Monday 31 December 2012

Moone Mill Co Kildare

                                    Above Image: Lost in a swirl of branches

                                               Above Image: Riverside view

Situated near the village of Moone this once grandiose corn mill exists now for the most part as only a huge hollow shell.
It was constructed on the estate of Belan House, the great home of the Earls of Aldborough, the Stratfords who came to Ireland in the 17th century. The house was built upon over the years becoming one of the largest gabled houses in the country with fine gardens containing follies such as a temple and obelisks.
The mansion was largely built from the ruins of the Fitzgerald Castle which stood on this site but was destroyed in 1641. Indeed the site was originally employed by St Patrick in the 5th century for the foundation of a church and a holy well. The well still exists today.
The decline of the great house began in the 1820's when the fourth Earl, embroiled in gambling debts, mortgaged the house and let it fall into disrepair. Most of the worthwhile parts of the estate were sold over subsequent years finding new homes in other great houses and upon the death of the sixth Earl the title diminished. The great abode became still and silently and slowly decayed. Now today only the remains of the stables and some of the follies remain.
The only successful part of the estate was the corn mill owned by Ebenezer Shackleton, uncle of the famous explorer Ernest Shackleton, who resided in Belan lodge. The mill was probably constructed in the late 18th or early 19th century and Shackleton was running it successfully in the 1820's, producing an average of 15000 bags of flour yearly. It was noted for having one of the deepest and longest millraces in the country.
Today the ruins can be seen on a bend in the road en route to Moone Abbey. There are various "No Trespassing"  signs and the large gates remain closed. There is an occupied lodge just within the gates but no one was visible on our visit to ask about access so we will return here again and seek possible further entry. We did manage to get an obscured view by way of a narrow lane adjacent but this too had a private property sign. There is also a good side view from the bridge crossing the river a few yards away. It is a shame we could not get closer as this is truly a magnificent ruin. Also as an aside just a few yards away on the opposite side of the road you can spot the ruins of Moone Castle now walled into a private grounds and sporting a very large and very vocal dog!
To find Moone Mill ruins, take the M9 southbound exiting at junction 3 for the N78. Turn left at the top of the exit and drive until you reach a T-Junction with the R448. Turn right here and pass through the village of Timolin and on into Moone village. At the end of the village opposite the Post Office is a right hand turn through a tall pillared gateway, this is Belan Avenue, once an entrance to the estate. Continue on until you take a sharp left bend and you will spot the ruins about 500 feet ahead of you.

Sunday 23 December 2012

The Druid's Judgement Seat Co Dublin

                                        Above Image: Remains of a cairn

                                     Above Image: More remains of a Cairn

                                           Above Image: The entrance path

                                           Above Image: The entrance gate

                                     Above Image: Up close view of the seat

Located in a small secluded wood in leafy Killiney this often overlooked oddity is a really interesting find.
The name "Druid's Judgement Seat" as it is referred to probably stems from the very prolific Druidical history in this area but it unlikely that this chair ever seated a Druid as it is believed to be a Victorian folly. Some historians believe it could be genuine but most will wave you away with their hand if broached on the subject.
Folly or not it is a genuinely strange monument. It is surrounded in this area by several large stones which are the ruins of three recorded Bronze Age Cairns that stood here. It appears that stones were raided from these to construct the Seat leaving some true historical monuments bereft of importance. It is also thought that the Cairns were surrounded by a Stone Circle which would most certainly have had some importance to local Druids. Indeed there are quite a few odd looking rocks strewn around this area which could give credence to this.
The little copse surrounded by trees is so secluded that even the decorated footpath leading up to the trees looks like part of the landscaping of the verges of nearby houses. A short walk up this pathway leads you to  a small open gate and directly into this small  historical quarter. Some cleaning up of the undergrowth and weeding done in the past seems to reversing as the area sadly looks to be drifting back to an overgrown state. The Seat is located at the far end from the entrance and provides a great photo opportunity for anyone caring to sit upon it. Even though there are nearby houses it is so quiet and secretive here.
There is a similar type of seat called "The Brehon's Chair" in Taylors Grange Co Dublin but this has now been ensconced into a gated community as some sort of centrepiece and is not as easy to access. This  annoying practise by construction companies has occurred at several other interesting sites. Personally I think that the Killiney Seat is the better of the two anyway. We have Visited the Killiney site on several occasions and have never met another soul but I am sure there are many who would be interested in visiting even though it is not featured on many maps.
Tho find The Druid's Judgement Seat take the M50 Southbound and exit at Junction 16 onto the R118. Drive straight through the next roundabout and past the junction with Wyattville Rd. At the next junction there is a  right hand turn onto Moorefield. Turn here and take the immediate left onto Killiney Avenue. You will reach a small roundabout. Turn right and follow this road all the way until you reach a T- Junction. Turn left and a few yards on park at the kerbside opposite Killiney Heath which is on your right. You will spot the little pathway leading up the grass verge on the right hand side.

