Saturday 30 March 2013

Moydrum Castle Co Westmeath

                             Above Image: The ruins slowly being shrouded in ivy

                              Above Image: A single bird heads for a tower roost

A relatively recent ruin this, Moydrum Castle was built around 1814 on the site of an earlier house from the1750's by the first Baron Castlemaine, William Handcock. The original lands were handed to the Handcock family during the 17th century Cromwellian plantation and this new two storey seven bay castellated mansion was created to reflect his new important position. This Gothic manse stood firm until the night of July 3rd 1921 when in an act of reprisal for the burning of some local farmhouses by the British military style Black and Tans, a local group of The Irish Republican Army targeted Moydrum mainly as its owner was a member of the House of Lords. Castlemaine's family were given 15 minutes to vacate the Castle and then it was torched. Completely gutted it was never again occupied and the lands fell back ironically to local farmers again completing the circle of ownership.
Today Moydrum sits crumbling near the Moydrum Poultry farm slowly being enshrouded in creeping ivy.
The land is surrounded by wire fences and large "No Trespassing" signs. In 1984 world renowned band U2 featured the castle on the cover of their album "The Unforgettable Fire". Access then was no easier than it is now but apparently they just found a way over the fence and photographer Anton Corbijn took the shot.
We took a detour on a trip west just to have a look at this iconic Castle and after a few narrow by-roads found the site. The wire fence is not easy to get over but if you were daring enough you could do it, but I'm led to believe that what little interior is left is covered in graffiti by U2 pilgrims. Not really enticing enough to shred your undercarriage on barbed wire!
The building itself is very striking. With the ivy removed it would reveal some of the fine design by architect Richard Morrison but it seems the owners are happy to keep it as muted as possible to avoid legions tramping over their land. Definitely worth stopping for due to its historical associations but probably dangerous inside as the crumbling walls would attest.
To find Moydrum Castle, take the M6 Kinnegad to Athlone Motorway  and exit at Junction 9. Turn right at the top of the slip road onto the R916. After about 100 metres there is a right hand turn pointing to Moydrum. Turn right and follow this road for approx 1Km until you see a right hand turn with a bungalow on the corner with a tall pillared gate. Turn right down this winding road until you reach a small T-Junction. Turn left and follow the road until you see the Castle ahead of you. You can park at a field gate opposite the site

Thursday 21 March 2013

Moylagh Church & Castle Co Meath

                               Above Image: The Church Tower with the Castle in
                                                    the near distance

                                     Above Image: The remains of the Church

                                     Above Image: The remains of the Castle

                                Above Image: The entrance to the Church Tower

                                       Above Image: Within the Church Tower

There appears to be a strong sense of historical activity to this site.The undulating mounds, the presence of a nearby Rath and the almost deliberate direction of the ditches would indicate its use as a settlement of some sort in the long distant past. It is believed that a Monastic site might once have stood here initially but certainly on the arrival of the Normans in the 12th century a Motte & Bailey was founded with a wooden structured fort. This became the home of the Barnwalls who occupied this site for nearly 400 years. In the 15th century the fort was upgraded to a stone Castle of which the ruins are what remain today.
On the small hillock opposite the Castle a fortified Tower with attached Church was constructed in 1470 and this is believed to have been under the auspices of The great Fore Abbey (see previous post). The Church remained in use until the late 1600's.
The twin ruins face each other on opposite hills and cast a very dramatic pose when approached on the narrow winding road. I was quite surprised at the ease of access here. Some work had been done by a local authority providing access gates in the stone boundary walls designed specifically for pedestrian use. All you have to do is climb the slight hill to reach the Church Tower. I only wish some other interesting ruins were afforded the same consideration.
The Tower is the more complete of the two ruins. It features rounded corners and on the Eastern facing wall you can enter through a gap in what is actually the first floor This is level with the ground, the original vaulted ground level now being underground. Within, it stands only as a shell.
This Tower was probably designed for clergy use but fortified to provide protection against frequent raids. In one corner a partially intact stone stairs teases with anticipation of further exploration but unfortunately delivers some disappointment as it appears to have fallen away after a few steps denying access to the parapet. There are still a few fragments remaining of the rest of the Church outside but they are slowly being overgrown with vegetation.
A short walk across to the other hill brings you the boundary wall of the precariously placed remaining walls of the old Barnwall Castle. It now stands jaggedly towards the sky. Access here has been inhibited by a wire fence atop the boundary wall but it doesn't take a lot of effort to find a gap to get through, although having said that getting closer doesn't really offer any better view.
I really like these ruins not only for their interesting aspect but because they are placed in a particularly scenic spot. Go and enjoy.
To find Moylagh ruins take the R154 from heading North West from Trim passing through Athboy and on to Oldcastle. As you reach the Town square in Oldcastle take the left turn onto the R195 heading towards Castlepollard and drive for approx 5KM until you reach a very pleasant little country crossroads with a sign pointing left for Dromone. Turn left here and continue on for approx.1KM and you will clearly see the ruins on your left. A small lay-by has been provided opposite the access gate for parking.

