Tuesday 23 December 2014

Ballybrack Dolmen Co Dublin

                                                  Above Image: South aspect

                                                  Above Image; West aspect


                                          Above Image: Close-up of the capstone

                                                  Above Image: Portal chamber

                                 Above Image: Amazing that this portal stone is only
                                                        just tipping the capstone

                                                    Above Image: East aspect

There are many megalithic portal tombs dotted around the country but this particular Dolmen as with the Brehon's Chair (See earlier post here) is located within the confines of a modern housing estate.
Looking strangely orphaned as it sits alone in the middle of a green area surrounded by housing this rather nice looking example of its kind has amazingly stood here since about 2500BC. Some surrounding stones appear to be missing but it still looks quite solid. The capstone measures approx. 7 feet by 6 feet and is supported by upright portal stones measuring about 4.5 feet in height.
Being located in the vicinity of close human interaction naturally some damage has been done to the Capstone by some uncaring persons in the form of graffiti most of which thankfully has faded. In the portal chamber, which you can actually gain access if you want, more evidence of neglect is to be found in the form of broken glass. Sad to say that this happens to what is in fact a national monument.
Because of its location I found any form of activity around it seemed to draw curious attention especially if you are photographing it. It took 3 visits for me to actually get up close and photograph it without interruption of some kind. A midweek morning was the best time to visit I found. It really is surprising to find such a gem still surviving in such an unusual location so kudos must go to the planners for working around the Dolmen instead of levelling it. A really nice monument then and very easy to access.

To find the Dolmen take the N11 South and just before the Loughlinstown roundabout take the left hand turn onto Commons Road. Drive for approx. 600m until you reach a crossroads with the R119 (Shanganagh Rd). Turn left here and drive until you reach a roundabout. Take the first exit left onto Cromlech Fields and 100m on take the first right hand turn onto Aran Avenue. Drive another 100m and take the next turn right. You will spot the Dolmen in a green area ahead of you. There is a small parking area to the right of it.


Friday 19 December 2014

Old Castlefarm Church Co Kildare

                                  Above Image: When is a Church not a Church?

                                                  Above Image: Roadside stile

                                                Above Image: Enclosure stile

                                              Above Image: Entrance burrow

                                Above Image: Remaining Ivy covered wall in Nave
                                Below Image: Wall remains

Above Image: The font & broken base
Don’t know what to think of this one! I didn’t anticipate that there would be very much left of this small Church ruin but I wasn’t expecting what was literally an ivy cave
The medieval Church here at Castlefarm was founded by the Canons regular of St Augustine on the
site of an earlier church founded by St Briga in the 5th century. The Canons unlike cloistered monks sought to deliver their ministry and the sacraments to the general public. This particular Church belonging to the order has now been reduced to just the East gable and the divisional wall between what was the nave and chancel. There is supposedly a narrow window in the standing gable although with all the ivy it’s hard to ascertain and that just about sums up the site.
The Church is located in a barley field on a back road near Suncroft in Kildare and a there is a stile in the roadside wall which you could very easily miss driving by. Once over this stile your adventure begins along a dirt track to the circular boundary wall of the graveyard in which the ruins lie. It is thought that stone from a local castle was used to construct this wall in the 19th century. Cut into this wall is another stile, V-shaped and quite narrow put here by the county council and it very nearly done me a mischief trying to squeeze through it.
I stared around the site looking for visible ruins but only a very tall clump of trees and ivy was visible near the centre. I walked towards it and saw that there was what amounted to a hole in the bushes. Entering I discovered I was actually within what was once the nave. I could partially see the East gable at the other end and some visible wall. This site had really gone to ground. There were several grave markers within and also the remains of a font now lying amongst the fallen leaves on the ground with part of its base beside. It is believed that some graves within the enclosure may have been famine graves from the late 1840’s.  
The last internment took place here in 1978 so the site seems to have been pretty much forgotten as the state of the ruins would attest. Still I found this an interesting visit if only for the fact that this ancient place is still accessible and there was certainly a feeling of antiquity standing within the confines of the leafy burrow.