Saturday 15 December 2012

St. Saviours Church Co Wicklow

                                    Above Image: The entrance gate to the trail

                        Above Image: Look closely to see some calcite stalactites

                                    Above Image: Nestled in a beautiful vale

                                    Above Image: The great Romanesque arch

St Saviours Church was constructed in the 12th century and then again in the19th century! Read on and all will be revealed.....
The Church consisting of a Nave and Chancel was constructed around the time of St Laurence O'Toole's Abbacy, probably the late 1150's. It was built as an Augustinian friary and probably thrived until the dissolution of Abbeys in the 1500's. By the 1800's it was in a very poor state with its central arch collapsed and it fortunately found itself falling into the brief of the restoration of the Glendalough monastic site by the Commission for Public Works in the 1870's. The Reconstruction was done using original stones and sketches of the Church and regardless of this factor it is still a fine example of Romanesque design and is to this day still the subject of some further Restoration as the mortar used in the 1870's is slowly destroying the stonework with calcite.
The Church is one of the nearby ruins to the main Glendalough site and is easily accessible. From the main car park you cross the river and take the trail to the left and eventually you will spot the ruins far down the slope from the trail on your left hand side. A nicely latched wooden gate is a few feet down from the trail and this allows you access down the slope on a five minute trek through some fairly bushy undergrowth to a copse near the river. It would be advisable to visit on a dry day as this slope could become muddy and quite slippery in or after rainfall. Nestled below in the clearing are the ruins and  how interesting they are too. A small stone stile and a few steps give you access to the Church. The fine central arch within has three orders and some really intricate stonework, while the  window facing East has some fine carvings including birds, a serpent and a Lion. Some of the stonework surrounding this window appears to have been placed incorrectly but it does not really detract from the beauty of the Design. Both archways have white calcite on their undersides and rainwater has formed, as it does in limestone caves, some calcite stalactites, thin straw like features that protrude downwards from the arch. On a fine September evening when we visited it was quiet in the Glendalough area as all the tourists were gone so we had time to experience the solitude and peacefulness of St. Saviours location as it might have been for the monks more than 800 years ago.
To find the ruins, take the R755 from Enniskerry to Laragh, then keep right onto the R756 and drive for approx 1.5km until you see a road slope down on your left toward Glendalough. Halfway down this road is a large car park. From the car park cross the river and take the trail to the left. Walk for approx 1km and you will see a sign pointing left down to St.Saviours.

