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.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Old Portmarnock Church Co Dublin

                                          Above Image: The roadside gate.

                                       Above Image: The track to the ruins.

                                             Above Image: First glimpse.

                                         Above Image: The enclosure gate.

                             Above Image: West gable with remains of belfry.

                                     Above Image: East gable (foreground)

This Church ruin lies near the sand dunes on the Strand at Portmarnock, a village on the North East coast of County Dublin, which derives its name from St Marnoc who settled here in the 5th century. The present ruins were built upon the site of a much earlier church and date to between the late 12th and early 13th century. The ruins are surrounded by a later graveyard with a walled enclosure.
This is one of these ruins which are not apparent to the passer by. It is not signposted from the road and access is through a metal swing gate at the roadside and a trek through some scrub land out towards the dunes.
The Church sits in a very nice coastal setting and has most of both gables and its walls still in evidence with a window in the West gable. This gable I believe also at one time had triple bell arches. It is a long rectangular building longer than most of its type and one of the oldest still in evidence in co Dublin and so worth a look.
When walking up the track towards the ruins I was met by several signs indicating private property on both sides of the track and that leaving the track was trespassing. I have to say when I reached the enclosure I did not at first see the entry gate and walked a little around the enclosure to see if I could find a way in. I took a photo from this position of the ruins and this activity must have generated some suspicion in one of the nearby houses. The enclosure is bordered mainly by the Portmarnock Hotel golf links and also by the grounds of Lissadell house. Anyway, I finally did find the gate which was actually at the end of the track I had arrived on. How I missed it I don’t know.
 I entered through the gate and went about looking at the ruins. During my perusal a very stocky and somewhat surly looking character entered the graveyard and pretended to look at a grave but was obvious to me that he was checking to see what I was up to. I continued to take photos and generally look at the ruins and when I was done I walked out towards the enclosure gate deliberately passing him and bidding him good day. He didn’t respond so I went about my way looking back to see if he was following, but he wasn’t. I don’t think that my visit to the ruin was in anyway prohibited but my leaving the path and photography may have seemed to somebody that I might be photographing the estate house for some nefarious reason. So be wary of this if visiting and stay on the track.

To find the ruins take the R106 Strand Road heading North through Portmarnock. Pass by St Anne’s Church on your right and drive for approx. 700m until you see a left hand turn for Blackberry Lane. Turn in and park along the road here. Walk back out onto the Strand Road and cross over to the other side. Follow the path back in the direction you drove in on for about 50m until you see a low wall running alongside the footpath. The entrance gate is in a break in this wall. Just follow the track inside and you will reach the ruins.