To find the ruins take the M9 heading South and at junction 2 take the exit. At the top of the exit ramp turn right onto the R448 for Castledermot. Drive for approx. 11KM until you see a right hand turn signposted for the L4002 to The Curragh. Turn onto this road and drive for approx. 900m until you spot a farmyard entrance with a large shed like structure on you right. The stile to enter the field is in the wall literally just past the shed. Once over the stile follow the track alongside the side of the shed and you will reach the graveyard enclosure.

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Old Kinsealy Church Co Dublin

                                                Above Image: The entrance stile

                                                  Above Image: Entrance door

                                   Above Image: chancel arch & mausoleum
                                   Below 2 Images: The Austin Cooper Mausoleum

This small medieval church stands in a grassy graveyard on a back road en route to Portmarnock. It is dedicated to St Nicholas of Myra and is thought to have been in use until the 17th century. At one time this church would have stood closer to the sea but the coast land has extended over the centuries leaving the ruins now further inland.
The ruins are accessed by a roadside gate or by a stile in the boundary wall and the ground within is a little uneven underfoot in places.  What remains today are the nave, a chancel arch and a tall West gable sporting a twin arched belfry. Within the ruins on the East end is a mausoleum with the remains interred within of the prominent antiquarian & artist Austin Cooper (1759-1830) former owner of Abbeville House in Kinsealy. There is an entrance door in the South facing wall of the Church and a Chancel arch on the East end. It is a plain looking ruin but in a picturesque semi-rural setting which may not be the case much longer as developments are planned for the area around it. Hopefully they won’t encroach too much. I would hate to see the ruin becoming an ornament in grounds of some gated estate.
To find the ruins take the exit for the R139 at the Junction 3 exit of the M50. Continue on through the following roundabout until you reach the crossroads with the R107. Turn left at the crossroads and drive for approx. 3KM until you reach a right hand turn at Chapel Lane. It is identified by a whitewashed Church on your right at the junction. Turn down chapel lane and drive for approx. 400m until you spot the ruins in a field on your left. You can park safely enough on the left just at a gate in the South east corner of the boundary wall.

Thursday 27 November 2014

Cloondooan Castle Co Clare

                                             Above Image: Leaning Precariously

                                             Above Image: Part of a vaulted roof

                                                       Above Image: Doorway

We were on the back roads of Co Clare heading towards Gort in Co Galway when we came across this Castle ruin.
This Medieval tower house is sometimes called Boston Castle but is actually historically known as Cloondooan. It is situated just to the North of Lough Bunny on a small rural crossroads. The Castle considered at the time to be the most fortified castle in Ireland found itself laid siege to in 1586 by the forces of the Governor of Connaught Sir Richard Bingham whose men took nearly three months to take the castle. Mahon O’Brien (son of Torlough) was its chief defender and while one day casting down rocks and stones on the assailants he was killed by a musket shot. Following his demise the remaining occupants decided to surrender in the hope of clemency but to no avail, once the Castle was taken those inside were executed and the Castle was partially destroyed and left to fall into ruination. What remains of the Castle today is the North wall reaching to a height of almost 60 feet and a width of 28 feet. Only partial remains of the rest exist and any outlying bawn has now disappeared.
How these ruins are still standing are a mystery to me. They stand precariously and leaning slightly atop a grassy mound by the roadside. Strangely enough there appears to be no prohibiting signs about which is surprising as I’ve seen Castles in better condition closed off to visitors. I expect that it’s more out of the way location may attribute to this. From the roadside, although covered in grass, there are even some rudimentary stepping stones up to the base. It was a little uneven underfoot and where the grass is long I took great care in case of potholes lurking but I managed to climb up in the end and walk around the remains. There’s not much left to see I’m afraid but what you can observe is how well placed this tower was and how thick the walls were. It certainly would have been a formidable structure in its time and probably could still be standing complete if it had not been surrendered. What is particularly evident is the colossal damage done to this castle by the Governor’s forces when they did finally get in. 
One word of caution. The small crossroads the ruins are adjacent to although off the main road still seem to have some passing traffic and some drivers seemed a bit cavalier with their speed. If visiting be careful walking along and stepping out onto the road.

