Tuesday 22 December 2015

Kilbride Pyramid Co Wicklow

                                                Above Image: Entrance track

                                       Above Image: First view of enclosure wall

                                    Above Image: Secondary pillared mausoleum

                                      Above Image: Stone plaque detailing origins

We went looking for a medieval church ruin and found a pyramid!
The old Kilbride graveyard just North of Arklow town is the subject of some ongoing restoration but on our visit the site was still fairly overgrown. The pyramid in question is part of the mausoleum of the Howards of Shelton Abbey which the poet laureate Sir John Betjeman apparently once described as the largest pyramid tomb beyond the banks of the Nile. It was commissioned by Ralph Howard in 1785 and stands roughly fifteen feet in height from its base to its summit. It is constructed using large granite blocks. The pyramid stands on the highest point in the graveyard giving it even more prominence. On a lower level beneath it there is a large pillared portico which looks to all intents and purposes as an entrance to the mausoleum but this in fact is a separate chamber to accommodate associated family members. The original entrance to the pyramid was on its North side which is now sealed up.
As I say we came to see a Church ruin but frankly we searched for it but couldn’t locate it. I’m assured it’s there somewhere but with all the overgrowth it was a trek enough to reach the pyramid. I am informed that in any case there are really only scant remains. However I will return here after the restoration is complete and attempt again to find it. The pyramid is in itself well worth seeing and there is also a plaque detailing its origins attached to it.
This pyramid building is not unique to Kilbride there are several dotted around the country but this is the largest. There is a similar but smaller version of this one in the grounds of Baltinglass Abbey (See previous post) belonging to the then prominent Stratford family and another in the graveyard adjacent to Kilcooley Abbey (also previous post).

To find the pyramid take the M11 Dublin to Wexford motorway and at Junction 20 take the exit and at the roundabout at the top of the exit ramp take the second exit onto the R772. Drive for approx. 1.8KM where you will need to take a turn right onto Beech Road which is part of and industrial park. There is a signpost pointing to Avoca River Park at the junction. Take this right turn and then the first left hand turn thereafter which is just past a small Texaco station. Follow this road around a bend to the right and then a bend to the left. The graveyard is a few yards up on the left opposite a series of semi-circular storage huts. The track starts adjacent to a field gate. You can park safely enough at this point.

Thursday 10 December 2015

Old Clonmantagh Church Co Kilkenny

                                                  Above Image: The East gable

                                               Above Image: Original entrance

                                                   Above Image: Twin bellcote

                                         Above Image: Have no idea what this is!

                                 Above Image & Below 2 Images: Views of the Castle
                                                                                       from the Church

There are few records regarding this larger than usual local medieval church. It is thought to have been constructed as early as the twelfth century and is adjacent to a later fifteenth century Butler tower stronghold which was restored in recent years and so is technically no longer a ruin. The farmhouse nestled at its base is now a B&B.
The church ruins stand within a trapezoidal stone enclosure with access through a twin pillared gate in the Southern wall. A clutter of gravestones are positioned mostly on its West, Northern and Southern sides with some dating back to the mid eighteenth century. The Western gable has an extended twin bellcote with one side partially crumbled away. The interior side of the tower gable shows evidence of the former apex roof. The Eastern gable though a bit ragged still stands to its full height and contains two long narrow windows. The church has somewhat sunk in to the ground so that the entrance in the Southern wall is now a smaller aperture but there is a larger aperture in the North wall. The view out from within the walls through this aperture perfectly frames the nearby castle tower. No graves have been placed within the Church and so the ground is grassy and uneven underfoot. I like the overall aspect of this Church as it has pleasing lines to the eye. While taking a photo outside of the Eastern gable something dashed through the section with longer grass near the enclosure wall. I decided in my mind that it was a rabbit or a hare but it could easily have been something nastier like a rat. I stuck to the shorter grass after that.
Well worth a stop to view as access is so easy and in an area that is well stocked with ruins. We also visited on the same day Urlingford Chuch & Castle (see post here) and Three Castles Church & Castle (see post here)
To find the ruins of Clonmantagh take the R693 heading West from Freshford towards Urlingford and drive for approx. 6.5KM You will eventually spot the ruins on your right hand side. You can park directly across the road in the hard shoulder. Be careful crossing though as this is a long straight country road and traffic tends to approach often and at speed.