Monday 18 March 2013

Old Ballybought Church Co Kildare

                              Above Image: The entrance gate at the graveyard.

                          Above Image: Mature beech trees surround the site.

                                       Image Below: All that remains of a wall

This is a very ancient place and not easy to locate either. All I can discover is that this is what remains of the medieval parish Church of Ballybought. Ballybought is situated in the old Barony of Uppercross in Dublin but along with the parishes of Ballymore and Tipperkevin it was detached and became part of the barony of Naas. The parish and it's church would have been under the Lordship of  Ballymore. Its history is vague but it was recorded as being in ruins on a map dated 1837. No doubt it was just a simple local Church that fell into disrepair due to diminishing patronage and the building of larger Churches in the towns. It is located not too far from the Bronze Age stone circle of Broadleas and there is much evidence of druidical practise in the area especially in the adjacent Townland of Whiteleas. As I say a very ancient place and standing within its almost circular earthen bank walls the air is literally saturated with antiquity.
It took a trip down some narrow roads in the backwaters of East Kildare from Ballymore Eustace to finally find a field gate and what looked in the distance to be a clump of beech trees. The field gate was chained but actually only had a simple screw out bolt that loosened the chain and allowed access. There were no signs prohibiting entry apart from the usual neighbourhood watch type. A short walk over pastureland toward the trees brought us to a small iron gate. This was locked and actually had barbed wire strung through it but it was still simple enough to clamber over. Within there is an old and well overgrown graveyard with some long forgotten stones, some dating back as far as the 1700's. This site was probably utilised more as a burial ground subsequent to the demise of the Church as is the case in a lot of other sites. All that remains of the Church itself are parts of East and South walls which are partially upright and a few courses of stone just above foundation level. The trees are beginning to encroach on the ruins putting further pressure on the remaining crumbling walls. Not a great deal left of it then and I imagine it won't be too long before it will deteriorate further. All the more reason then to have look and document it.
As in all of these hidden places that remain unsigned the incursion of strangers tends to disturb the natural sense of suspicion amongst the locals and it wasn't long before what was deathly quiet on the road outside suddenly had cars slowing down to gaze into the field and locals walking surprised dogs and throwing a watchful eye on our activities. Time to go then as we had seen what we had come to see and there was no reason to arouse any further suspicion.
To find Ballybought ruins take the N81 South from Dublin to Tullow. About 9Km out of Blessington you will come to a crossroads with a sign pointing right for the R411 to Ballymore Eustace. Turn right and drive until you reach the first left hand turn. You will see the Broadleas stone circle in the field ahead. Turn left and drive down this narrow road until you reach a stop sign at a T-Junction. Turn left. Drive for Approx 1KM until you reach a right hand turn.Turn right and about 400m down this also narrow road you will see a field gate on a sharp left bend. Park at this gate and you will find the ruins in the trees about 100m from the gate.

Friday 8 March 2013

Old Rathmore Church Co Meath

                                       Above Image: The tomb and effigies.

                                Above Image: A Cross outside the sacristy casts
                                                     an almost spectral image.

