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.