Saturday 25 May 2013

Lanestown Castle Co Dublin

                         Above Image: The East side ( to the right) with evidence of
                                              non extant attached building



                               Above Image: The Castle in picturesque parkland

                                Above Image: The original entrance door (facing)

This 15th century Tower House is tucked away closely against woodland like a disobedient child told to stand in the corner. It is situated on the lands belonging to Newbridge House Demesne in Donabate Co Dublin. The tower was probably part of the £10 Castle scheme devised in 1429 by King Henry VI where a landowner would be paid said £10 if he built a Defensive Tower to aid in protecting The Pale.
The tower walls are still in good shape standing to full height and records state that it was inhabited until at least the 1700's. Following that it fell into disrepair and was utilised over subsequent years, amongst other things, as a byre. It has flanking towers at the South West and North East corners. The East facing wall bears evidence of a once attached large building which would have been added later to the original structure but has now long since disappeared. The North facing wall features the entrance door although there appears to be a secondary door on the West side.
I wasn't sure what access there was to this Castle it being located on a demesne. Newbridge House is open to the public and the lands operated by Fingal County Council with the Castle ruin situated about 100m inside the entrance gates. The road outside offers no parking and the driveway inside the demesne is a no parking zone monitored by CCTV. All that was left to us to do was to take the long driveway up to the House and use the parking facilities there, then walk back towards the gate. The day we visited was a gloriously sunny one and it was actually quite pleasurable a walk.
While there is a throng of visitors up at the house and adjacent adventure park, poor old Lanestown Castle sits solitarily huddled against the trees. To our disappointment I think we found out why. Its bricked up.
Within this tower there is a barrel vaulted roof and a spiral stairs intact, but the Council (probably for safety reasons) have sealed up all of the doors. A few years back there apparently was some sort of access through a hole in the West facing door but this too has been shored up. A real pity as I would have liked to have climbed this tower. So all we are offered to see now is the exterior which is nonetheless interesting with its crenellations and turrets, so if in the area it is worth your time to stop and view. I also really like the location of this ruin in it's picturesque surroundings. Perhaps one day the Council could reopen the tower and renovate it a little giving people a chance to see inside. Its a shame to leave it as it is especially with the amount of visitors to the park. It's  a good example of its type and deserves better treatment.
To find the ruins take the M1 Dublin to Dundalk motorway and exit at junction 4. Turn right at the top of the exit ramp onto the R132 and cross over the motorway bridge to the roundabout on the other side. Take the right hand exit onto the R126 for Donabate. Drive for approx. 2KM and you will see the entrance gates on your left for Newbridge house. Once inside the gates you will see the ruins on your left a few metres on. Park in the car park up at the House for convenience.

Saturday 18 May 2013

Castleruddery Stone Circle Co Wicklow

                          Above Image: The stones are distributed over a wide area

                              Above Image: The entrance stile by the roadside

                                       Above Image: The entrance stones

                                      Above Image: some interesting indents

It is always nice when seeking out ruins that from time to time you come across some ancient megalithic sites along the way. This particular stone circle is one of the more interesting ones to be found of those dotted around the country.
Dating most likely to the Bronze Age it consists of  between 35 to 40 stones in a 30 metre wide circle. The circle is surrounded by an earthen bank with an opening on the Eastern side. Two huge quartz boulders form an entrance to the circle itself and it is amazing to ponder how difficult it must have been to place them here. The stones surrounding are either upright or recumbent and some have cup indents similar to those found in Bullaun stones.
When we visited the grass had been cut back a bit exposing the circle at probably its best. I always get a great sense of history walking among these stones and also a sense that they were of some importance. The old name of this formation "The Druidical Circle" lends some evidence to this. Perhaps some ancient ceremonies took place here which makes the site all the more mysterious.
A single tall standing stone is also adjacent to the entrance boulders as if keeping watch.
The circle lies on farmland but a very decent and sturdy stile has been erected at the roadside along with an information board. A fenced lane way leads you directly to the stones without having to intrude on the private farmland. It is best visited on a bright day when the sunlight reflects off the quartz.
To find the circle take the N81 Dublin to Tullow road and approx. 20Km out of Blessington you will spot a sign for The Glen Lounge and a road forking to the left. There is also here a sign clearly pointing to the stone circle itself. Take the left turn and drive for approx. 900m passing through a small crossroads and you will see a small pull in space on your right. The wooden stile is clearly visible.

Friday 10 May 2013

Clonmore Castle Co Carlow

                             Above Image: The remaining tower is in a bad state

                                          Above Image: a vaulted chamber

                                   Above Image: Part of a stairwell at the top.

