Friday 31 October 2014

Glassamucky Brakes Stone Circle Co Dublin

              Above Image: The approach road. Park in the wide area in the background

                Above Image: The route from the road. The arrow points to the large rock
                                     mentioned in the post.

                    Above Image: The route from the large rock over the flat stone.The
                                         circle is on the left in the background

                                              Above Image: Facing South

                                            Above Image: Facing North

                                       PHOTOS BELOW FROM 2012 VISIT

                            Below 3 Images: Unusual cloud patterns that evening

Glassamucky Brakes. The name sounds odd. The “Brakes” in this case refers to an area covered with bracken to which this site decidedly fits the bill. 
Hiding away about 50m up from the rural back road below lies a megalithic stone circle most probably dating back to the Bronze Age. This being a glacial valley there is so much scree and rock lying about that it is difficult to see the circle until you have actually reached it. But unlike the other rocks strewn about this has a certain sign of placement about it. This may be the only visible stone circle or part thereof in the county of Dublin although there is mention of one or two in the Ballinascorney area according to South Dublin County libraries and possibly another buried beneath the ground at Glassamucky.  
Once you have navigated the roads and found the spot to park which is a wider area than the narrow road that you approached on, you will then need to start walking up the hill from this parking area and aim towards a large boulder at an approx. 45 degree angle. Upon reaching this rock keep to a direction parallel to the road below. You will find that a rudimentary track is evident and you will cross a flat stone on the way. A few metres beyond there is a cluster of rocks on your left, this is what remains of the circle. 
I’ve visited this site on two occasions, once on a September evening in 2012 when there was some high atmospheric winds creating some dramatic cloud patterns and the near setting sun was delivering some unusual light on the site. Disappointingly on that visit the furze and bracken was thick around the stones disguising a lot of it. On my recent visit the area around the stones was charred from an apparent brush fire. Whether this was deliberate or not it certainly afforded a better view of the circle.  
There are seven stones in all visible that form an arc. One of the stones leans forward as if pointing to Ballymorefinn Hill opposite although I don’t think there is any significance to this as the stone was more than likely originally vertical. The circle seems to sit on a sort of shelf and has a fine view of the Glenasmole valley below. This valley name translates to valley of the witches and is surrounded by hills and mountains topped by ancient cairns. It is indeed a very atmospheric spot here and the non- strenuous walk to circle really makes it a must see. Also in the general area above the higher road (R115) you can also visit the huge Glassamucky Bullaun stone (see earlier post here
All in all a very interesting visit but best done on a dry bright day for safety reasons. 
To find the circle take the R115 out of Rathfarnham towards Killakee and after approx. 3.5KM you will reach a sharp right bend with a viewpoint parking area on the right. Continue on around the bend and follow this road (Military Rd) for approx. 3KM.  Along the way you will pass a sharp right hand turn and then a memorial on your left. Approx.250m past the memorial is another sharp right hand turn. Turn down this road which bends sharply right after about 600m. Continue until you have passed a left hand turn and approx. 200m later you will find a wider section of the road where you can park. Directly in the centre right of the area is rough track leading up the hill. Follow the directions as outlined in the post above.

Friday 24 October 2014

Old Ardkill Church Co Kildare

                                         Above Image: The new roadside gate

                                 Above Image: The second stile (to right of gate)

                                           Above Image: The walled enclosure

                                            Above Image: The enclosure gate
                                             Above Image: The East gable

                                  Above Image: Route from the road to enclosure

You’ll need some good walking boots for this one. The medieval Church of Ardkill (meaning High Church) lies in the Townland of the same name and requires a bit of a trek to find it. The first indication of its existence is a gate with a cross on it at the roadside which now has a brand new stile attached. From here it’s a walk across three fields and over another stile before you spot the walled enclosure around the ruins. This route may have originally been a Mass path for Churchgoers. The last of these fields has a cattle enclosure and a stile to cross. When we visited, the last field was chock full of Sheep who moved in great waves as we approached and at least two rams were giving us the beady eye. Just as you reach the enclosure wall you have to cross a small ditch which even on a sunny day still manages to retain some water. There is a gate in the enclosure wall on the South west corner which has a spring loaded catch which nearly took my finger off so be wary of this.
What remains of the Church is unfortunately mostly hidden by vegetation but it appears both gables are standing and partial amounts of the South and North walls. The Church would have measured approx. 21m x 10m. The ruins are situated on raised ground within the graveyard which is pretty uneven and they would probably look more dramatic if the ivy was cleared. The Kildare burial grounds survey documents that the East gable is buttressed but it’s not very evident with the overgrowth. There are a number of 18th century interesting grave markers scattered around.
It’s a long trek for such scant remains but there is a very remote, windswept and historical atmosphere to the place. There are also, a couple of fields further on, the partial remains of a Castle tower. This can be spotted from the road as you approach the roadside stile that accesses the mass path. We decided on this visit to pass on that viewing as we had pretty much enough of the smell of country air!
To find the ruins take the M4 junction 9 exit. At the top of the ramp take the R402 exit of the roundabout for Edenderry. Drive a short way to the next roundabout and take the 2nd exit continuing on the R402 toward Edenderry. Pass through the Village of Johnstown Bridge and drive for approx. 6Km until you reach a small crossroads with a white thatched cottage on the right. Turn left at the crossroads and drive for approx. 900m and keep an eye out on your right for a field gate with a cross on it and a stile adjacent. You can park on the grass verge opposite. Once over the stile follow the line of the hedgerow on your right and you will find the right route.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Timahoe Round Tower & Castle Co Laois

