Sunday 25 September 2011

Taghadoe Round Tower & Church Co Kildare

                                           Above Image: The leaning Tower...

                                  Above Image: The entrance door to the Church

In the Town land South of Maynooth lies the ancient Round tower of Taghadoe. There existed a monastic site here which dated back to the 6th century and is thought to have been founded by St. Tua. The Monastery became known in Gaelic as Teach Tua and this through the subsequent years formed the name Taghadoe. The Tower is all that remains of the Monastic site and it's sole purpose was to act as a defence against marauding invaders out to pillage the sacred possessions that the Monks held. The entrance door is 12 feet above ground and was accessible by ladder. The Monks would then raise the ladder and defend themselves through the one portal. The Tower remained in use for over 1000 years until it fell into ruin in the 17th century. Today it stands solidly 20 metres high but without it's conical top.
The nearby Church was constructed on the site in 1831 but most unusually remained in use for only 40 years. The Round Tower was used during this period as as a large coal bunker and a small door at the base was made to facilitate this and then later bricked up. The Tower was declared a National Monument in 1886.
We found Taghadoe on a quiet bend in the road off the R406 Straffan Road. It is set alongside farmland and there is a working cattle farm adjacent. Being set in this environment it is a bit of a shock to the system when you open the car door and get a major blast of that country air! There is also a gate adjacent to the site to which the whole area in front of it is a rough mixture of mud and cow pats, so tread carefully.!
We parked just outside the gates of Taghadoe, keeping the car as close to the wall as possible so that farm machinery using the field gate could get by. The main gate is chained and padlocked but there is the ever useful stile in the wall to the right of this gate for easy access. The grounds are well kept and you can enter the old Church easily. What is striking about the Tower is it's close proximity to the Church. It appears to be leaning slightly and I wonder if someday it will topple over and demolish the adjacent building!
The Church itself only 180 odd years old has the unusual feature of corner turrets and some very decorative stonework. It seems a shame that it didn't stay in use much longer as it was certainly built to impress and to last.
To find your way to Taghadoe, take the M4 out of Dublin and exit at Junction 3 For Straffan. On leaving take the first exit on the Roundabout for the R406 Straffan Road. Drive for Approx a mile and you will come to Taghadoe Crossroads. Turn right here and you will find the ruins on your right hand side about a half mile down the road.

Monday 19 September 2011

Cruagh Tower & Church Co Dublin

                   Above Image: The two overgrown piles on each side of the Tower
                                         are all that is left of the Church Gables

                                           Above Image: the Entrance Gate

The Cruagh Watchtower stands silently atop a rough grassy Hillock overlooking both the old and new Cruagh cemeteries near Rockbrook. The original site contained a Church predating Norman times which may have been associated with St Dalua..All that remains of this Church today are parts of the Western and Eastern gables. It is believed that the Church may have been demolished to build the Tower in the 1700's. Up to that time it was still in use, but turbulent times in Ireland and the eventual union of parishes led to it's falling into lay hands and finally disuse.
The Watchtower which is situated between the ruined gables was constructed as an observation post so that a sentry could protect the cemetery from body snatchers who became prevalent at the time due to new medical research and the lack of cadavers for examination.
Today, the Tower stands with it's large window on the North facing side gazing like a great dark eye over the old and ragged graveyard. Apparently the Tower stretches a few feet underground but has only one upper chamber. It is still in fairly good condition structurally, but is partly overgrown with ivy. There lies in the grounds of Danesmoate House on Kellystown Road a virtual twin of this Tower, no doubt inspired by the original not too far away in Rockbrook.
Entry to the old graveyard can be found through an iron gate in the wall surrounding the older section and this is located in the left hand corner as you enter through the main gate of the new section from the road.
As a point of interest the site was used as a location in the 1969 film "The Italian Job". You can spot the tower and entrance gate in the scene featuring Michael Caine and Noel Coward at approx 38 mins  into the movie.
To find Cruagh Tower, take the R115 from The Yellow House Pub in Rathfarnham. Continue on through the roundabout at Taylor's Lane and this road then joins the R116 to Rockbrook. After approx a mile you will come to a fork in the road and you will see Cruagh cemetery on your right. Parking is possible outside

