A guide to the best and sometimes off the beaten track historical ruins around Ireland and how to get there.
Tuesday, 24 December 2013
Adam & Eve Co Dublin
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
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
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.
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