Tuesday 24 December 2013

Adam & Eve Co Dublin

                                Above Image: As they appear from the field gate

                                                  Above Image: Adam

                                                     Above Image: Eve

These interesting Megalithic stones dating back probably to the Bronze age (2300BC-750BC) stand in a meadow near the small village of Saggart in South West County Dublin.
Barely visible from the road as the meadow is surrounded by a tall hedgerow and trees, you will spot them  fleetingly through gaps in the hedge and a field gate if driving or walking by.
The stones lay in the town land of Boherboy and are known by that name but locally they are called "Adam & Eve"  Eve stands approx.1.3m and Adam a little shorter and more pointed. They stand approx. 1.7m apart in an East-West direction.
The owner of the meadow appears to have a great deal of respect for these stones as he carefully cuts around them during harvest.
I always get a great deal of pleasure in finding such sites as these as I'm sure many have done before me. They exude a great mystery and give a tangible link to the past. We visited on a September evening when the sun was kissing the horizon and the light reflected on them in a very pleasant manner.
The field is accessed by a gate on the roadside. We simply parked across the road from it and hopped over to take a look. There are no prohibitive signs but I'm sure the landowner wouldn't really mind as they are close to the edge of the field. There are only a couple of stone pairs in the Dublin area, another being in Rockbrook. But Adam & Eve I think are the more interesting aesthetically.
To find the stones take the N81 Dublin to Tullow Road and just past the junction with the N82 signposted for Saggart there is a fork in the road on a bend. Take the right hand road and drive for approx. 800m until you come to a left hand turn with an electric wire pole standing behind it..Continue 50m just past this turn and you will spot a field gate in the hedgerow. Parking can be made opposite by the bungalows.

Saturday 21 December 2013

Old St Catherine's Church Co Dublin

                                           Above Image: The entrance gate

                                 Above Image: Archway to the base of the tower

                              Above Image: A view upwards from inside the tower

Located near the coast in Portrane in North East Co. Dublin these medieval ruins stand within a graveyard enclosure. The Church originally called Sr. Canice's was under the ownership of the Nunnery of Grace Dieu, a well to do Augustinian convent founded in 1190 which flourished until the suppression of Churches in 1540. The nuns finally left Grace Dieu in 1577 and the lands fell into the ownership of the Barnewall family who are said to have used some of the stones of Grace Dieu to build Turvey House. The Church itself was granted to Francis Agard by Elizabeth I and by this time was renamed St. Catherine's. It appears to have still been in use until the end of the 1600's but subsequently fell into ruin.
The most striking feature is the tall three storied tower with it's castellated top giving it the look of a fortified tower house. This probably served as a place of refuge and for storage of valuables. All four walls of the Church still stand to some degree and form a long rectangular shape approx 20m x 8m. The doorway is situated in the South wall.
We found the ruins easily enough as they are almost surrounded by modern housing and easy access roads.. The site is only 150m from the seafront. A gate and pathway from Burrow road lead to the enclosure and there is no restriction to access. It's a pity that the ruins don't stand in a more rural setting as the would have originally with a backdrop of the sea as the modern housing give a sort of cramped feel to the location. The tower is very impressive and is not in bad shape on it's exterior. There  is an archway within the Church that allows you to stand at the base inside the tower and view upwards where there is now a gaping hole to the sky. The Church originally stood at the gates of Portrane Castle, the ruins of which lie nearby and which we will endeavour to visit soon.
To find St. Catherine's, take the junction 4 exit of the M1 motorway heading North and at the top of the ramp turn right and cross over the motorway bridge. On the roundabout on the far side, take the exit for the R126. Continue on for approx. 6KM passing Newbridge House and straight through Donabate Village. You will eventually reach a fork in the road and you will spot the ruins on the left hand road (Burrow Road). Parking is easy enough in this area.