                                           Above Image: The footbridge entrance

                                            Above Image: Romanesque doorway

                             Above Image: Almost as if the tower had sprouted twigs!

                              Above & Below Images: Remains of the Church/Castle

                                                 Above Image: The choir arch

                                               Above Image: Remains of a font?

This monastic site was founded by St Mochua in the 7th century. None of the original monastery buildings survive after being seriously damaged in 1142 but the tall 90 feet tall round tower which was constructed in the 12th century remains intact and peeks above the trees on the skyline of the Village.
Access to the site is by way of a small footbridge over a stream into a secluded area. The conical roof remains atop undamaged making the tower a fine example of these amazing type of structures. There are four windows near the roof that face to all four compass points but most importantly a beautifully carved Romanesque doorway is situated approx. 14ft from ground level. This decorative doorway makes this tower unique in Ireland. The doorways on towers like these were placed high  mostly as form of protection. If under attack a ladder could be pulled up to deter the assailants.
 A few yards from the tower a more modern Church building stands intact and has I’ve been told adapted into a library.
Adjacent South West to the tower are the ruins of a 15th century Church from a Franciscan friary constructed by the O’Mores. The friary was closed in the dissolution of the 1540’s. In the 1600’s the lands were passed to the Cosby family who were notable in the area and they went about converting the remains of the Church into a Castle complete with tower and bawn. Only partial remains exist today mostly of the East wall and a gable end of the Church. The East wall contains a choir arch which is completely blocked up.
The site sits in a very quiet spot in the village and has a very calm and peaceful atmosphere. When we visited there was just one other visitor who appeared to be a local walking his dog. Although the remains of the Church/Castle are scant the tower really makes a visit worthwhile.
To find the ruins, take the M7 Dublin to Limerick motorway and exit at junction 16. At the roundabout at the top of the exit ramp take the second exit and drive for approx. 4.5KM until you reach a T-junction with the N80. You will pass by the Rock of Dunamase on your way (see earlier post). Turn left onto the N80 and drive approx. 3KM until you reach Stradbally. In the Village take the right hand turn opposite the “Daniel Dunne” pub. Drive for approx. 8KM until you reach the crossroads in Timahoe Village. Drive ahead through the crossroads and take the first left turn. Once around, the road forks. Take the right hand fork and a few metres on you will spot the small footbridge crossing the stream. You can park safely along here.

Saturday 4 October 2014

St Kevins Church Co Dublin

                                              Above Image: The entrance gate

                                                   Above Image: Interior view

                                                   Above 2 Images: The belfry

                                  Above Image: Some of the removed headstones

The first mention of a Church on this site just outside the then walls of Dublin was in the annals of 1226. No trace of this medieval church survives and the parish was administered after the reformation by the Church of Ireland. The present Church ruin dates to around 1750 and was built on the site of the old church. Quite a large structure for its type it was notable as the baptismal site for The Duke of Wellington who battled Napoleon at Waterloo. The church remained in use until 1912 when it was closed and its font removed and transported to St Nahi’s Church in Dundrum. In the 1960’s the site was being developed as a public park and excavations revealed some medieval coins and burials.
I wasn’t aware of the existence of this ruin until recently. It is closeted away down the narrow street called Camden Row and is surrounded by buildings and walls. An arched gateway provides access from the street and is open during daytime for the public to avail of the park. The Church lies at the North end of the enclosure. It feels a little encroached upon by the buildings but the park is maintained and is quite pleasant to walk in.
The ruins have been gated up so there is no access to the interior but you can see quite clearly through the bars all you need to see.  A tall belfry is situated on the West gable and is still in fairly  good condition.
One strange thing is that most of the gravestones have been removed from their sites and repositioned around the interior of the boundary walls. Whether this was to facilitate a more park like feel or not it seems a little bit careless to those interred there. This situation has led to stories of hauntings in the park by its interred community apparently aggrieved by the disturbance of their graves. History also notes that body snatching took place here a couple of hundred years ago and this coupled with the ghostly tales lends a more uneasy atmosphere to the site. The site is also infested with pigeons who lounge around on the gables of the Church.

To find the ruins, from the junction of Kevin Street Lower and Cuffe Street turn onto Wexford Street. About 80m along there is a right hand turn at Ryan’s pub. This is Camden Row. You will find the entrance gate to the ruins about 100m up this road on your right. Disc parking is available along this road.