Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Old Ardcath Church Co Meath

                                                 Above Image: Entrance gate

                                     Above Image & Below Image: Bell & Bell chain

                                            Above Image: Exterior of North door

                                              Above Image: Interior of South door

                                        Above Image: East gable and Chancel area

                                                     Above Image: Choir arch

                                             Above Image: West gable & Nave

                                               Above Image: Sacristy doorway

                                               Above Image: East gable exterior

 Ardcath Hill was the standing point for the Fianna in Irish lore before they went into battle with the Kings of Ireland who gathered on Garristown Hill in adjacent County Dublin. The name Ardcath translates to "Hill/Height of the battle"
This large church ruin has been recorded as having been built in the early 14th century and quite a sizable portion still remains extant to this day. The church was originally dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and was in use as a Catholic church until the suppression in the mid 16th century. It subsequently was adopted by the Church of Ireland community until it became ruinous in the early 1600's and was laid open thereafter to the elements.
Access to the ruins is by way of a roadside pedestrian gate and they are perched upon elevated ground. The long nave and chancel within are divided by a choir arch and the church has two open doorways, one in the North wall and another in the South which face each other. A now non-extant sacristy was led to through another (fenced off) Southern door within the chancel. 
A huge arched window is situated in the Eastern gable which would have been just above the altar. The light in the chancel area through this and along with several large adjacent side windows must have been exceptional. The chancel area beyond the choir arch has not weathered as well as the nave. Tree branches have encroached upon the area and we had to wind our way through them.The walls in the chancel appear to be crumbling on top. The decorative framing within the large window arch is looking in danger of also falling away.
In the West gable a window has been blocked up and above it an arched aperture serves as a belfry. The bell that still remains has been dated back to at least the early 16th century and we found on the exterior gable wall a chain suspended from the bell for the purpose I believe to be rung when someone has passed in the community.
The ruins are fairly similar to other church ruins of it's size that we have come across but the existence of the church choir arch and more than normal amount of windows make it a worthwhile visit. You can also tie in a visit to nearby Garristown church ruin on the same trip. (see earlier post here)
To find the ruins take the N2 heading North from the roundabout at the Pilo Hotel at Ashbourne and drive for approx 6KM until you reach a right hand turn onto the R152 signposted for Drogheda. Turn right here and follow the road for approx 700m and then take again take a right turn that is signposted for Garristown. Continue for approx 2.5KM along this road until you reach a T-junction with a stone bungalow with an arched door opposite. Turn left and approx 200m later the road makes a sharp right turn. Continue on for approx 1.5KM until you reach a crossroads. Turn left following the sign for Ardcath. Drive into the village and as you pass Bennett's Bar and Lounge on your right take the immediate left hand turn.thereafter and you will spot the ruin on your left. We parked against a wall opposite the entry stile as the road is quite narrow.

