Saturday 25 July 2015

Old Garristown Church Co Dublin

                                          Above Image: Sturdily built tower

                            Above Image: Grave slab that appears to date to 1709

                                             Above Image: Entrance door

                                      Above Image: A view up within the tower

                                           Above Image: Door to the Nave

                                        Above Image: East gable & window

                          Above Image: View of the tower through the East window

                                        Above Image: South wall windows

As you drive into Garristown village from the West side you can’t help but have your attention drawn to this large and very prominent ruin in the old cemetery. Originally the site of a medieval Church which fell into ruin in the 1600’s this later Church of Ireland building was constructed in 1791 and was apparently in use for only 80 years. It now stands de-roofed but still solidly standing at the centre of the enclosure. The tall tower’s Romanesque style windows have been sealed up but a doorway in its South face remains unblocked. It is possible to get inside and have a view up within the tower now open to the elements with it's bell long since removed. The main Church building is badly overgrown inside and uneven underfoot. The South wall has three windows with another in the East gable. The Church design is a very basic one and not dissimilar to others of its kind that I’ve visited but its slightly elevated location in a very well maintained graveyard gives it a very striking aspect all the same. The area around here is littered with ruins of various sorts including those at Grallagh and Oldtown (see earlier posts here  & here) so you could easily combine these into one outing.
To find the ruins take the exit at junction 5 of the M50 for the N2(M2) Northbound and drive for approx 15km until you reach a roundabout. Turn left on the roundabout continuing on the N2 for another 4.5km until you see a right hand turn for the L5007 (Phibblestown Wood). Turn right and follow this road for approx 3.5km and you will spot the tower of the Church on your right. You can park at the boundary wall of the graveyard and enter by the gate which is unlocked.

Monday 13 July 2015

St Brigid's Fire Temple & Round Tower Co Kildare

                  Above Image: The fire temple foundations with Cathedral in backround

                       Above Image & Below 2 Images: Remnants from the old Abbey

                                                  Above Image: The Celtic cross

                                          Above Image: Base of the round tower

                                              Above Image: The entrance door

                                                  Above Image: The first ladder

                                                 Above Image: The top ladder

                    Above Image: View from the tower to the Celtic cross and cathedral

                                       Above Image: Aerial view of the fire temple

                   Above Image:Top of the tower. Some remnants of possible stone stairs
                                           on top of the gap

                                     Above Image: View downwards from a ladder

                                       Above Image: The magnificent Cathedral

In Irish mythology St Brigid who was part of the legendary Tuatha De Danann was said to keep an eternal flame alight in a purpose built temple. This flame was continued on through the centuries throughout the spread of Christianity. It is recorded by Gerald of Wales in the 12th century on a visit to Kildare that the flame was still alight being protected by a Brigidine order. Finally at the time of the reformation after more than a thousand years the fire was extinguished. The culprit is not completely certain but it may have been on the order of the Archbishop George Browne who was appointed by King Henry to Dublin. The fire was relit by the Brigidine order in 1993 and is now located at the Solas Bhride Centre.
The Fire temple was situated at the ancient pagan and later Christian site founded by St Brigid in the 5th century which now facilitates the magnificent St Brigid’s Cathedral which is constructed on the site of the original Abbey that was built in 1223 but lay in ruins by the 18th century. The magnificent new Cathedral was constructed  in the 19th century.  A print from 1783 shows the old Abbey ruins and what appears to be the fire temple alongside. At this point its gables were still standing. The foundations of what are thought to be the temple were restored in 1988 and they stand approx. 20 inches from the ground. The shape is rectangular and a small set of steps lead into the enclosure which is now treated like a shrine with various items left by people somewhat in the manner of the Rag trees scattered across the country at holy wells.
Also on site is a large Celtic cross with the top half of the circular part missing. This ancient cross stands 9 feet tall but has not been dated. It certainly would have been part of the original Abbey and perhaps long before. There are also various stone remnants from the old Abbey placed around the outside of the cathedral.
The most prominent feature at this site has to be the 12th century round tower. It is the second highest in Ireland the highest being at Kilmacduagh Co Galway (see earlier post here) The difference in the Kildare tower is that you can actually climb up inside it to the top. The only other tower in the Republic of Ireland that can be climbed is in Kilkenny but Kildare’s is  taller standing at 108 feet. A nominal fee (€4) is charged for entry and you ascend first to the entrance door on a set of metal stairs and then up through the tower by way of six sets of wooden ladders between wooden platforms. Daunting as this seems the Victorian ladders are quite solid and at a slight angle make the climb a little easier. Hand rails are present on each level to assist you stepping up. As you reach the last ladder you will see that the walls taper in a bit making it seem a little tight. On our visit there was a strong breeze blowing and this was really evident as we stepped out at the top. A wire cage has been constructed for safety but in no way inhibits the amazing views to be seen including an aerial view of the fire temple. Along the way you pass the bell floor which in this case has five windows where normally in round towers there are only four. The top of the tower is also unusual as its cone is missing being replaced with castellations. The floor is of stone and is a little uneven so care is needed. Descending took a little more time having to step back on the ladder with no guard rail to grip onto but really it was easy enough after that. There are 130 steps in all and the affable guide in the small hut at the base of the tower regaled us with stories of the people who had climbed it including a Canadian fireman who ran up the tower in just 50 seconds!
To find the fire temple and round tower take the junction 13 exit of the M7 for Kildare town. Cross over the motorway bridge and go straight through the roundabout on the other side and then again straight through the next roundabout at the Kildare village outlet. You will then reach a T-Junction. Turn right and follow this road into town. When you reach a set of traffic lights at a junction with Claregate St. with a large Boyle Sports building on your left, turn left here. You will see a parking area on your left. Park here and follow the line of shops behind the car park to the right passing Hartes Bar & Grill and this will lead you directly to the gates of the Cathedral.

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Castle Rag Co Kildare

Here’s a small one to be getting on with. Constructed in the early part of the 15th Century Castle Rag is typical of the type of tower house built on the £10 Castle grant initiated by King Henry VI in order to build modest but defensive Castles that would dot the perimeter of the pale in an effort to deter marauding Irish clans.  A good number of these tower houses were built and occupied as residences with battlements attached.
The ground floor in this Castle has a vaulted ceiling while the first floor is the residential part and contains a fireplace. The Battlements are constructed above this and on the North East corner there is a projecting turret. Ivy is beginning to encroach a little on the uppermost part.
This particular Castle lies on private land behind Jigginstown house on the outskirts of Naas and could so easily be anonymous as only those entering the housing estate adjacent would be likely to notice it. It can be viewed at a short distance from the roadside of this housing estate. I’d like to have had a closer look but there were several horses wandering around the field and the land had a real no go feel about it. If in the area again I will try to see if I can locate the landowner and get permission to access it.

For the best view of the ruins take the R445 from Naas main street towards Newbridge. About 1KM along you will pass an Aldi supermarket on your left. Take the first left turn after this and drive for approx. 130m until you see a right turn onto Primrose lane. Follow this a short distance to a T-junction with Primrose Avenue. Turn right at the junction and follow the road around a bend. Park along here. The castle can be seen in a field on the right behind a perimeter wall.