Friday 6 December 2013

Newtown Castle & Church Co Kilkenny

                                 Above Image: The entrance & electric fencing

                               Above Image: View of the Castle from the Church

                                            Above Image: The East gable

We discovered these ruins on the way to Callan Friary (See earlier post here) We were driving on a country back road and the tower caught my attention.
The Castle, a four storey tower in fair outer condition stands on private land. We attempted to find an access point but the one field gate approx 100m North of the Castle had a "no trespassing" sign upon it. So we relented this time hoping we might come across someone to ask permission of.
The Castle stands on elevated ground from the road behind a hedgerow and ditch and the base appears to be surrounded by electrified fencing. The entrance is in the North facing wall and there is apparently a murder hole within and a spiral staircase that leads to the top. This stairway has been blocked no doubt for safety reasons.
Records date the Castle to 1628 but it's overall look would probably be more likely of late 15th or early 16th century. Details are vague but there was a prominent family in the area called the Sweetmans and it may have been somehow associated with them.
Meeting someone on the road was seemingly not on the cards. It's a very sparsely populated road but on travelling a couple of hundred metres North we discovered the ruins of a Church set back from the road. There was a gate we could park at and a rudimentary track led us up to the graveyard that surrounds the Church.
The ruins are of the Church of All Saints, a fairly ordinary rectangular shaped medieval building with a nice decorative window in the East gable. The interior walls seem smoother than they should be and may have been altered more recently. Other than some grave markers with carved crosses the Church remains undistinguished except for the wonderful view it affords of the Castle.
The visit was still worth the stop and would have been more rewarding if we could have accessed the Castle. But as they say there's always next time!
To find the ruins, take the N76 South towards Callan from Kilkenny and drive for approx. 12KM until you see a left turn for the R692 for Callan. Turn left and then take the next left turn signposted for Kells. Drive for approx. 2KM until you reach a fork in the road. Keep to the right and continue for approx. 3KM. There are a lot of  small lane ways on this road but you need to take the first right hand road that is properly lined. You will know you are on the right road as you'll see the Castle tower on the horizon. Drive down on this narrow road and you will see the Church ruins set back from the road on your right. You can park here to visit both.

Sunday 24 November 2013

Old Harristown Church Co Kildare

                                          Above Image: The entrance gate

                                 Above 2 Images: The South wall and doorway

                                          Above Image: Remains of the font

Talk about ancient places. The remains of this medieval Church lie in the bucolic backwaters of Kildare in a quiet town land called Harristown. The large Demesne here was most associated with the prominent Eustace family and Harristown House became the seat of the LaTouches.
The old Harristown cemetary is situated down a narrow road and contains stones dating back to the 18th century. The ruins of the parochial Church stand in the centre of the enclosure.
Like many of its kind from this period it would have served as a parish Church up until the dissolution and most likely fell into ruin as the parishes combined and churchgoers dispersed. It is most definitely stated as being ruinous on the 1837 OS map and has certainly crumbled a lot more since then.We came across it on our travels in the area looking for a ruin in Nurney and so stopped to take a look.
The entrance to the graveyard is by way of a small unlocked gate in the West wall by the roadside. Alternatively if you like climbing then there is a stone stile to the left of the gate. Most of the South and West walls of the Church still stand with a portion of the North wall also in evidence. The East wall at the rear has all but disappeared. The overall state of these ruins evoke a tangible feeling of real antiquity.
The long rectangular shape of the structure measures approx. 21m x 7m and there is an entrance doorway in the South wall. You have to stoop down to enter here as the ground level outside is higher than the interior. Within there are some salvaged carved grave markers and the remains of a baptismal font basin which lies a bit abandoned looking on the leafy ground. The ruins seem quite undisturbed and I would imagine that not a lot of visitors pass its way apart from relatives visiting some of the more recent graves. I wonder does it even register in most peoples minds at all. Still, finding one of these medieval Churches especially when unplanned  peaks my interest. There are virtually no pictures of these ruins online so hopefully the above will redress this.
To find the ruins take the M7 Dublin to Limerick motorway and at junction 13 take the exit for Kildare. At the top of the exit ramp take the exit left for the R415. Drive for approx. 7KM until you reach Nurney. Just before the large white Church there is a right hand turn. Take this turn and approx. 200m along take the first left turn. Drive for 1.5KM until you reach a forked junction. Take the left hand road and about 100m along you will see the ruins in the graveyard on your left. You can park just along the roadside here.