Sunday, 28 February 2021

The Well Of The White Cow Co Meath


                                           Above Image: Roadside entrance gate

                                       Above & Below Images: The Well entrance

                                                 Above Image: The Well water

                                                   Above Image: The Rag tree


Holy wells...the mere name suggests a sense of something old and unusual and while I would not normally seek them out I have come across a few on our travels and they have somehow weaved their way into my circle of interest so I will always divert to take a look at one if possible.
This particular well is one of maybe half a dozen recorded in the area surrounding Tara in Co Meath. Most but not all are now non-extant having been covered over or absorbed into the local drainage system but The Well of the White Cow has been saved from ruination and restored for public access. 
The name given to it is one of several monikers including "Cormac's Well", The Well of the Dark Eye","The Physicians Well" among others and more recently "Saint Patrick's Well". I much prefer the White Cow title myself.
The well has been a local feature for many centuries and at one time was a supplier of water for the nearby village. It's origin date is unknown but many wells can stretch back far beyond early medieval times. St. Patrick whose name is also given to the well lit the paschal fire on nearby Slane in 433AD and as it is also named after him maybe it was in existence at that time. What is commonly known is that it's period of use ended sometime around 1800 and that in the early part of the 21st century was situated within the bounds of private farmland.
In 2002 according to a signpost at the site, the then landowner Mr Dinny Donnelly permitted a local group called The Friends of Tara and also "Slaine" the society for well restoration to restore the well with the aid of a council grant and a public fundraiser. Public access was granted and a roadside gate and pathway were installed after completion.
The well sits now within a small subterranean chamber surrounded by stonework and a metal entrance gate giving it the look of the entrance to a small Neolithic burial chamber. It has frequent visitors evident by the little tokens people leave behind and also by the rag tree to which people attach ribbons and such.
This a very peaceful and bucolic site and indeed Tara itself is well worth a visit if you find yourself in the area.
To find the well take the M3 motorway and exit at junction 7. Take the R147 South from the roundabout signposted for Skryne. Drive for approx 1KM until you see a right hand turn for the L6200 for Tara. Turn right here and drive the length of the road until you reach a T-junction with the Tara car park opposite. Turn left and continue for approx 180m past Maguire's Cafe which is on your right hand side and you will find the well entrance. I would suggest parking at the car park at Maguire's and take the short walk down to the well gate which is also on your right hand side as the road is a little narrow for parking outside..
Don't forget to try the tea and cream scones at the cafe!

Monday, 1 February 2021

Old Rodanstown Church & Rath Co Meath

                                              Above Image: The entrance gate

                                              Above Image: The church doorway

                                      Above Image: The inner apse in the East wall

                                       Above Image: Belfry & inner West doorway

                                       Above Image: Remnants outside the church

                           Above Image: Plaster remaining on inner curve of doorway

                                         Above Image: The outer walls of apse.

                                                Above Image: The nearby Rath.

We came across this old church while travelling through the backroads of County Meath. It is positioned within an old graveyard at a quiet road junction. This was the summer of 2020 and the country had just relaxed covid lockdown so inter-county travel was possible again albeit for a short time.
The existing ruin is of an 18th century structure and is still fairly solid though roofless, its windows blocked up and sills removed. It was built on the site of the ancient medieval church of St. Rodan which was suppressed in 1540 when the then townland name was Balradan. It was part of the holdings of St Peter's Abbey in Newtown Trim. The older church became ruinous and is now non-extant. Some of its stone may have been incorporated into the later structure. A font from the older church was salvaged and is now located at Milltown near Kells.
The present ruins are rectangular in shape and at its East end form an apse. This a convex shaped wall which I myself have only come across once before in Rathkenny Church (see previous post here). There is  a round headed doorway in the West wall with yew trees forming an arboreal archway toward it. Some of the original plaster work can be seen on the inner curve of the door. At some point the walls were raised by about 3 feet to round-head the windows and include a belfry in the West gable.
The headstones date from the mid eighteenth century to the early twentieth century with a small scattering of more recent stones from approx 40 to 50 tears ago.
We walked around these peaceful grounds which I felt was soaked with atmosphere. It was the the perfect embodiment of a country churchyard that would no doubt have pleased Thomas Gray. We encountered only a groundskeeper on our visit pottering about the gravestones.  
Strewn about the outer base of the ruins were what may be remnants from the medieval church.
About 550m NE of the church ruins you can clearly see an ancient Rath or Ringfort which is a large flat topped grass mound stepped up from ditches and was designed as an early form of defensive structure. This one is located in fairly level surroundings and so is quite prominent. It is now topped with some trees. The Rath probably dates from the period 400-1100AD although there is discussion that some Raths may date back as far as the Iron age. A rather overgrown field gate can be found along the roadside but the Rath looks to be on private land.
To find the ruins take the R125 heading from Kilcock (road opposite Macari takeaway in the village) and drive for approx 320m until you reach a crossroads. Continue straight on through and follow the sign for the L6219 to Dunboyne. Approx 2KM along you will come to a sharp right hand bend. You will see the Rath on your left. Continue on around the bend and drive approx 400m and you will spot the ruins on your right. You can park at the roadside outside the church gate.