                                         Above Image: The outer Churchyard

                         Above 2 Images: The nearby and almost indistinct Castle

                                Above Image: The entrance gate to the ruins

                                       Above Image: The roadside signpost

                                 Above Image: A view upwards inside the Tower

                                          Above Image: The Labyrinth Stone

Checking out this interesting looking ruin beforehand on Google Street view it appeared to be set back from the road in a cattle infested field with no entry signs on the gate. However the Street view can sometimes be outdated so we decided to take  a chance and visit the area and if necessary seek permission to enter from the landowner.
The Church ruins of Rathmore were constructed in the late 15th century at the behest of Sir Thomas Plunkett, a successful lawyer returning to Ireland from London and subsequently achieving the noble position of Lord Chief Justice. He married Marion Cruise (Cruys) heiress of Rathmore and took up residence in Rathmore Castle. Before his death in 1471 he commissioned the building of the Church in the meadow adjacent to the Castle and dedicated it to St Lawrence. Subsequently both he and his wife were entombed here upon their deaths. Their lands were eventually disenfranchised when Cromwell confiscated them and they came into the hands of John Bligh whose family held the deeds until the early 20th century. The Castle and Church by then had both long fallen into ruin. Rathmore Castle originally an L-Plan tower house is now an ivy covered shell with farm buildings alongside, while Rathmore Church is quite a different story....
When we arrived at the gate to the field we could see the tantalising ruins in the near distance and surprisingly there were no prohibitive signs anywhere. The only sign present was a national monument type pointing to the Church. The gate was unlocked and there were no cows in the field. The dice seemed to tumble in our favour. Having said that, due to recent rainfall, parts of the field were downright boggy and it was a bit of a trudge to cross it. Luckily we had hiking boots or we would have been destroyed!.
Across the field another long gate has to be opened (and closed behind) and this allows you access to the actual gate in the wall surrounding the ancient graveyard in which the ruins stand.
This place is special. I could feel it as soon as we entered. A long rectangular building greeted us built of limestone rubble. On the Eastern end is a fine arched window and on the South West end a tall square bell tower. There are a number of ornamental features including a Labyrinth Stone which was salvaged from the floor and is now positioned on the North wall. Decorative stones like these are more commonplace around Europe so it was a pleasure to actually find one here. The design works as a maze which you can trace to its centre. Beside the labyrinth is a doorway which houses some steps which will bring you up to an opening in the North wall. More interesting is the second doorway a few yards to the East which allows entry to the old sacristy. The narrow steps here lead you to a small upper room and a further set brings you up higher to an open area where you can get a great view of the bell tower opposite and the remarkable countryside around you. I could have stayed there for hours.
Within the sacristy below, a dark room with one arched window, lies the tomb containing Thomas Plunkett and Marion Cruise. The tomb had been moved from the main body of the Church to protect it from the elements. The effigies on top depict Thomas in full armour with a trusty hound at his feet while Marion alongside has unfortunately lost her head!
There is a tale in true M. R. James fashion regarding the Plunkett tomb that tells of a treasure seeker who working on a rumour that the valuable Church plate and a purse of money was buried near the Plunketts took upon himself the task of a midnight visit with a spade and lantern only to be disturbed in his digging by a spectral monk who shrieked at him venomously causing him to run for his life. His reports of this put pay to any further incursions. I wonder though if the treasure is still there......
In the south wall a doorway leads you out into the ancient graveyard where the some remarkable stones and a High Cross. Here you can get a view of the full extent of the tower. You can actually enter the bell tower through a low doorway within the church but looking up it is apparent that it is floor less and no longer navigable, all the more pity as this would have been a joy to climb. All in all I would highly recommend a visit here as it is certainly one of the most interesting ruins we have come across.
To find Old Rathmore Church take the M3 from Dublin to Cavan and exit at Junction 9 taking a left turn onto the N51. Drive for approx. 9KM and you will pass the new Rathmore Church on you right. About 1KM further you will pass a right hand turn and a few metres further you will spot the ruins in the near distance on your left. You can park safely beside the field gate.