Tuesday 26 May 2015

Kilmacduagh Monastic Site Co Galway

                                      Above Image: The round tower and Cathedral

                                      Above Image: Noticeable lean on round tower

                                           Above Image: The Abbot's Glebe house

                          Above Image & 2 Images Below: Interior of the Glebe house

                                       Above Image: Church of John the Baptist

                                           Above Image: Interior of the Cathedral

                         Above & Below Images: approach to the Monastery Church

                                              Above Image: Monastery Church

                                  Above & Below Images: Part of the ambulatory

                               Above Image: View back from the Monastery Church

This is an amazing historical site. In the seventh century a Monastery was founded here by St. Colman MacDuagh hence the origin of the name Kilmacduagh (Church of the son of Duagh). It evolved into a place of importance in the twelfth century when it became a diocese, a seat of a Bishop. The round tower is thought to be from between the tenth to twelfth century while the new monastery was founded for the Augustinians in the thirteenth century. It was ransacked on several occasions and eventually fell foul of the dissolution in the 1500’s.
The rural location of this site really lends to its appeal. It seems to sprawl over a large area. The most notable feature has to be the tower which at 111 feet is the tallest of its kind in Ireland. The entrance door is an incredible 21 feet from the ground which would be a formidable deterrence to would be attackers. Also of note is that the tower actually leans about two feet from the perpendicular. The tower was restored somewhat and documented by Thomas Deane in 1879 funded by the local gentry of Coole Park Estate.
The tower and the Abbey Cathedral ruins are in close proximity in what is now a graveyard. The cathedral dates to the thirteenth century but it is thought that the West end is of much earlier origin possibly the eleventh century. Before this there would have been a wooden constructed Church. Surrounding the graveyard are a number of other ruins including The Church of John The Baptist (parts of again which could be eleventh century), The Church of Mary, the Monastery Church and Teampuil Beg MacDuagh to the South of the graveyard.
The Glebe House or Abbot’s House dating from the thirteenth century stands to all intents and purposes as a fortified tower house and it is accessible for a €5 deposit by way of a key from a nearby B&B. A sign directs you there. Luckily enough on our visit some Canadians staying at the B&B happened by with the key and invited us along. A great deal of restoration has taken place on this particular building and a wooden stairs inside brings you upward to a second floor. Apart from a couple of dead birds on the lower floor There was really not a great deal more to see but still it was nice to get inside.
A pathway adjacent to the Abbot’s house leads you a short distance North East of the round tower to a further set of ruins known as O’Heynes Abbey or the Monastery Church. Here as well as the main building you can see a somewhat stranded gable end of a building with a doorway and nicely carved window above. Also the foundations of the ambulatory are visible and from the west end of these ruins there is a great view back at the round tower and the ancillary ruins.
This site is really worth making time to visit. We spent maybe an hour and a half taking them all in. To find the ruins take Church Street heading South West from the square in Gort. Drive for approx. 5.5KM and you will see a right hand turn signposted for Kilmacduagh. You will easily spot the round tower so just drive towards it. A car park is provided at the site

Monday 18 May 2015

Tara Standing Stones & Church Co Meath

                                                       Above Image: First view

                            Above Image: The Stones with Church ruin in backround

                         Above & Below Images: The remains of the Medieval Church

On the fringes of the historic Hill of Tara beside a Church dedicated to St Patrick which now serves as a visitor centre are two standing stones in close proximity to each other. These would have been part of a larger quantity of standing stones that in ancient times that were littered around Tara. They most likely date to the Bronze Age (300BC-2500BC). Stones such as these are fascinating to me as they are a tangible and mysterious link to the ancient past and so when I found myself in the area I decided they were worth going to have a look at.
The stones stand on a grassy mound a few yards apart adjacent to the Church and hard to miss as you enter the site. The larger of the two has a faded engraving of what is thought to be the pagan god of fertility Cernunnos. This raises the possibility of them being involved in pagan rituals although equally it could also be the case that they were markers of some sort or a representation of male and female.
Adjacent to the stones are the partial remains of the medieval Church of Tara. Reportedly constructed in the 12th century it was linked to the Knights Hospitallers and was a parish Church until it fell into ruin in the 16th century. Apparently what was left was mostly demolished in 1822 and some of the stone used in the construction of the present Church.  The scant remains of the old Church along with the standing stones form a kind of greeting party to visitors heading for the historic hill and its further antiquities.