Thursday, 14 January 2021

St. David's Castle & Church Co Kildare


                                     Above Image: Castle SW face & gate entrance

                              Above Image: Top of SE face visible from Church Lane

                                       Above Image: NE face seen from churchyard

                                       Above Image: SE doorway of church tower

                                         Above Image: Full SE face of bell tower

                                 Above Image: Entrance to church from Main Street

                                     Above Image: View of tower & attached church

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

Old Killary Church Co Meath


                                          Above Image: The roadside entrance

                                              Above Image: Graveyard entrance

                                               Above Image: North gate (exterior)

                                               Above Image: South gate (interior)

                                          Above Image: Cross base within church

                                              Above Image: Gate of mausoleum

                                      Above Image: Three stone steps in North wall

                                             Above Image: South gate (exterior)

                                           Above Image: High cross shaft & base

                                            Above Image: Cross shaft West face

                                            Above Image: Cross shaft East face

                                                 Above Image: Standing stone

                                     Above Image: Damage marks on face of stone

                                     Above Image: Skull & crossbones grave slab

This medieval church dates back prior to the 14th century as it was mentioned in the ecclesiastical taxation report for Pope Nicholas IV made during the period 1302-1306.
It was a functioning parish church at least up to the dissolution and was dedicated to St Ivarii. The church was in ruins by the time of the Irish confederate war in the 1640's
We have come across quite a few church ruins in County Meath during our summer expeditions between the Covid lockdowns this year. Quite a number are on back roads or in this case secreted away from the road up a narrow laneway. We chose to visit this one in particular because the grounds also contained a few interesting features.
Firstly. the church ruins which are positioned in the centre of an walled enclosure, consist of a divided nave and chancel with a great deal of the walls still extant apart from the East wall which is now at foundation level. Two doorways stand opposite each other in the North and South walls with the remains of the base of a high cross just inside the Southern doorway. The absence of a church roof ensures this base is always full of water in the aperture at the top where the shaft was formerly inserted giving it the look of either a font of a large bullaun stone.
A little set of three stone steps lead up through the North wall which may have been another doorway to the exterior or a now non-extant extension. A mausoleum with a lintelled doorway and a dedication from 1818 to one Patrick Russell is located within the North was on the East end of the ruins.
Within the grounds just to the North West of the church are the remains of a high cross. What is present is the base and shaft. There are some interesting depictions from the Old Testament carved on the East face namely from bottom to top Adam & Eve, Noah's Ark ,The sacrificing of Isaac and Daniel in the Lion's den. The West face depicts scenes from the New Testament which are The annunciation to the Shepherds, Jesus's baptism, Adoration of the Magi and the Marriage at Cana. 
Elsewhere in the grounds you can find a curious grave slab located just South of the church walls possibly two to three centuries old which has carved upon it a skull and crossbones with a heart in the centre and also just about visible beneath the bird droppings an hour glass and a bell. I have come across similar stones such as these around the country and they apparently are supposed to depict mortality and a reminder to those viewing that they too will one day succumb to inevitable demise.
One last item we came across was a standing stone located on the perimeter path to the South of the ruins. It is leaning at a slight angle and stands approx one metre in height. The surface on its West face appears to have been damaged by some implement or other as someone tried unsuccessfully to forcibly remove it.
The ruins and indeed the graveyard lie silent and we were not disturbed during our visit as we have been on occasion in the past when visiting out of the way sites, usually by well-meaning locals who are just curious as to what you are up to.
To find the ruins take the N52 heading North East from Kells towards Ardee.and drive for aprox 22KM then take a right turn onto the L1604 signposted for Lobinstown. Continue for approx 2.2KM and look for a narrow laneway on your left with a single stone pillar and open metal gate. it can be easily missed on this narrow winding road so drive slowly and you should spot it eventually. There is a photo of the lane entrance above for reference. Drive up the lane and you can park outside the graveyard at the top,