A guide to the best and sometimes off the beaten track historical ruins around Ireland and how to get there.
Tuesday, 27 October 2015
Burrishoole Abbey Co Mayo
In 1470 Richard De Burgo of Turlough without prior papal permission founded this magnificent Abbey for the Dominicans. In this case the term Abbey is a bit of a misnomer as the Dominicans were friars and did not have Abbots, so the correct term should really be Burrishoole friary. Pedanticism aside the friars remained under threat of excommunication until 1486 when the Pope relented and a forgiveness was granted. De Burgo himself spent his last years as a friar within its walls. The friary was suppressed during the reformation and over the centuries fell into ruin leaving only the main church chancel and nave and the eastern cloister wall remaining.
This is a really picturesque ruin in a stunning location and is built on elevated ground above a narrow tidal inlet running in from clew bay. When we arrived it had been raining and the location looked a little grim but the sun broke through and the skies cleared to really illuminate this lovely spot. From the Friary the view below to small boats bobbing in the tidal water is one of the nicest sights I’ve seen in my ruin hunting.
The grounds surrounding the Friary are an active cemetery and so access was easy by way of the main gate. A gravel path leads you up to the remains of the cloister and the gable end of the chancel. As you step between the chancel and cloister there is a small door leading into the nave of the Church. The main door though is in the West gable. A large but not very high tower straddles the nave and the South Chapel is to the right of this. There are large windows in the gables of both the South Chapel and chancel. In the interior there are a number of interesting features including a stone font and pedestal located just inside the West door There are also some finely produced archways. Some burials have been made within the nave as it is deemed consecrated ground and the floor contains a number of large grave slabs. The floor of the South chapel is strewn with large blocks of fallen masonry but it is quite safe to walk around.
All in all it was a very pleasant visit to a picturesque and serene location and well worth your time to go and view.
To find the ruins take the N59 from Newport heading towards Mulranny (or Mallaranny as it is now being called) and drive for approx 1.8KM until you see a small slip road on your left which is clearly signposted for Burrishoole Abbey. Drive down this slip road for approx 1Km and you will reach the ruins. There is ample parking here.
Monday, 19 October 2015
Old St Iberius Church Co Wexford
This small ruin is all that remains of the parish church of St Iberius. The Bishop Iberius was also known as Ibar or Ivor and was a 5th century patron of Beggerin Island. This one time parish church in the Wexford countryside was named after him.
The ruins sit on elevated ground by the roadside with access by way of a stile or gate. The scant ruins have a dramatic look when viewed from the road below which is what set me about visiting them but sadly they leave a bit to be desired up close. Nonetheless there is at least something to see here unlike some of the very scant ruins I’ve visited such as Old Ballybought Church in Co Kildare (see previous post here) The graveyard has a series of cut stone grave markers some dating back to the late 18th century and a large monument from 1851 dedicated to a local surgeon named Thomas Edward Lindsey who was from the nearby townland of Broadway. The graveyard doesn't appear to have a regular upkeep and the ground inside is uneven and overgrown in places so a little care is needed. Still it’s worth a quick stop if you happen to be in the area.
To find the ruin head from Wexford to Rosslare on the N25 and when you reach Tagoat you will pass by Cushen’s bar and the large St Mary’s Church on your left. Take the next right turn signposted for Carne Beach, Lady’s island & Broadway. Drive for approx 2.5KM and you will reach Butler’s pub on your left. The ruins are adjacent to the pub. You can park in the pub car park and drop in if you like for a refreshment afterwards!
Monday, 12 October 2015
Aylmer's Folly Co Kildare
This interesting tower sits atop the Hill of Allen and is commonly referred to as Aylmer’s Folly. It was a project of Sir Gerald George Aylmer a Baronet of Donadea Castle. Construction began in 1859 with the chief masons William and Lawrence Gorry at the helm and took four years to fully complete as building only took place during the summertime. The Hill of Allen on which it stands is according to legend where Fionn MacCumhaill had built a camp and his men trained on the wide flat plains below. The Hill of Allen is also the highest point in Co Kildare and the tower stands at a height of 60 feet above this and is 9 feet wide at its base.
Arriving at the roadside gate I managed to tuck the car in against it. There is a large gap on the right between the gate and the hedgerows which gives easy access on foot. The trail to the summit begins on the back left hand side of the car park and leads up to a large field gate with a sign “private property”. This was to be the first of many warning signs along the way. But yet there were many signs simply saying stick to the trail for your safety. Obviously Roadstone were not inhibiting the walker. To the left of this field gate the trail turns left you will notice a large boulder on the right which was used as an altar stone in times past for celebrating the mass during the infamous penal times in Ireland. To reach the tower just follow the trail upward along a reasonably easy gradient keeping on the straight and narrow, the ascent shouldn't take more than 12-15 minutes. Eventually the tower comes into sight.
After the trek I was delighted to find that the doorway was open on the tower. A large detached steel door lay inside against the wall. The tower has several inscriptions in Latin on various points around its height on the outside and a flagstone partially covered at the base a little around left of the door commemorates the visit in 1861 of HRH Edward,the Prince of Wales. He apparently ascended the tower on September 16 of that year. It is not indicated how much of it was actually built at that point.
Folly or not this is a really unique tower. The date of construction 1859 is engraved clearly above the doorway. Each of the steps on the spiral stairs inside has an individual name from those involved in the construction. The stairs leads to a domed top where the original glass has been replaced by a new PVC styled conservatory. I was disappointed because it was difficult to see anything out through the glass but I then discovered a window that could be opened. The gap between the glass and the castellations outside is quite narrow and a lot of carefulness is needed but I managed to climb outside and stand up to see above the castellations and what a view is to be had. The plains of Kildare stretch out before you. One scary view is of the whole half of the hill excavated below leaving the tower virtually on a precipice. I don’t know what future lies for this tower or if Roadstone intend to continue quarrying past it but hopefully this interesting historical site will not entirely disappear.
To Find the 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 and continue on this road (R415) for approx 6.5KM until you reach a T-junction with an apex-shaped store opposite called "Davids" Turn left at the junction and drive for approx. 2.2KM until you see a small road (L7083) on your right. Pass by this road and drive another 500m keeping an eye out for a blue barrier gate on your left. It's easy to miss so drive slowly. It is literally a couple of metres just past the brick twin pillared gates of a private house. Park in at the gate as much as possible as the road has a bend and some traffic can come around at speed. The trail to the tower begins at the back left of the old car parking area.