Wednesday 25 March 2015

Urlingford Castle & Church Co Kilkenny

                               Above Image: Approach to the Castle (Church on right)

                                   Above Image: the remaining Southern facing wall

                                             Above Image: The partial East wall

                                             Above Image: The medieval Church

                                       Above Image: Entrance stile to graveyard

Urlingford Castle & Church lie in close proximity to each order on opposite banks of the River Goul. The five storey Castle was built in the 15th century by the Mountgarret Butlers a significant landowning family and would have had a large defensive bawn surrounding it. A print from 1781 depicts attached buildings to its North facing wall and a partial wall along its West side but it was pretty much abandoned and ruinous by then. All of the additional structures and indeed parts of the castle were demolished and used to build the nearby Mill. All that remains of Castle today is its South facing wall and slivers of the West and East walls leaving the Castle jutting up shard-like from the ground.
The castle lies on private land but can be pretty much plainly seen from the road side gate. It still looks very commanding Its remaining wall standing to its full height with the exception of its fifth floor window which is missing leaving a gap at the centre top.
Although the Castle is divided from the Church by the river, the road runs over the Goul and the Mill graveyard in which the Church stands is easily accessible by way of a stile in the wall at the bend of the road. The Church is also believed to have been constructed in the 15th century and added to over subsequent years. Records show that by the last decade of the 19th century it was completely covered in ivy, but a massive restoration project in the 1970’s uncovered it and it remains that way today. All of the walls and gables stand to full height and are in very reasonable condition but even so it remains a very plain structure with few features of note. The Castle remains the most aesthetically pleasing of the two.
To find the ruins take the M8 heading South and exit at junction 4 taking the first exit off the roundabout on top of the exit ramp onto the R693. Drive to the next roundabout and then take the second exit right onto the R639. After about 500m you will enter Urlingford. In the village take the right hand turn at Bowden’s store onto Mill rd. Drive for approx. 350m and you will spot the Castle ahead of you. Parking adjacent to the gate is possible.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Clondalkin Round Tower, Church & Castle Co Dublin

                                         Above & Below Images: The large cross

                           Above & Below Images: The two faces of the smaller cross

                                Above & Below 3 Images: Remains of the old Church

                      Above Image: The ancient font with Church remains in backround

                                             Above Image: Close up of the font

                                  Above Image: The tower as viewed from St Johns

                                    Above Image: Entrance door to the round tower

                                     Above Image: Tully's Castle on Monastery Rd

                                      Above Image: The North East facing aspect

                                      Above Image: The South West facing aspect

                                  Above Image: The replica tower on Monastery Rd

A monastery at Clondalkin was founded in the 7th century by St Mochua and it grew into a very sizable site over the subsequent years. The tall round tower, one of the finest examples in the country, is believed to date to the late 8th century or early 9th century and is a testament to time still retaining its conical cap intact. The site was ransacked many times notably by the Vikings in which the tower no doubt played an important part in defence for the clergy. Today unfortunately nothing remains of any of the other monastic buildings.
The tower stands over 90 feet tall and has four windows at its top which mirror the points of the compass. A couple of years ago the tower was opened to the public one Saturday but otherwise it remains squarely locked up. Its iconic stance dominates the village and is close to a narrow but very busy road. It is best viewed from the grounds of the Anglican Church of St John across the road where a wall impedes the view of the noisy traffic. Indeed St John's was built in 1787 and stands on the site of the former medieval church (circa 13th century) which was demolished to allow the construction of the new church. However a tall 12 foot sliver remains and is possibly part of the chancel of the old church. It is now a national monument and a very striking feature in the Churchyard.
I went to photograph the tower one Friday morning and was aware that St John's church grounds contained the remains of the medieval church but I did not expect to find the gates open which they were and so the visit became all the more interesting. Within the grounds of St john’s it remains quiet and peaceful and I remained undisturbed during my visit. At the rear of the church are some remnants of the old monastic times. There are two stone crosses. The smallest depicts both a ringed and a Latin cross on its faces while the larger granite cross which may have originally been a boundary or grave marker stands proudly a few yards apart from the smaller cross. Along the boundary to the right of the new Church is a large granite baptismal font which may date back to the original monastic times. Again it is very impressive and I find the manner in which all of these items have been preserved and placed a credit to those involved in doing so.
Nearby on Monastery Road are the remains of what is thought to be a 16th century Castle. Locally called Tully’s castle as this was the name of a previous owner it has been mentioned in records as being Clondalkin Castle. The remains consist of a tall narrow tower and part of an adjoining building on its North West side. There are two door like apertures on its Southern West side. The ruins now form part of the garden wall of a modern house. The tower may have been part of a number of castles built to protect the pale but seems too narrow to have been a residential tower so it would lead one to suspect it might be an ancillary tower to a much larger non-extant castle.

