Friday 24 January 2014

Glencullen Standing Stone Co Dublin

                              Above Image: Close up of this ancient quartz stone

                               Above Image: It's close proximity to roadside wall

This interesting quartz standing stone is situated on the edge of a golf course in Glencullen. It is believed it could be up to 3700 years old. Originally part of a pair of stones it now stands alone, its sibling lost to time. Legend has it that Viking invaders used both stones in a game of "Rings" The dazzling quartz illuminates in sunshine and changes colour at sunset. As it is now set upon a golf course access can be prohibited as the owners are wary of would be visitors being hit by a golf ball! However it is a national monument as the adjacent sign attests and there is a field gate although locked that can be climbed over and if you keep to the perimeter wall upon entry and then cross over to the stone when parallel to it you should be safe enough.
The stone stands approx. 6 feet high above ground although again legend has it that it extends downwards into the ground three times that length. I don't know if there is any truth to this but I don't think anybody is likely to start digging to find out. The locals call the stone Queen Mab which could be a reference to the fairy Queen mentioned in Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet but it is more likely that it refers to the mythological Queen Medb of Connaught.
The whole area around here is a treasure trove of megalithic stones and graves and this stone was probably part of a network of way markers or for use in tribal ceremonies. Standing alongside it today one can't help musing over what it might have witnessed in those ancient times.
To find the standing stone take the R117 Kilternan to Enniskerry road and at the Blue wooden church take a turn right onto the R116 (Ballybetagh Rd) towards Glencullen. Drive until you reach Johnnie Fox's pub and turn left at the crossroads just beyond it onto the Barrack Rd. About 200m along you will see a field gate on your left. Park here and you will spot the stone in the field on the edge of the golf course. Be careful crossing especially if the course appears to be in use. A word of caution for the those driving. If you decide to continue on down the Barrack road you will reach a very steep set of narrow bends known as the Devil's Elbow that is not termed that lightly. If you are in anyway a nervous driver it would be advisable to return by way of the Ballybetagh Road.

Sunday 19 January 2014

Old Tipper Church Co Kildare

                                          Above Image: The entrance stile

                                        Above Image: The chamber entrance

                                Above Image: View out from within the chamber

                                       Above Image: East face of the cross

                                        Above Image: West face of the cross

                                    Above Image: One of the ancient stones

This one is disappearing quickly! The medieval Church of Tipper is almost entirely covered in ivy with only partial walls visible and yet it is still worth a visit. It is certainly an eerie spot even on a bright sunny day.
The first mention of a Church here was by Pope Innocent III in 1216 who referred to the Church at Tobar (translates to "Well" indicating the presence of a holy well). The name Tobar has changed over time to Tipper. This probably one time parish Church stands on elevated ground within a graveyard enclosure and appears even under heavy vegetation to have both gable ends standing. The structure measures approx. 18 feet end to end with a gap in the centre where walls have collapsed. Indeed the ruins are so heavy with ivy that I think it may in time cause further damage.
Within the central and uneven interior there is a chamber in the Western side with an iron gate. The gate is unlocked so it's possible to enter the chamber. It's quite dark in there but a light will reveal the vaulted ceiling above. On this occasion we had only a small penlight torch with us. The chamber is not that big but it certainly oozed a very creepy atmosphere, probably the claustrophobic space, but still it gave us the feeling of not wanting to linger around too long in there. We tried to photograph the ceiling but to no avail as our penlight was useless and no camera setting would capture it.
The graveyard was assessed in the past and some interesting items uncovered including a very decorative cross that has now been reset and now stands alongside the ruins. It is dated 1616 and is believed to be a commemoration to one John Delahyde and his wife Margery Walsh. One of the designs upon it depicts the crucifixion.
The enclosure seems to be deteriorating somewhat with dense weeds and such running fairly rampant. The entry gate in the Western boundary wall is so tied up with overgrowth that it difficult to open but at least there are rough stiles on either side one of which affords easy enough access.
Once inside the enclosure the ground is very uneven underfoot but it is still possible to carefully circumnavigate the ruins and see some of the ancient stones that lie hidden in the weeds.
All in all a bit of a sad state of affairs then but if the ivy could be cleared it would make such a huge difference. However having said that if you happen to be in the area do make a stop and check out the creepy chamber within.
To find Tipper ruins take the N81 Dublin to Tullow road and as you exit the main street in Blessington heading south there is a right hand turn signposted for the R410 to Naas. Take this turn and drive for approx. 8KM until you reach a crossroads. This has two right hand turns in close proximity. The first is for the L2019 to Kill, but it is the second that you need to take signposted for the L6035 to Johnstown. Drive for approx. 600m and you will see the graveyard on your right. You can park on a slightly wider part of the road a little way past the enclosure.

