Saturday 31 May 2014

Old Pollardstown Church Co Kildare

                                     Above Image: The entrance gate & stile.

                                             Above Image: The East gable

                                            Above Image: The West gable

                                    Above Image: West gable triple light window

                            Below 4 Images: Some views of the Pollardstown Fen

This ruin lies a little North of the Curragh in Co.Kildare on a quiet back road. The Church dates to Medieval times and stands in the Northern section of a walled enclosure. It appears to be a basic parish-style Church that along with others of it's ilk fell into disuse and ruin after the suppression of Abbeys and Churches in the 1500's..
This is one of those curious little Churches that you find dotted around the country and especially here in Kildare which seems to have a huge ecclesiastical presence. It took me a little time to locate it taking a winding back road into the backwaters. The countryside around here although very flat is particularly picturesque with a lot of equine presence due to the nearby racecourses and Horse stud farms.
The enclosure around the ruin contains both a gate (which is unlocked) and a stile in it's Southern wall.What remains today of the Church are the East and West gables with most of the North and South walls diminished to foundation level. The gables strand proudly like two sentinels watching over the graves surrounding them. The graveyard is still in use attested by the nicely mown lawn that washes up like a tide on the more overgrown ruins. In the West gable there is a nicely preserved triple light window and an aperture in the East gable that was once probably another window now covered with overgrowth.Other than these there are no other visible features of note. It is a decidedly quiet spot here although there are some houses nearby but not much activity. I have to say although not very extensive I still find this ruin very pleasing to the eye.
A pleasant aside to my visit was the discovery that the Pollardstown Fen, the only natural Fenland in the country, lay only a few hundred yards down the road Eastwards from the Church. It was a beautiful morning so I took advantage and made the 30 minute walk around the boardwalk that crosses this interesting area and I would urge you to do the same if time allows.
To find the ruin, take the M7 heading West and exit at Junction 15. At the top of the exit ramp turn right on the roundabout and cross over the bridge to the roundabout on the other side. Here take the exit for the R413/R415 and follow this road until you reach another roundabout. Go straight Through and after approx. 800m you will see a building on your left marked "Cunninghams Bar & Restaurant". 800m beyond this you will see a right hand turn onto a narrow road with stone walls on either side and marked with an information sign pointing to the Pollardstown Fen. Turn right onto this road and follow it until you reach a T-Junction. Turn left at the Junction and drive for approx. 200m and you will spot the ruin on your right. You can park directly at the gate. If you want to visit the fen just turn around and follow the road Eastwards for approx. 400m and you will see the Fen car park on your left.

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Glassamucky Mountain Bullaun Stone Co Dublin

                                         Above Image:  Nearing the stone.

                                           Above Image: One of the cups.

                         Above Image: The tip of the Great Sugar Loaf mountain is
                                             Just barely visible  in the top left hand corner

This ancient stone is situated on the slopes of Glassamucky Mountain touching a border line between Co Dublin and Co Wicklow. The stone containing 3 bullauns (or cups) lies recumbent like a sleeping giant amongst the heather. Bullauns are pre-Christian and most date to around the Bronze age (2300-600BC) but there is a possibility that this one could date back further. Was it placed here in alignment with other mountain tops and cairns or was it deposited here in the last ice age? Who Knows?  This whole area was part of a glacial valley as the abundance of rocks strewn about would attest.
Finding the Bullaun on the first visit wasn’t too hard but as it’s not visible from the road below, you need to find the track that leads upwards. Once up the slight incline which can be in places a little uneven underfoot it is easily found as there is a wooden post signposting the Wicklow way placed beside it.
This is an amazing stone measuring almost nine feet wide. Of the three carved out cups one is complete about 35cm in width, the other two no longer hold water properly as the sides have been worn away by erosion. The cups are designed to hold rainwater and water collected in them is supposed to have healing powers. Some types of bullauns have also been termed curse stones giving a more sinister aspect to them. Indeed if this stone’s position is part of an alignment it may have been used in Neolithic times (10,200-2000BC) for ceremonies. Whatever the case there is an air of mystery about it and the area surrounding it. When we visited it was a bright evening although there was a lot of low cloud about which just added to the overall atmosphere. This is a really interesting site and is well worth the short trek it takes to get to it.

It’s a little tricky to find but start by taking the R115 from Ballyboden via stocking Lane and continue on for approx.. 4KM until you have passed a sharp right bend at a view point car park and about 600m later you will pass by a sharp right hand turn. About 1km after this turn and just around a left bend you will spot a pole sticking up from the heather up on the left. Below it in the ditch alongside the road is a round drain pipe. This is the start of the track leading up to the stone. You can pull in on a wide spot on the left just beyond. The stone lies approx. 120m up the hillside. 

Sunday 11 May 2014

Carlow Castle Co Carlow

                                      Above Image: Mural corridors exposed

                                         Above Image: An interior chamber

                            Above Image: Another interior shot. Almost resembles
                                                 a skull.