To find the ruins the easiest way is to take the R460 (Church St) out of the centre of the town of Gort and drive for approx. 9KM until you reach a right hand turn with a signs on your left pointing each way to Gort and Corofin and a few derelict cottages behind them. Turn right here and drive for approx. 700m and you will reach a small crossroads. You will see the ruins ahead. Park just beyond the ruins near a house on the right. (Avoid blocking the gate) This is really the only safe spot to park. 

Thursday 20 November 2014

Corcomroe Abbey Co Clare

                                              Above Image: The central tower

                                                  Above Image: Entrance door

                                 Above Image: Niche & effigy of King Conor O'Brien

                                                Above Image: The East gable

                                       Above Image: Presbytery & side Chapels

                                         Above Image: Decorative vaulted ceiling

                                                Above Image: The West gable

                                         Above & Below Images: ancillary ruins

This remarkable Abbey ruin lies on the Northern end of the Burren area in Co Clare. It is thought to have been constructed under the patronage of Donal Mór Ua Briain for the Cistercian order in the early 13th century. A great deal of work was applied to this Abbey particularly in its ornamental carvings and detailed masonry. The Abbey and lands were passed to the Earl of Thomond in 1554 after the dissolution of Abbeys but the Cistercian order maintained the Abbey until the 17th century until its last Abbott John O’Dea died. It was once known as St. Mary of the fertile rock referring to the rich soil of the surrounding Burren.
Firstly I should advise that if making a visit here and to get the full effect of the wonderful architecture I would try to make an early morning visit if possible. Around 10.30am the tour buses begin to arrive and both the car park and the ruins become congested. We arrived on our visit around 10.15am and drove up the long narrow lane that leads to the Abbey. Looking like we were going to be the only visitors I stopped the car to take a distance shot of the ruins but looked over my shoulder at a noise behind me and to my horror saw that a large tour bus was trundling up the lane way.
We drove up the lane quickly and parked running like fools into Abbey to get a head start. I wanted to take some photos inside devoid of people but minutes later they arrived disgorging from the bus and swarming into the ruins like a river of hot molasses. It was impossible to enjoy with all the commotion. So we sat down on an outside wall and thankfully around 15 minutes later the crowd had dispersed and returned to the bus to be swept off to some other 15 minute historical visit.
With the visitors gone these ruins take on a totally different atmosphere. They are so nicely positioned in a valley with surrounding naked limestone hills. Within the silent walls there are really some beautiful carvings and arches to be seen. The Abbey is in a cruciform shape with two small side chapels in the wings. Both the West and East gables have tall lancet windows. Within the choir we came across a tomb niche holding an effigy of King Conor O’Brien, who died in 1267.
The wonderful presbytery section has decorative arches that lead to two side chapels in the transepts. The central arch has a beautifully carved vaulted ceiling. In the centre of the ruins are the remains of a tower which divides the Abbey and loftily overlooks the area below.

Walking around these ruins especially when they are empty is an absolute joy.
Around the main ruins are some ancillary ruins that stretch out into the surrounds giving the location an even more elaborate feel. There is a cemetery in use around part of the ruins and the Abbey seems to be kept well. If in the area do take some time out to visit these ruins, you won’t be disappointed in the least.

To find Corcomroe Abbey follow these directions. From Kinvarra take the N67 heading West and after approx. 7KM take a left hand turn onto the L1014 signposted for Carron. Drive for approx. 4.5KM until you see a right hand turn for the L1016. There is a sign pointing to the Abbey. Turn right onto this road and continue for approx. 750m until you see a series of sheds on your left. You will then see another sign for the Abbey pointing to a lane on the right. Turn right up this lane and drive approx. 1.25Km and you will reach the Abbey car park. As mentioned previously go early.