To find the ruins take the R113 (Fonthill Rd) heading Northwards from Newland's Cross on the N7. Drive for approx. 500m until you reach a crossroads with Boot Rd. Turn right here and drive for approx. 800m, you can’t miss the tower ahead of you. For parking your best bet is to continue on past the tower and park in the Mill shopping centre a little way further on the left. Parking is free and only a 3 minute walk back to the tower. Be sure to check if the gate to St Johns opposite is open so you can view the other antiquities. The best time for access would probably be a Sunday morning when service is held at 11.15am. To find Tully’s Castle leave the car park at the mill centre and go straight through the traffic lights to the road directly opposite. Follow this curved road until you reach a set of lights at the Village cafĂ©. At this junction turn left and drive approx. 200m and you will spot the Castle on your right. You can park at the shops opposite.
As an interesting aside about 400m east of Tully’s Castle on the same road is a replica of the round tower at the entrance to a large car park. Worth a look for the heck of it.

Monday 9 March 2015

St Marys Church Oldtown Co Dublin

                                            Above Image: Entrance gate

                                              Above Image: Northern aspect

                                                     Above Image: Ancient tree

                                    Above Image: East Gable & South wall

This former Church of Ireland Church was constructed in 1821 and was one of the Prebends of St Patrick's Cathedral. Whether due to lack of patronage or some other reason it was closed in 1960 and over the years the door and windows blocked up. It now sits atop a grassy mound with ivy encroaching heavily on its Southern side.
I came across this somewhat picturesque ruin while heading towards Garristown. If I had been travelling in the other direction I would most likely have missed it as it sits above the road near a bend and trees and shrubbery hide it from view. However I managed to park the car on a muddy incline that led to the entrance gates. I had expected as in so many sites to find the gate chained and locked but not in this case, a simple sign with worn letters requested that the gate be kept closed. I obliged as I entered the surrounding graveyard. It appeared to be still in use.
While I did not immediately get a vibe at this site I have to admit that looking at the photos later the place does look a bit on the creepy side in an M R James sort of way. I strolled around in the watery sunshine uninhibited disappointed to find no entry to the ruins apart for a small hole in the wall at ground level on the Northern side that maybe a child could get through, though God knows what he might find inside at this stage. Adjacent to this hole is a huge and very gnarled tree with some very odd shapes on it. One section looked like some deformed baby was curled up against it. Really weird.
The tower dominates the ruins and although covered on its South side by ivy still appears to be quite sound,.after all the Church has only been abandoned for fifty five years. The tower is topped by four tall pyramidal spikes on each corner and a castellated effect in between.Its hard to determine if there is still a roof on the Church as the trees and ivy disguise it, but more than likely it has been de-roofed as this was a method of not having to pay further rates or taxes on abandoned buildings.
So if travelling in the area take a look at this creepy old ruin but be careful parking as you will have to back out onto a bend and the road while quite rural does have the odd speeding motorist.
To find the ruin is a bit of a long winded journey but here goes. Heading Northwards on the M50 take the junction 5 exit and follow the exit ramp marked City R135. This exit ramp curls round in a circle an brings you to a set of lights at Charlestown shopping centre. Turn left at the junction and drive approx 350m until you reach a junction with The R104 (St Margaret's Rd) Turn left and drive until you reach a roundabout and take the first exit left onto the R122 for St Margaret's. Continue for approx. 2KM until you reach another roundabout and turn right onto the R108. This long road takes you around the perimeter of Dublin airport until you reach a T Junction. Turn right the take the first exit left at the next roundabout. This is the continuation of the R108. Drive for approx. 3KM until you reach another T Junction with the R125. Turn left and a few yards later take the first right turn signposted for Ballyboughal. Drive for approx 3KM until you enter Ballyboughal. You will pass a petrol station on your right and about 150m beyond is a left hand turn with a stone cross at the corner. Turn left down this road (R129) and drive until you see a sign pointing left for the L1065 to Oldtown. Follow this road and you will pass a rustic pub with a tractor on its roof. Just beyond this you will come to a T- junction with a water pump opposite. Turn right following the sign for Garristown. Continue for approx 550m keeping your eye on the right and you will spot the Church. As mentioned there is limited parking on the approach incline and care is needed when reversing back onto the road. As requested please close the gate when leaving.