To find the Stones take the M3 heading North and at the Junction 7 exit and take the left hand turn at the top of the exit ramp onto the R147. Continue on this road until you reach the second right hand turn approx.1 KM on. This turn is signposted for Tourist Information. Turn onto this road and drive until you come to a T- Junction.  The car park for Tara is a few yards to your left or alternatively you can park opposite if space available. The entrance for the Churchyard is a few yards to the right of the road you just came from. A short walk up a gravel path will bring you to the stones.

Wednesday 6 May 2015

Old Killashee Church Co Kildare

                                           Above Image: The ornamental gardens

                                     Above image: The small wooden access gate

                           Above Image: Only access on right hand side of this fence

                                                    Above Image: Thorny path

                                          Above Image: Opening in base of tower

                                                 Above Image: Interior of tower

                                                 Above Image: Vaulted ceiling

                                                Above Image: doorway to Nave

                                     Above Image: Believe it or not the East Gable!

                                              Above Image: Ornamental plaque

St Auxilius founded a monastery here in the 5th century giving name to its site Killashee ( Kill-Auxilius or Church of Auxilius). The present ruins here are comprised of an 18th century church of some 30 feet in length with a much older 3 storey tower attached to its West end. The 18th century building replaced a much earlier church giving rise to the speculation that the tower might also date to that time.
I first sought out this ruin when a long laneway led to it from the main road (R448) into Naas. On that occasion I found my advance impeded by a closed gate and a no trespassing sign as dangerous excavations were in place. A local told me that the Church was now only accessed through the grounds of the Killashee House Hotel. I decided to investigate further and return at a later time. That proved to be a year later when I came across an online diagram promoting the hotel and the heritage sites on its grounds and sure enough the Church was marked with nicely lain pathways leading to it from the very nicely decorated gardens to the rear of the hotel. Unfortunately this did not entirely turn out to be the case. I followed the pathway down through the gardens and eventually reached the Nuns graveyard which was also marked on the diagram. Sunken caves were also pictured and these may have been the dangerous excavations mentioned earlier. Any advance in their direction was fenced off. I could see from the Nuns graveyard the tower of the Church jutting above some trees and followed through a small wooden gate. Unfortunately I found that the ruins were surrounded by a high bank of bushes and trees with no visible access. Not wanting to give up too easily I eventually found a small track down beside a fenced off new development that led in the direction of the ruins. Indiana Jones would have shook his head with dismay at the amount of overgrowth and insidious creepers snaking around each other in a web of thorns that stood in my way. A machete would certainly have been helpful. But somehow I foolhardily found my way through it. The whole area around the ruins has been let run rampant with bushes making it difficult to see the actual shape of the Church. Gravestones are covered in the same moss that carpeted the ground underfoot. Eventually at the base of the interesting looking tower I found a small opening not unlike a window and stepped inside to have a look.
Within was a vaulted chamber not very big with signs that some clean-up work had been initiated. The ceilings and walls had been whitewashed and a ladder stood in the corner. There was a lot of rubble about though and it looks like any progress has been abandoned.  An open wooden door leads into the ruins of the Church which like the situation outside is overgrown badly to the point that it was hard to discern the East gable among the tangles. A stone plaque adorned the wall but it was difficult to get close to as the overgrowth impedes any movement toward it. I certainly hope that the hotel will restart a restoration sometime soon as this unusual ruin is slowly but surely being swallowed by nature.

To find the ruins take the Junction 9 exit of the N7 and follow the signs for the R445 to Naas. Drive straight through Naas and just outside the town you will reach a roundabout. Go straight through the roundabout and approx. 1.5KM ahead you will reach the Killashee House Hotel on your left. Head up the driveway towards the Hotel and park in the car park in front of the Hotel. To reach the gardens face the hotel and go around the left hand side of the building to the rear. Follow the pathway past the ornamental fountain and you will arrive at a fork in the path. Turn left for the woodland walks and then immediately right and follow this track until you see a small wooden gate just off the track to the right. You will see the tower above the trees. Once through the gate the only near access to the ruins is to turn left and walk a few yards down towards the development of a new building. As mentioned a thorny access track is just above a low embankment on your right.