Monday 12 September 2011

Baltinglass Abbey Co Wicklow

                                        Above Image: One of the Stone Tiles

The founding of Baltinglass Abbey by Dermot McMurrough took place in 1148. It was established for the Cistercians. The order remained there until the Abbey's  dissolution in 1536 under the reformation by Henry VIII. A Protestant Church was built amongst the ruins in 1815 evident today by the remaining Tower, but it ceased use in 1883. The ruins lie adjacent today to St Mary's Anglican Church on the same grounds.
Our visit took place on a warm august day when the town of Baltinglass seemed bustling with activity. The town square was full of people and parked cars. Ironically for such a notable Abbey ruin, Baltinglass had only three visitors at that time....Us!
Parking was difficult in the town so we took the narrow road down to the Abbey which runs alongside the River Slaney and we managed to park quite near the gates of St Mary's Church. The actual entrance gate to the Abbey remained locked but the gate to St Mary's allowed access to the site. I have to say that the grounds are impeccably kept by the Glebewarden/Groundskeeper.
The majestic arches of the Abbey are it's most distinctive feature. There are both squared and rounded pillars standing to the sides of the aisles of the Nave. Some other features are the stone tiles decorated it is said by the master craftsman who also worked on Jerpoint Abbey. Some of these tiles have been placed for display so that you can get a close up view. To the side of the Church wall is a huge plinth with a large stone pyramid atop, which was constructed as a mausoleum for the Stratford family.
The Abbey lies in a very sedate and picturesque area of the town on the banks of the River Slaney and we wandered around for about an hour taking in the wonderful detail of the stone masonry. At one point the groundskeeper arrived to cut the grass on the lawns and seemed nonchalant to our presence, but nodded at us when we were leaving.
To find the Abbey, take the N81 from Dublin to Tullow and when you reach Baltinglass turn left at the crossroads and go over the Bridge. On the far side of the Bridge take the first left turn along the River. This will lead you directly to the Abbey.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Burgage Castle Co Wicklow

                             Above Image: The view of the Lake from the Castle ruin

                          Above Image: The memorial Cross to the right of the Castle

Just about a half mile from the West Wicklow Village of Blessington lie the ruins of Burgage Castle.The scant remains crumbling away are now fenced in for safety reasons.The Castle, a Tower House, is thought to have been built around Norman times and sits adjacent to a very ancient ecclesiastical site called Burgage More which was abandoned in the 1400's. Fragments of an old Church now remain beside the Tower ruins.
In 1940 the area was flooded to create a reservoir for Dublin water supply and as a means to aid the Hydro Electric power station at Poulaphuca. At the time graves on the site were transported across to the other side of Blessington, and a tall cross now remains as a memorial to the site..
The Castle ruin now only consists of one wall and although not much to see, is in a very picturesque and photogenic spot. I believe that ruins such as Burgage should be documented as much as possible as they may soon disappear forever.
Access to where the Castle ruin is situated  through two iron gates which have pedestrian gaps to the side.A quick 6-8 minute walk along a well worn trail will bring you down to the lakeside. There are marvellous panoramas of the Lake and Mountains to be seen and although close to the Lake now, the Castle must once have stood in meadowland overlooking only the River Liffey.
To find the ruin, take the N81 from Dublin to Blessington. Just past the main street in Blessington, there is a left hand turn onto Troopersfield. This leads directly onto Burgage road which narrows to a lane way near it's end.
There are private houses here and parking is restricted for local access, so you will need to park a little away from the entry gate that leads to the shore.

Many Thanks to Max Chevers for his very informative comment. See Below.