Thursday 28 August 2014

Ballylarkin Abbey Co Kilkenny

                                                       Above: Entrance gate

                                              Above Image: The entrance door

                                                   Above Image: Triple Sedilia

                                                 Above Image: Carved plaque

                                               Above Image: East Gothic window

                                      Above Image: Remains of Ballylarkin Castle?

Situated about 3KM South West of Freshford this interesting ruin lies a little bit off the beaten path.
Locally called Ballylarkin Abbey it is in fact a parish church believed to have been built in 1350AD by the Shorthall family who came to Ireland during the Norman conquest. They ousted the resident O’Lorcains from Ballyarkin Castle in 1326. (Ballylarkin translates to Town Of Larkin)
The Church’s sturdy design gives it a robust fortified look and it even sported a defensive wall walk  but it does nonetheless contain some interesting and more ecclesiastical features.

The Church stands on private land but there is public access by way of a small iron pedestrian gate and stone stile at the roadside. The field in which it stands is a grazing ground for sheep but they tend to scurry away when somebody approaches. It is of an unusual design not really resembling other Churches of the period and its damaged West gable gives it an awkward look. There is a single entry door in the northern wall with a V-stile to prevent those pesky sheep from entering! Standing inside you get a full view of the large Gothic cut stone window a little ragged now from erosion. Beneath this in the South east corner is the real gem an almost perfectly preserved triple sedila with arches and carvings which was designed as seating for officiating clergy. A small arched alcove is next to this and a window on its other side. A nicely carved plaque is also present but I’m not sure of its origin. Most of what I can only assume was an extension for a bell tower still stands but a pile of rubble at its base and evidence of a possible attached building to this gable might change this assumption.
There appears to be some partial ruins in the field on the opposite side of the road from the Church and I suspect these may have been from Ballylarkin Castle as the site appears on the ordnance survey map of 1887-1913. An image on Google maps street view from 2011 shows them in a less diminished form than they are today. 

To find Ballylarkin Abbey, take Bohercrussia Street heading West out of Freshford and follow this road for approx. 3KM. You will spot the ruins in a field on your left. You can park along the road a little past the entrance stile.

Monday 18 August 2014

Scariff Water Tower Co Clare

                                Above Image: The Scariff river adjacent to the tower.

We were driving from Gort to Tuamgraney via Scariff when on entering the village of Scariff we spotted this tall tower across the river. It looked like an interesting ruin so we sought about locating it. As it turned out it was not a Castle tower but a 19th century water tower built to supply the infamous Scariff workhouse.
The workhouse was built in 1841 with the intention of accommodating 600 inmates but with the onset of the famine in 1847 things grew out of proportion so much so that by 1851 there were 3212 inmates with little or no food or water and disease rampant. The workhouse was finally destroyed by the East Clare brigade of the IRA in 1921 to avoid it being used as a Black and Tan barracks. Curiously enough the tower was left mostly undamaged.
We found a public park that led us to a point directly across the river from the tower. From there we could see it was fenced off on all three land sides and the only access would be to row across (if you had a boat) or swim! Still from this position you can see what a nicely constructed structure it is and would fool anyone into thinking it was a late medieval castle. A local informed us that a preservation order was put on it and some restoration would take place. It is also apparently a nesting spot for Barn Owls which are a protected species. Worth a look then if in the area and for a closer look bring your bathing suit!

From Gort take the R458 South and about 5Km along there is a left hand turn for the R461. Take this turn and continue to follow the R461 to Scariff (About 29KM). As you enter the town the road runs parallel to the river Scariff and you will see the tower on the other side. About 100m past the tower is a turn in to a public car park. You can park here and follow the river down to the tower.



