation to parking there are several disc parking spaces available on sections of the Main Street,
Friday, 4 December 2020
Sunday, 8 November 2020
Above Image: Print by Jean Watson circa 1879 displaying parts now non-extant
Set strategically on a large basalt rock outcrop on the dramatic Northern Irish coast lie the scant remains of Dunseverick Castle. It is thought to have been constructed in the the 15th century by the O'Donnell's who were preceded by the O'Cathain's and McQuillan's. Indeed the O'Cathain's held ownership here from 1000AD for over 300 years then regaining control in the mid 16th century.
In 1642 General Robert Munro, a veteran of the Thirty Years War, took hold of the Castle by force as he did with many castles in his Ulster campaign during the Irish Confederate wars and almost destroyed it. An attack occurred again in the early 1650's when Cromwellian troops completed the task leaving only the remains of a gatehouse and small tower which they had failed to uproot from the ground. The remains suffered another loss in 1978 when subsidence caused the collapse of a small attached tower into sea below.
The site at Dunseverick is a very old an important one in that it was the terminal point of the fifth ancient road from Tara, seat of the High Kings. It was known as the Slige Miiuachra. Legend has it that St Patrick also passed through here in the 5th century.
It is possible to get up close to the ruins by way of a rough track leading from the wooden stile at the roadside just before a car parking area which is adjacent to the rocky outcrop. The route is an offshoot of the causeway cliff walk and although it's only a short walk to the castle it is quite a steep walk up a grassy track to get to the rocky summit. I wouldn't advise doing so after rainfall or in any windy weather as it could increase the chance of losing your foothold. But if you do reach the ruins you will find it worth the effort if only for the dramatic sea views from there.
Not much remains now of the castle just a few shards of former walls. The the small tower that appears to be attached in older prints subsided into the sea in the same manner as the kitchen of nearby and very striking Dunluce Castle (see earlier post here) I am led to believe that a well also existed on the northern side of the former castle but it too seems to have succumbed to the ravages of time and no doubt the earlier destruction of the castle.
The causeway coast is so rich in history and antiquity and is worth spending a few days exploring. The seascapes are also very dramatic looking out where the North Channel joins the North Atlantic.
To find the ruins take the B15 out of Ballycastle and continue on to Ballintoy. Drive through Ballintoy and the road becomes the B147 so continue on for approx 9.5KM until you see a sign pointing right for the R146 to Dunseverick. Turn right here and continue for approx 1.8KM and you will eventually spot the ruins on your right. There are a small group of bungalows at the roadside and a parking area is signposted to the right just past them. Then to get to the ruins simply walk a short distance back along the road you came and you will see the wooden stile beside a field gate that allows access.
Tuesday, 6 October 2020