Thursday 26 November 2015

Roscommon Castle Co Roscommon

                                                  Above Image: Entrance gate

                       Above & Below Images: Entrance viewed from exterior & interior

                                    Above Image: North facing Mullioned windows

                                                 Above Image: Fallen masonry

                                         Above Image: Remains of corner tower

                                             Above Image: Stairway to nowhere!

                                               Above Image: North facing ruins

                                              Above Image: Tower interior view

                                        Above Image:  Another tower interior view

                                              Above Image: East facing aspect

This formidable castle was constructed in 1269 by the Robert De Lifford. The land it was built on was previously owned by the Augustinians but had been confiscated by the crown. The defences of the castle were magnificent including a large moat around the base and a two towered gateway. Quadrangular in shape the castle had towers on each corner and stood three storeys high. It went through some turbulent times and was attacked on several occasions including by the O’Connors in 1272. Although English control was regained the castle fell into O’Connor hands again in 1340 and remained so until 1569 when the castle was taken by the Lord Deputy. In the 1580’s Malby, the Governor of Connacht, made some extensive changes and added some additional buildings on the north facing side which included the mullioned Elizabethan style windows. He also had the moat filled in and the surrounds were landscaped into decorative gardens. In 1652 Cromwellian forces bombarded the castle and destroyed the fortifications. It was finally burned badly in 1690 and subsequently fell into ruin as its absent English owners did not want to reside there.
The castle is located in what is now Loughnaneane Park a very expansive public area in Roscommon Town and while not immediately visible from the town centre it can be seen clearly from the approach roads. A set of wooden steps and platforms enable easy access over what was once the moat through the large entrance gate. One of the towers within still has its vaulted roof intact. The interior is now a large expanse of manicured grass, the buildings destroyed and only the shell of the castle now standing. This includes large sections of the curtain walls that run between the corner towers. The North facing ruins are later buildings that contain the mullioned Elizabethan windows now looking stark and desolate. There are a couple of stairways within the ruins that have been gated off as they lead to sections that might compromise safety and so are not accessible but there is still so much to see here in this huge ruin. We spent about an hour wandering in and around its nooks and crannies. It is always a joy to get access so easily to one of the bigger castle ruins as so many can be tucked away from public view on private estates. Thanks go to those involved in the restoration for public access of Roscommon castle making it a must to see if in the area.

To find the ruins take the N61 from Athlone to Roscommon Town. As you approach the town you reach a roundabout adjoining the N63. Turn right at the roundabout onto the N63. Drive straight  through the next small roundabout and on the subsequent roundabout turn left back onto the N61 (there is a Aldi Store & KFC on your right as you approach the roundabout). Continue to the next roundabout and take the first exit left towards town centre (there is a sign pointing to the castle). Drive and take the second turn right onto Castle Lane. At the end of this lane is an entrance to Loughnaneane Park There is ample space to park outside the gate. You will clearly see the castle inside the park on the right.       

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Old Herbertstown Church Co Kildare

                                     Above Image: A large pair of shears needed.....

                                            Above Image: The South facing wall

                                            Above Image: Doorway in South wall

                                                 Above Image: Single window

Oh dear this one is certainly on the wane. This medieval Church in Herbertstown caught our attention when a while back we saw it marked on the old 1897-1913 OS map, so we decided to seek it out. Eventually after a drive through Kildare our path led us down a narrow rural lane way South East of Newbridge. Only that we previously knew of its location we could have easily passed by without noticing it and ended up in the driveway of a private house.
Originally a small parish Church it appears at a rough estimate to measure approx. 27 feet X 15 feet in size and there are upstanding parts of all of the four walls. It is rife though with overgrowth and tons of brambles wind recklessly throughout it making it hard to navigate and indeed get a picture in your mind of what it looked like. It is listed as being in ruin by the late 19th century but I suspect that its fate was sealed long before that.
The ground around the ruin is unusually bereft of any gravestones making it an even more abandoned and forgotten ruin. While we were wandering around we drew the attention of the house owner adjacent to the ruins. He was in fact the owner of the land that the church is situated on and he had no problem about anyone looking at it as he had deliberately left a gap in the fence for access, but he was puzzled at our interest. He had actually thought that we might be from the OPW looking to assess it and possibly clean it up. Discovering otherwise he told us that he thought it sad that the ivy and brambles couldn’t be cleared but he just did not have the time to do it himself. Apparently a couple of council lads had turned up one day to survey it but he had not heard anything since. I told him I would be posting online about it and that maybe it might draw the proper attention needed. It is indeed a pity to see historical ruins like this be let go to ground.