Thursday 29 November 2012

Callan Friary Co Kilkenny

                                   Above Image: One of the unusual sculptures
                                                        in the grounds

                                    Above Image: The East end Arched window

A petition was made in 1461 by Edmund Butler to Pope Pius II for the foundation of a Friary for the Augustinians at Callan.The actual construction did not take place until after the death of Edmund sometime in the late 1460's when it was probably overseen by his son James.
The Friary operated under very strict observant rules but only for a short time as it was disbanded under the dissolution of Abbeys by Henry VIII in the 1500's, the lands being passed to the Earl of Ormonde. A new Augustinian Abbey was built in the town in 1766 by which time the old Friary had fallen into ruin.
We located the ruins on the North East end of the town in an area known as The Abbey Meadow. They sit on slightly elevated ground in an enclosed field adjacent to the King's River. We found parking just in front of the field at the arts centre and entered through a metal gate, then a short walk up a slight hill dotted with wildflowers brought us directly to the site..
The Friary is a long rectangular building sporting a central tower common to Augustinian Abbeys. Within, in the South wall is a remarkable example of a triple sedelia, which is seating for officiating Priests. At the East end is a large gaping arched window which would have shed brilliant light down upon the choir. A spiral staircase leads up to the bell tower which has three storeys, but sadly there was no access on our visit.
The ruins stand proud in the meadow and offer a picturesque point by the river in an otherwise dull part of the town where many of the little shops have sadly suffered and closed due to the financial downturn.
Curiously enough, within the meadow are several of what could be termed modern works of sculpture that have been positioned in various places, one of which depicts a giant open hand. I'm not sure in which context or relation to the Friary these are meant to be but I suspect that they may have some connection to the nearby arts centre and are certainly very striking.
To find the Friary, take the N76 South from Kilkenny for approx. 11 miles until you reach a left hand turn for the R699 pointing towards Callan. Turn left here and continue on until you reach a crossroads with Upper Bridge Street and Green Street. Turn left onto Upper Bridge Street and when you have crossed the bridge on the river take the first right hand turn down a narrow lane. This will lead you to the car park at the arts centre and you will see the ruins ahead of you.

Friday 16 November 2012

Craddockstown West Menhir Co Kildare

                               Above Image: The field that needs to be crossed.

                           Above Image: Some of the loose rocks around the base.

                               Above Image: Like a giant finger pointing to the sky.

Standing next to this amazing stone one feels a little in awe of its presence. It stands approx. 15 feet high and probably dates back to the Bronze age, yet its purpose remains unknown. It may be a commemoration marker, a way mark or part of an alignment for ceremonies as it appears to be line with the nearby Punchestown standing stone. Punchestown stone or "The Long Stone" is thinner and taller at 22 feet but was re-erected in the past and fenced in, whereas this stone in Craddockstown, although leaning a little to the west, has been left in its original state. This I feel makes it all the more interesting.
On closer view you can see a line of quartz running through it and on a sunny day this stone glistens. It is quite thick at the base and seems to have some disturbed rocks surrounding it (perhaps the remains of a burial chamber?) and it tapers to a point at the top.
The stone is situated on a small crest in a working crop field. I would imagine that during the spring and summer it would be advisable to get permission to enter before tramping all over the crops. There is a nearby farm on the L2023 if you need to enquire. Ideally visit in September when the crops have been harvested, not only is it easier to cross the field but the stone is fully exposed to view and looks all the more dramatic. We visited on one of those days and met no one else while we were there. The field newly harvested posed no problem to cross.The stone looks different from every aspect but with the sun behind you while looking at it really makes it stand out.
The field itself is surrounded by high bushes but if you park opposite it at the main gate of Punchestown racecourse (on non race days it is virtually deserted) then walk down the road in an easterly direction for about 40 yards or so and you will see a gap in the bushes with an exposed fence on an embankment that is easy enough the climb over. This gives you direct access to the field and you will spot the Stone in the near distance. Enjoy your visit but have respect for the owners property by keeping along the tracks made by the tractor where possible. This is one megalith I would strongly recommend seeing. It simply exudes its presence in spades.
To locate the stone take the R411 south from Naas until you reach  a crossroads with the L2023 and a sign pointing towards Punchestown.Turn left here and drive for approx. 200 yards and park outside the entrance to the racecourse. You will see the line of bushes opposite. Follow the road further on foot for about 40 yards and you will find the gap with the fence exposed.