Sunday 10 November 2013

Dunbrody Abbey Co Wexford

                                    Above Image: The pathway to the Abbey

                                             Above Image: The Refectory

                                        Above & Below Images: The Cloister

                                 Above image: Ruined outdoor seating or a Well?

                                              Above Image: Possible Font

                                                 Above Image: The Nave

                                           Above Image: The East window

                                Above Image: The South Transept & night stairs

                                               Above Image: Spiral stairs

                          Above Image: Ruins of Etchingham's residence viewed
                                               from the night stairs

                            Above Image: The Cloister viewed from the night stairs

                                        Above Image: The renovation work

Cistercian monasteries are generally massive structures and Dunbrody Abbey is no exception. It stands huge and hulking against the Wexford countryside surrounded on all sides by pastoral land.
The Abbey was commissioned by "Strongbow" (Richard De Clare) in 1170 and was constructed by Harvey De Montmorency. It was completed by 1220. This comprised of the cruciform Church only while the huge tower was added later in the 15th century. The length of the Church measures 190 feet making it among the longest in the country.
The Abbey thrived for centuries until inevitably the dissolution of Abbeys put paid to the Cistercian tenure. It was dissolved in 1536, the monks evicted and anything of worth removed including the lead on the roof.
In 1545 the lands were passed to Sir Osbourne Etchingham who converted part of the Abbey into a residence but over subsequent years the buildings suffered neglect and eventually in 1852 the South wall collapsed causing major damage. What was left of the Abbey soon fell into ruin.
This has to be one of the most dramatic ruins we have visited. They lie adjacent to the Dunbrody visitor centre and Castle (See earlier post here)  and a key for access can be obtained from the reception for a nominal charge. A pathway measuring approx. 150m leads you directly from the road up to the Abbey and there is a real excitement to opening the great gates and being the only visitors there. To be honest I think most visitors to the centre come to see the great Yew Tree maze and play miniature golf rather than make the walk to the ruins. This was August and high season and we spent a good hour there alone. Not that I'm complaining as it gives you time to absorb the atmosphere uninterrupted.
Once through the gate you are led directly onto the cloisters under the ruins of what was one the residential area converted by Etchingham. The cloister retains the large green area but the pillared surrounds are now gone. From this vantage point the great tower looms above you and is really a stunning piece of architecture.
In the green area is a circle of stone divided by four gaps. This might have been the top of a well but most likely it may have been outdoor seating for the reflective monks.
there are a number of chambers dotted along the east side of the cloister which are locked as they house some carved stones salvaged from the Abbey.
The great Nave runs in under the vaulted underbelly of the tower and leads to the Chancel in which a stone altar is situated directly beneath the massive East window. There is some restoration work in progress on the the Abbey by the current owners and the OPW but it appears to have been halted for the moment. Any access to the tower and the small spiral stairs we discovered have been locked for now which is a pity as the views above would be magnificent. On the South transept however there is a set of stone steps known as the Night Stairs which lead up to a gated doorway again locked but from here you are afforded views of the cloister from above and part of the ruins of Etchingham's residence. This at the moment is the highest point you can achieve.
On the opposite side of the cloister from the Nave are the remains of the Refectory and Kitchen again adding to the large expanse of this Abbey. All in all there is a lot to see plenty of nooks and crannies to explore and the architecture in places is remarkable evoking a great sense of history.
 To find the Abbey take the N25 out of New Ross Eastwards towards Wexford Town. Just after you have passed along the quayside in New Ross the road veers left. Take the next right hand turn onto the junction with the R733. Drive for approx. 4Km until you reach a right hand turn with a sign pointing to Arthurstown. This is a continuation of the R733. Drive for another 6KM until you see another right hand turn for Arthurstown with a large stone church (St. James's) on your right. Turn right and drive 1.5KM and you will see the huge Dunbrody Abbey on your right. Adjacent to this is a car park and visitor centre on your left. Ample parking is available. The centre is only open mid May to mid September. If visiting go as early as possible for a quieter visit. Outside of the seasonal opening you will be able to walk up to the Abbey but not access the interior.