                                             Above Image: The courtyard

                         Above Image: The trefoil window and "Pooka" head above it

                                       Above Image: The North East view

The very extensive but ragged remains of Clonmore Castle stand imposingly on the Western end of the quiet village of Clonmore in Co.Carlow. It is believed to have been constructed in the late 12th century perhaps by Hugh DeLacey and was modified in 1332 by Anthony DeLucy.
The Castle suffered many attacks and seizing's over time by among others The Earl of Kildare in 1516 and The Earl of Ormond in 1598. The Castle also changed hands many times, the Butlers being one family thought to have resided there. It finally came under attack in 1650 by Cromwellian forces led by Colonel Hewson and it was overrun.
I've been in Carlow many times visiting such Castles as Leighlinbridge and Ballymoon (See earlier posts) but Clonmore only came to light recently when I came across it by pure accident while studying a map. After a bit of further research I thought this was too significant a structure to be overlooked so we took a trip down on a weekend evening to check it out.
Arriving in Clonmore on a Sunday evening the village was literally deserted, not a person to be seen, we thought we had driven into Brigadoon!
The Castle lies on pastureland very close to the roadside, fenced off with a few cows wandering in and out of the ruins. There were no prohibitive signs but the field gate was chained and locked so we went to a nearby bungalow to seek permission to access but we were scared off by two large Dogs who tried to chew their way through the gate to get at us. Good luck with that idea. We also tried to gain access by another gate adjacent to the Eastern wall but it offered no entry to the field either. With nobody around to ask we just went ahead and climbed over the fence at the roadside. Our approach dispersed the cows who retreated to the rear of the ruins.
The field in which we stood was once the courtyard, the ruins extending around three sides. The fourth or southern wall was apparently demolished sometime in the past. During the time when the Castle was complete there was a moat surrounding it but of course this has been long since filled in.
The tall rectangular towers on the southern end stand four storeys high with a trefoil window and a small gargoyle head known as a "Pooka" visible on top scowling down at you. The remainder of the manor buildings stand two storeys high.
Inside these sections the ruins are in a very degenerative state, lots of gaping maws and cracks in the walls, some parts being difficult to navigate. There are numerous passageways and chambers that have been invaded by trees and bushes. At one particularly dark orifice we decided not to investigate as we had neglected to bring a torch and we were wary of what pitfalls might lie within.
All in all there is a lot to explore here but with the cattle wandering in and out the ground has become quite muddy in places so a good pair of boots are recommended. Also if visiting do be aware of the state of the ruins, while interesting to explore there are some very unstable parts so take care at all times.
To find Clonmore Castle, take the N81 Dublin to Tullow road and in Baltinglass turn left onto the R747 for Hacketstown. On arrival in Hacketstown take the turn right at the top of the very narrow Bridge St onto Penny Hill. A short way on take the second and sharper of two close together left turns onto slate Row and a few yards on turn right onto the L2005 with the sign for Clonmore. Drive for 6KM until you see the Castle ahead of you. You can park at a small area by the Castle tower.

Sunday 5 May 2013

Old Cloncurry Church Co Kildare

                                          Above Image: The entrance stile

                           Above Image: The entrance to the mausoleum section

                                      Above Image: The Aylmer mausoleum

                                   Above Image: The lane way back to the road

                                            Above 2 Images: The interior

                             Above 2 Images: Views of the adjacent Motte

Quite a hidden away place this. Not visible from the road it is accessed through a stile between two outbuildings on a slip road off the main carriageway.
The ruins of Cloncurry Church are believed to belong to the Carmelites who founded a friary here in 1347. The site has adjacent to it a large Anglo-Norman Motte which may originally have had positioned upon it a fortified manor and the Church might possibly have been part of an enclosed settlement along with this manor house.
The Church and Village came under attack by Irish clans in 1405 and were ravaged by fire. The Church however was later restored but eventually found itself dissolved during the reformation.
A walled gravel lane way leads up from the road to the boundary walls of the graveyard. You would hardly notice this entrance way in the gap between two sheds only for the little crosses upon the gate itself. The grounds wherein the ruins lie are surrounded by pastureland and are fairly well maintained.
The ruins are still quite extensive, most of the walls still standing. The entrance door is in the Southern facing wall and the West facing gable has two windows and an extension to house a bell. Within the Church it is now but a shell but one gated section to the East side contains the Aylmer family mausoleum. The gate is open so you can get a closer look inside.
The Church sits upon elevated ground with a steep bank running down from its North facing side. It is a long rectangular structure measuring approx 28 metres and has an imposing aspect especially when viewed from the lower ground in the North section.
It is very quiet here. I visited on a weekday morning and saw no one else about. I would suspect that the ruins don't get many visitors apart from those visiting relatives graves in what is still an open cemetery.
The Motte just beyond the North Eastern boundary wall is very unusual looking and I cannot help thinking that this played an important part in the Church's early history.
To find the ruins, take the M4 Dublin to Galway motorway and exit at junction 8. Continue to the right from the top of the exit ramp around the roundabout until you see an exit for the R148. Turn left onto this road and drive for approx. 8KM until you reach a staggered crossroads with the L1007 and a sign pointing right for Newtown. Continue through these crossroads and a few metres further you will spot a parallel lane way on the right. Turn onto the lane way and park. There are some whitewashed outbuildings here and you will see the entrance gate between them.