                                       Above Image: The last intervening wall

Built upon the site of an earlier motte constructed by Hugh De Lacy, Carlow Castle is thought to have been commissioned by William De Marshal circa 1207 using a similar design to that of Ferns Castle in Co Wexford (see earlier post). The walls were built up to 9 feet thick and its position on a rocky knoll above the River barrow made it a truly formidable structure. It was laid siege by many of the Irish clans and in 1494 it was seized by James Fitzgerald of Kildare. It suffered another four attacks between 1534 and 1646 before succumbing in 1650 to Cromwellian forces who extensively damaged it. However the Castle managed to survive on in a reasonable state and in 1814 was on lease to a physician Dr. Philip Parry Price Middleton who intended to invest a large sum into transforming it into a mental asylum. To do this he wanted to form a series of underground conduit tunnels and using a considerable amount of dynamite managed to undermining the Castle foundations resulting in the collapse of the Eastern towers and intervening walls into a pile of rubble. The remains lay abandoned until some excavation work took place in the mid 1990's and the area around the ruins was landscaped by the OPW.
High up on its rocky base the Castle must in its day looked very impressive indeed, but today in its diminished form it seems to have been cast aside somewhat. It is now surrounded by modern buildings and tucked away down a side street, its once commanding view of the river impeded by an apartment block. Still, when you first arrive the height of the remaining two towers still have the ability to make you gasp and the OPW have done a fairly nice job of cleaning up the area surrounding the Castle. There are steps and rails put in place and a small landscaped garden area is adjacent. The Eastern aspect of the ruins now exposed shows evidence of mural corridors. A pathway leads you completely around the ruins and along the way you will find several gated entrances which are unfortunately padlocked giving only a tantalising view of the inside. I believe at one time a key was available from the office of the Corcoran mineral water factory nearby, but as this business is no longer there I'm not sure where the key lies now. For such an important ruin only a very small disc parking area is provided for visitors. All of the car parking spaces at the foot of the Castle are for the private residents of the aforementioned apartments. This aside the ruins are very striking, have a considerably turbulent history and are really well worth your time to check out.
To find Carlow Castle take the junction 4 exit of the M9 motorway heading South for Waterford onto the R488 pointing to Carlow. Drive for approx. 5Km until you have gone straight through 3 roundabouts. On  the fourth roundabout called Dr. Cullen Rd Roundabout follow the first left turn for the R488 towards the  town centre. Drive for approx 600m through the town until you reach a junction with Kennedy Ave. This has a large stone building with the SuperValu logo on it on your right hand side.. Turn right here and continue on this road through a roundabout and a crossroads and then approx 150m on you will see a left hand turn for Mill Lane. Turn onto the lane and you will see the Castle on your right a little way up. On your left opposite the Castle you will see a small parking area with a small charge of 50c per hour.

Friday 2 May 2014

The Shell House Co Dublin

                           Above Image: First cross the metal bridge....
                           Below 2 Images:  ....Then turn left and follow this lane.
                                                          Then look for this entrance.

                                          Above Image: The entrance door.

                                     Above Image: Remains of shell decoration

                                Above Image: The graffiti illuminates the interior

                                  Above Image: The adjacent stone bridge

This curious little ruin lies in a woodland setting in Bushy Park, Rathfarnham. The parkland was donated to Dublin Corporation in 1951 by the Shaw estate, distant relatives to George Bernard Shaw whose ancestor Sir Robert Shaw took up residency in the Bushy Park estate in 1796. The estate was a dowry to his wife Maria from her father Abraham Wilkinson. The little ruin we have here today is what remains of a shell house, a type of Summerhouse decorated with cockles and shells which were collected from the nearby Dublin coastal strands. The building was created as a tea room for the Shaw's to relax and enjoy in a woodland setting. The small shell house is worth seeking out if only for the sylvan walks surrounding it.
We visited on a spring evening thinking it might take some time to locate in the woods but it turned out much easier than expected. We entered the parkland through one of the entrances in the South boundary wall that runs parallel to the River Dodder. A short trek through the trees brought us directly to the spot. The shell house stands adjacent to one of the stone bridges that crosses the narrow lake often referred to as the Duck Pond.
The unusual structure is hexagonal in shape with arched windows and a doorway. It has been constructed using rocks in a manner not unlike the way field walls are built in the West of Ireland. Inside, the graffiti artists have come to call and have coloured the walls which in this case actually adds some effect. From outside the bold colours give a luminosity to the interior. The original plaster is all but gone now but there are still a couple of spots where shells remain embedded, illustrating a little of how decorative it must have looked when it was complete. When the building fell out of use and into ruin is unclear but the more upper class style of the 1800's may not have entirely spilled into the next century when travel and more exciting ventures would have outclassed sipping tea in the woods.
Outside the shell house there are some tall trees, some felled and petrified and also a strange mixture of leafy vegetation adding a slightly eerie ambiance to the surroundings. The little ruin almost looks as if it could be a witch's house deep in the woods in some old fairytale. While the light flickers down through the trees this is a nice spot but I would warrant it would be a different situation after nightfall. Locals have informed that while the park is quite safe during daylight it is really not advisable to cross the park at night, and we are not talking about witches here either. Still however it is worth a visit if in the area and in need of a change of scene without having to trek into mountain woodland.
To find the shell house take the R114 (Butterfield Ave.) from Rathfarnham Village. At the junction with the Rathfarnham Shopping Centre turn right onto Fairways. Drive straight on for approx 200m and you will reach a T-Junction with the R112. Turn right and drive for approx. 300m until you see a small lay-by on your left for parking cars. Just past the lay-by on your left is a metal pedestrian bridge crossing the Dodder. On the other side turn left and follow the lane way until you see a set of stone steps on your right leading up to an entrance in the park boundary wall. Once through the gate walk directly ahead for approx.100m towards the stone bridge. The shell house is located just before the bridge on the right.