Sunday 10 August 2014

Muckinish Castle Co Clare

                                               Above Image: West facing view

                                    Above & Below Images: Semi-blocked entrance

                                             Above Image: Ground floor interior

                                     Above Image: Debris from collapsed North wall

This five storey tower stands on the coast between Kinvarra and Ballyvaughan. Known as Muckinish Castle (Muckinish being translated from Gaelic as Pig island) the Castle is also sometimes referred to as Ballynacregga. The Castle was built c.1450 by the O’Loughlins and is now in a ruinous state, a testament no doubt to a turbulent past. Now the only full wall standing is the South wall. Portions of the West and a good deal of the East remain but the entire North facing wall has collapsed into rubble on the strand below. The ruins remaining stand seventy four feet high and there is a machicolation for defence purposes on the parapet of the South wall.
It’s hard to miss this ruin as it is just off the coast road a little out of Ballyvaughan. A lane way provides access from the main road. Just adjacent to the ruins a series of holiday homes have been built and so parking is easy in the landscaped area just in front of the Castle. When we visited I was struck by the familiarity of the place and realised that I had actually been here before back in the early 1990’s. Nothing seems to have changed much although a little more wall may have fallen and there was as before virtually nobody else around.

The ruins are striking, standing tall over the bay and it is possible to clamber over the edge of the West facing side and climb down to a small entrance just above the beach which is now impeded by the fallen masonry. But still you can get a look inside at the ground floor through one of the windows adjacent.
Standing down on the beach below and with the whole North wall collapsed you can see the innards of the tower. You can clearly see that the first and third floors were vaulted. The Castle sits on a narrow part of an isthmus jutting into Pouldoody bay and definitely would have held a very strategic position.
An interesting site then but I wonder how much more subsidence will take place in the foreseeable future. The landward side seems solid enough but as for the seaward….

To find the ruins take the N67 from Ballyvaughan towards Kinvarra and after about 4KM you will spot the Castle ruins on your left down towards the bay below. A walled lane way brings you directly to them and you can park in front of the Castle.

Sunday 3 August 2014

Drumharsna Castle Co Galway

                                            Above Image: Entrance stile

                                       Above Image: The East facing wall

                                       Above Image: The West facing wall

                                          Above Image: The main entrance

This sturdy tower house is believed to have been built by the Kilkellys in the early 16th century and is recorded as being occupied by Shane Ballagh around 1577. The Castle survived the Cromwellian invasion and was indeed still in use up until the 1920's when it was then occupied by the infamous Black and Tans as a barracks and stories of brutal murders became associated with it. The Castle was finally left badly damaged by the Tans and subsequently fell into ruin.
The Castle stands five storeys high with the second and fourth storeys being vaulted. An attic and battlements take up the remaining fifth storey. A spiral stairway is situated in the South East corner and the building also contains some mural passageways.
The ruins stand close to the roadside of a narrow lane. A wall in front offers a narrow stile but the entrance has been barred up and a thin electric fence put in place presumably to deter cattle although it's so narrow a space I wonder if it's more to deter two legged encroachers.
As mentioned several murders were supposed to have taken place here but there is one recorded case from the 1920's of two brothers called Loughnane who were arrested and incarcerated in the Castle before being brought to a nearby wood and executed. it must have seemed a very stark place to spend their last night alive.
We were on our way from Gort to Kinvarra and took a diversion to have a closer look at the ruin. On approach it really does hold a commanding position. It stands dramatically on pastureland and is certainly one of the tallest of these type of tower houses I have seen. It's a pity that access to the interior is now denied as I would really liked to have explored this one. Still it was well worth the time out to visit.
To find the ruins take the N18 heading North from Gort. Approx. 2.5KM on there is a road that forks left from the main road. You will need to take this left hand fork and drive for approx. 5KM. You will know that you are on the right road as you will pass a modern whitewashed Church with a tall square tower on your left about 1KM in from the N18. After the 5KM drive keep an eye out on your left and you will eventually spot the Castle. Turn left down the lane way and although narrow you will be able to park safely enough just past the Castle on a curve in the road.