Monday 2 March 2015

Quin Abbey Co Clare

                                          Above Image: Roadside entrance

                                           Above Image: Entrance doorway

                                              Above Image: Double sedilia

                                         Above Image: The ambulatory lawn

                                       Above Image: entrance to the cloister
                                  Below 4 Images: A stroll around the cloister

                                   Above Image: Vaulted room off the cloister

Quin Abbey was constructed in the Gothic style by the prominent MacNamara family on the site of an earlier monastery which was destroyed in 1228. In 1350 a church was the first structure to be built and then using the ruins of a huge Norman castle built by Thomas de Clare (remnants of which can still be seen today) they incorporated them into a further construction. Subsequently a cloister was added in 1402 and a bell tower and Lady chapel in 1432. The site was then given a year later to the Franciscans to establish a friary there.
In 1541 the Abbey was suppressed by Henry VIII and the lands passed to the O’Brians. The monks were allowed to remain in the building by their new landlords but by 1548 and with no financial support the Abbey began to fall into disrepair. After some turbulent times the MacNamaras eventually regained control in 1590 and went about repairing what damage they could.
 The beginning of the end occurred in 1651 when Cromwellian forces destroyed the Abbey and slaughtered the monks. Subsequent years saw other Franciscan monks return on several occasions but the Abbey continued to fall into further ruin and the very last monk to reside there died in 1820. The board of Public works took control of the Abbey in 1880 and set about making it a national monument.
The ruins today which are better preserved than one would have expected given its history lie in a meadow in the quiet village of Quin. A short walk from the roadside brings you to this wonderful Abbey. Although in state care the admission is free of charge and from the moment you step inside the great doorway you are almost magicked away to a different time. A caretaker is on hand at all times who will check any bags you are carrying , I’m not sure why but maybe to make sure you are not carrying anything that might inadvertently cause damage, and he then also patrols the ruins. On our visit and with the Abbey almost empty (even though this was high season) he tended to shadow us especially in the cloister area. I’m sure he wasn’t trying to be intimidating and we eventually lost him along the way.
The great tower apparently has a spiral staircase but we didn’t find any indicators to an entrance. As in most of these large ruins the upper floors tend to be closed off for health & safety reasons. If anyone knows different I would be pleased to know.
The Lady Chapel contains the remains of the MacNamara family with tombs that date back as far as 1450.
To me the most stunning feature has to be the cloister. This ambulatory is in remarkable condition and light streams in through the pillars. It was a joy to walk around and gave a great sense of what it must have been like at the time the monks would have used it, so silent and reflective a place to be.
I think we spent more than an hour wandering around the great arches and alcoves taking in some breathtaking stone masonry. We also discovered that you can access the park where the ruins of St Finghins Church (see earlier post) is standing. So much to see at this site and I really highly recommend a visit.
To find the ruins take the R469 heading East from Station Rd in Ennis and drive for approx. 11KM. As you enter the village you will spot a water tower ahead. The road forks here and you need to swing left. Drive until you have crossed the bridge on the River Rine and just beyond is the entrance to the Abbey field. Parking is available along here.