A guide to the best and sometimes off the beaten track historical ruins around Ireland and how to get there.
Sunday, 30 October 2011
Baldongan Castle (Church) Co Dublin
Baldongan Castle is a bit of a misnomer as it is in fact the ruins of a fortified Church. The original Castle which lay adjacent to the Church to the North-West has completely disappeared.
It was the Knights Templar who constructed the Fortress in the 13th Century. It was quadrangular with fortified Towers on each corner. The Church built in the 15th century was also furnished with a fortified Bell Tower. The Castle was the home of the De Berminghams and the Barnwells until the Cromwellian invasion. A group of assorted Irish anti-Parliamentarians called The Confederates held the Castle until 1642 when it was pummelled by the artillery of the forces of Colonel Trafford. All within were executed bar two priests who had thrown in with the Confederates.These men were tortured and finally deported to France. There is a local name of "Nuns Stood" given to a field close the ruins which where supposedly the Nuns of Baldongan stood watching the utter destruction of the Castle.
The Castle was left in ruination and over time has succumbed to the forces of Nature, The Church however although in ruins still stands imposingly over the North Dublin landscape. It's Bell Tower stands proudly 70 feet high in a commanding position and silhouettes eerily against the sky.
We visited Baldongan on a very mild bright October day and followed all the signs which say "Baldongan Castle". The actual Castle must have been quite imposing for it's name to remain attached to the present ruins. However the Church is very much Castle-like and has a strange atmosphere about it. You approach the ruins by way of a stile in the fence running alongside a country road, The ruins are a bit out of the way but not too difficult to find. Once you have made a short crossing of a field you will come to a surrounding wall. Here there is an access gate as the graveyard that has surrounded the Church is still in use.
You can enter the ruins by a doorway and walk around inside. The arched doorway to the Bell tower remains locked, but I imagine that there must be access through a local key holder as there appears to be a railing of some sort on the top of the Tower.When we visited there was no one else about. Nothing new there.
To find the Church take the M1 from Dublin to Belfast. At Junction 4 take the exit for Skerries onto the R132. After a couple of miles take the right hand turn again for Skerries onto the R127. This will lead you to the Dublin Rd Roundabout. Take the right hand exit onto Rathmore Rd. You will need go straight through two more small roundabouts and then on followin fourth roundabout, turn right. The Third turn to the right will lead you after about a mile or so to the ruins. You can park outside at the field gate.
Tuesday, 25 October 2011
Old Kilmacanogue Church Co Wicklow
Derived from the old Irish name for the Church of Mochonoc, Kilmacanogue stands as a small Village near the picturesque Glen of the Downs. The old burial ground is situated on an ancient ecclesiastical site which dates back to the 6th century. While this has long passed into history there is still to be seen the ruin of a 12th century stone Church.The church had apparently remained in use up until the 1630's but is now ivy covered and only parts of the Nave, Chancel and both gable ends remain.
The burial ground contains both older and more modern gravestones and is surrounded by a wall. When we arrived we found the one access gate locked. A bit of quick thinking spurred us to inquire at the Post Office which lay adjacent to the grounds and here we were given a key to gain access. The postal staff said that now and again someone would come to try and trace family members on the old stones, but it was not the dead that intrigued us, but the slowly disappearing ruins that lie undisturbed.
The old Church is strewn with ivy but the gable ends are still much in evidence and it is possible with a bit of bush beating to get inside at least part of the structure. This ruin could so easily be cleared of its vegetation, but as in other places alike there doesn't seem to be the interest to do so and so, inevitably, pieces of history fade into thorny oblivion.
To find old Kilmacanogue Church, take the N11 from Dublin to Wexford and just before the Glen of the Downs you will see a slip road to exit to the Village on your left. Parking is limited in the Village but you will find a spot eventually. We parked in the nearby service station. To gain access, if locked, check with the nice folk in the local Post Office.
I passed by here recently and noticed that the Post Office is closed for business. I would advise checking with the local Church who might know the whereabouts of the key,
Sunday, 23 October 2011
Old Delgany Church Co Wicklow
The old burial ground in Delgany Village was restored for public access through grants in 2007. The ruin of the old 13th century Church dedicated to St Cuarog stands in the centre. St Cuarog is believed to have given the last rites to St Kevin of Glendalough in the 7th Century and there has been an ecclesiastical site here since that time. The later built Church was in use up until 1789. Nearby the church in the grounds is the stump of an ancient cross and many of the old tombstones date back to the early 1700's.
Your visit to the ruin will be brief but nonetheless interesting. All that remains of the Church are the foundations of the Nave and Chancel and a part of one of the walls. This wall is itself now beginning to crumble so see it before it disappears.
The burial ground is situated on the Glen road in Delgany a little way down from the old Delgany Inn on the same side of the road.. Access is by an open gate and a few stone steps.The grounds have been nicely restored and maintained and as there are other sites in the area to be seen such as Kindlestown Castle and Old Kilcoole Church, it would be worth your while to stop off here for a quick visit.