To find the ruin take the R448 South out of Naas and take the 2nd right hand turn approx. 1.5km after the entrance to the Killashee House Hotel. Turn right onto this narrow road and drive approx. 3km until you reach a T-junction (there is a field gate opposite). Turn left at the junction and follow this again quite narrow cul-de-sac right to its end where you reach the gates of a house. The ruin is just to the right behind a fence. You can park adjacent to the gap in the fence.

Friday 6 November 2015

Killeen Cormac Co Kildare

                                        Above Image: Road side entrance gate

                                           Above Image: Enclosure gate & stile

                                                  Above 2 Images: Pillar stones

                                     Above Image: Possible bullaun or cross base

                         Above Image: Some of the kerb stones similar to portal tombs

                                       Above Image: The Hound's foot indentation

                          Above & Below Images: The summit where the Church stood

                                                   Above Image: Quite creepy...

                             Above Image: Gate & pillar stones viewed from summit

                                              Above Image: Friendly spectators

I Spotted this site from the road while driving in East Kildare and it looked interesting enough to prompt me to make a stop. I was pleased to find that there was an access gate as well!
Killen Cormac is named after King Cormac of Munster who as legend has it is buried beneath the mound. This ancient esker was formed over time into three layered terraces by the nearby River Greese. They are now pretty much ruinous. It is an unusual site that was used by both the Pagans and Christians as a burial place, so it has a very long history. The large mound is surrounded by a stone enclosure which was built by a local landlord in 1830. It was at this time that the trees that sprout from the hill were also planted. Around the base of the mound are what are thought to be iron-age pillar stones placed at intervals and several of these contain ogham inscriptions. One stone has an indentation in its top which again legend has it that a faithful hound belonging to Cormac leaped from his funeral cortege and landed on the stone making the mark of where Cormac was to be buried.
The hill today is dotted with gravestones and on the summit there is a depression where it is believed that a medieval church stood which has long since gone to ground. Some unusual kerb stones around part of the base led belief that this was a portal tomb particularly because of the shape of it but it is now thought not to be the case. In the past a very important stone called the Drunides stone was discovered here, unusual that it has both Latin and ogham inscriptions upon it. It was later transported to reside at the national museum.
As mentioned access to the site is by way of a field gate and a short trek across pasture land. Naturally on land such as this there are cows (be wary of the numerous cow pats!) and where cows are present I always keep an eye out in case there is a bull, but these ladies all seemed docile and followed me in a group all the way to the enclosure wall. While I was inside they all gathered at the wall peering in at me like a large group of spectators. It was really quite amusing. There is a distinctly ancient atmosphere here and it does give the air of being an important historical site. whether Cormac is interred here or not is a moot point but I'd like to think it is the case. It is also a little creepy here aided and abetted by its somewhat isolated location and it wouldn’t be a place I’d feel at really at ease other than in broad daylight.

To find Killeen Cormac take the Junction 2 exit of the M9 and take the R418 heading West and after approx. 700m from the junction take a left hand turn onto the R448 signposted for Castledermot. Continue driving on the R448 for approx. 5km and you will eventually cross back over the M9 motorway. Once over the motorway bridge continue for another 2km until you see a left hand turn signposted for the L8082. Take this left turn and drive approx. 1.5km until you reach a T-Junction. (There is a ruined cottage opposite) Turn left at the junction and continue for approx. 800m and you will eventually spot the mound and enclosure wall on your right in a meadow. You can park at the field gate entrance.