Saturday 11 January 2014

Fraine Castle Co Meath

                                 Above Image: The North & West facing walls

                                     Above Image: Remains of the West wall

Fraine Castle is situated on what was once the perimeter of The Pale. Built primarily for defense it may have been one of the £10 Castles from the 1400's commissioned by the Crown that dot the length of  The Pale's borders. It is likely that a garrison would have been stationed here to ward off any would be assailants. As with the fate of many Irish Castles it probably came under attack during the Cromwellian invasion and what little remains today is a testament to the cannon power involved. George Tyner's "Traveller's guide through Ireland" published in 1794 mentions the Castle as being in ruins.
We came across the Castle en-route from Athboy in search of Tremblestown Castle near Kildalkey (See earlier post here) Not expecting to see anything on this particular stretch of road it was a surprise to see the tall ruin directly in front of us. It is situated on the edge of a field at a rural crossroads. The North facing wall and partial West wall are all that remain but the North wall stands to full height allowing us to see that it was a four storey tower. A ditch and hedgerows divide the ruins from the road. I'm sure there's access to the field but I don't think that you would get any more advantage than the view from the roadside which in itself is quite dramatic.
There seems to be very little information on Fraine so if anybody can shed some more light I would be grateful. In any case it's good to document it's name and location.
To find the ruins, take the N51 from Athboy towards Delvin. Just as you are leaving Athboy there are two left turns in close proximity. Take the second turn with the sign pointing to FR. MURPHY F.C. This is Castle Avenue. Drive for approx. 2KM and you will see the ruins on your left. You can park on the road at the crossroads.

Sunday 5 January 2014

Moone Abbey & High Cross Co Kildare

                                     Above Image: The Roadside entrance

                   Above Image: Unsightly scaffolding but necessary for maintenance

                                       Above Image: The Moone High Cross

                                        Above Image: Close up of the shaft

                                 Above Image: The twelve apostles on the base

                                    Above Image: Moone Castle viewed from
                                                         the Abbey graveyard

The area around Moone is one of the oldest settlements in Ireland dating back to approx 4000BC. A monastery was founded here by St.Palladius in the 5th century and dedicated to St.Colmcille and it continued to be a religious site from then on. The Abbey ruins date to the 13th century and contain within it's walls the famous Moone High Cross which dates to the 8th century. Constructed of granite in three sections it is one of the most decoratively carved crosses in the country. The Abbey was ransacked and burned along with the nearby Castle by Cromwellian forces in the 17th century and no doubt the High Cross suffered also. Two sections of it were rediscovered buried in the Abbey grounds in 1835 and re-erected in the Abbey by the Duke Of Leinster although the final missing section was not added until it's discovery in 1895 thus completing it's restoration.
Locating the ruins can be a little tricky as they are situated on a back road on the old Belan estate. The easiest way to find them is to locate the large pillared gateway in Moone village opposite the Post Office. Follow the road through the gates and it will lead you in the right direction.
The site stands alongside the River Greese and is accessed by a designated gap in the boundary wall by the roadside. A short walk brings you the ruins. Some recent work has been done here and a rather out of place looking glass roof has been added to part of the Abbey but this is in fact to form protection from the elements to the high cross within. The rest of the Abbey is open to the sky. While the ruins are not that extensive both gable ends survive and most of the walls. The Eastern gable sports a large window. Adjacent to the ruins is an ancient cemetery from where you can view the ruins of the nearby Moone Castle which is unfortunately on private land and inaccessible. The Castle grounds for any prospective trespasser also comes supplied with a large barking dog.
I suppose the main feature of the Abbey has to be the High Cross. It stands 5.3 metres high and is one of four original crosses which stood on compass points, North, South, East and West. This complete cross is the Southern one. The base and partial shaft of another stands now behind the complete cross while the remaining two are represented only by their bases and are semi-buried in field and woodland nearby.
The Moone High Cross is really amazing. Each aspect of the base and shaft are decorated with carvings depicting amongst others Adam & Eve, Daniel in the Lion's den and the twelve apostles. The shaft is carved with many animals, motifs and figures.
As mentioned there is only a shell of the Abbey left and there tends to be quite a bit of scaffolding around due to ongoing preservation which detracts a little from the overall view but it really is worth your time to stop and see the high cross. We visited on a March afternoon and there wasn't a sinner about. We also attempted to get near to the Castle but were thwarted by the Hillbilly doorbell (The Dog!)
To find Moone Abbey take the M9 motorway and at junction 3 take the exit and follow the R747 for Moone. After approx. 2KM you will come to a T-Junction with the R448. Turn right here and drive for approx. 3KM until you reach Moone village. Drive through the main street until you see the Post Office on your left. Directly opposite are the large pillared gates. Drive through the gateway and follow this road which takes a sharp left bend. You will see the ruins of Moone Corn Mill (See earlier post here) ahead. The road then bends to the right and after about 200m you will spot a set of wooden gates set into an archway in the wall on your right. Directly beside this is a gap in the wall which is the entry point to the ruins. You can park safely enough alongside the wall at the wooden gates.