To find Old Delgany Church ruins, take the N11 from Dublin to Wexford and take the exit for Delgany onto the R762. Follow the road into the Village. We found parking just outside the currently closed Delgany Inn.
Sunday, 16 October 2011
Old Kilcoole Church Co Wicklow
Old Kilcoole Church is believed to have been constructed in the 12th century and was dedicated to St Mary. The Church consisted of a Nave and a Chancel and although in a ruinous state there is still quite an extensive amount of it remaining. Both the Nave and Chancel had vaulted ceilings and a heavily pitched stone roof, now gone. There appears to be part of a later extension still in evidence which may have been a Priest's house.
Within the Nave there is a square Baptismal font and a cross slab. The ruins are surrounded by a quadrangular graveyard with some of the stones dating back as far as the 1700's.
When we arrived at the site of Kilcoole Church we found a small gate and a short lane leading from it towards the ruins. At the top however we were a little dismayed to find the entrance gate padlocked. However, as the site is in the hands of the OPW there is a small sign on the gate directing you to obtain the key from a Mr. O'Sullivan in the adjacent house.So we did. The O'Sullivans are very nice people and did not seem to mind the infrequent visitor knocking on their door.
Once in, you can easily walk around the ruins which are quite large, but access to the inner part is prohibited by heavy railings on the doors and indeed the open roof, no doubt to detract any unwelcome anti social behaviour. The ruins are quite close to a housing estate and a stone's throw from the attractive Village of Kilcoole, once the filming site for the T.V. series "Glenroe".
To find Kilcoole Ruins, take the N11 from Dublin towards Wexford. After you have passed the Glen of the Downs take the R762 exit for Delgany. Follow the signs for Delgany Village and at the Wicklow arms Pub continue to your right. This will bring you to the Junction of the R761. Turn right and continue on to the right hand fork of the small roundabout. Drive on for approx. 1 mile and continue straight on through the next roundabout. After about another mile you will find yourself on the Main Street of Kilcoole. Take a left turn onto Sea Road and the first left thereafter. At the small roundabout the end of this short road turn left. Continue on to the next junction and turn left again. The ruins are directly on your left hand side. You can park opposite on a wide area of the road.
Sunday, 9 October 2011
Dunmoe Castle Co Meath
Image Below: Contrasting light within the old Church
Dunmoe Castle presents a very striking image especially when viewed from the old canal path below on the banks of the River Boyne. The Castle was built in the 15th Century and was home to the D'arcy family. The Castle, originally a four turreted structure, is now, through years of ruin, reduced to just two. During the Cromwellian invasion in 1649 the Castle was fired upon from the South bank by passing troops on their way from Drogheda to Athboy, but avoided any real damage even during the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. It remained intact until it was destroyed by fire during the 1798 rebellion.
During their occupation of the Castle the D'Arcy's had their own Church and cemetery built adjacent to the Castle and this is where the D'Arcys were interred. There is , curiously on one gravestone the Skull and Crossbones which we had seen previously in the area in Old Athlumney Church. It is thought to symbolize Freemasonry.
Finding Dunmoe was relatively easy. It lies in meadowland at the end of a country lane. There are a couple of houses at the end of the lane and we parked and attempted to get an answer from the house which appeared to own the land on which the ruins stand. But we got no answer. Not wanting to blatantly trespass we walked around the lane to see if there was any other access, but the area was well fenced off. Just then a local couple crossed over the field from the ruins and climbed over the locked gate. They told us that it should be okay to enter once we were just looking and not attempting to fish as it is banned here without a licence. So enter we did.
The meadow crossing was a bit rough and with plenty of cow pats but on the other side there was a gate which you could open. There were signs within that the area was being used by a Farmer and we hoped that we would get to see the ruins without being challenged. This gate led us to the ruin of the D'Arcy family Church. It's a very eerie place and has a definite vibe about it. It lies in the shadow of the great Castle ruin which can be accessed by a stone stile in the surrounding wall. There is no point in trying to enter the Castle as it is but two walls and the undergrowth inside has completely taken over.One of the Turrets has been exposed and you can see the remains of the spiral stairwell. The views of the Boyne area from up here especially on a bright day are amazing. The meadow runs steeply down a hill to the River and makes for imposing views of the ruin above.
Opposite the Castle on the far banks are the fine architecture of the Ardmulchan Estate with steps running down the riverside.We took some time to take in what was once a majestic home and no doubt a strong fortress before deciding it was time to leave as we had managed to do what we came to do without interfering with any body's property.
To find Dunmoe, take the N3 from Dublin into Navan. On the edge of Town turn right onto the N51 (Slane Road). After about 2.5 Kilometres you will see Donoghmore Round Tower on your left. Continue on for about 1.5 Kilometres and take the next right hand turn onto Dunmoe Lane. At he bottom of this Lane you can park and will see the Castle in the meadow.
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