Tuesday 20 December 2016

Old Rathfeigh Church & Motte Co Meath

                                 Above Image: Entrance gate & watch house

                       Above & Below Images: Evidence that there is actually ruins
                                                                beneath the overgrowth

                                       Above Image: Overgrown East gable

                                    Above Image: Hidden window in East gable

                                         Above Image: Sunken nave area

                         Above Image: Some onlookers from the adjacent meadow

                            Above Image & Below 2 Images: The Rathfeigh Motte

Out into Ireland's ancient East again and this time we found Rathfeigh Church or Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary which lies in a very bucolic setting situated down a country lane adjacent to a modern church. The ruins are positioned in the centre of a walled graveyard and are in a fairly overgrown state. The Church is believed to date to at least the thirteenth century as it is mentioned in the Church taxes of Pope Nicholas IV in the early 1300’s.  A simple nave and chancel design it is recorded as being in ruins as far back as 1641.
Today only a section of the West wall and parts of the chancel survive to some extent with the rest of the walls now at foundation level. The area of the nave itself has become rather sunken down and is rampant with overgrowth. Indeed the graveyard itself is in a rough state and seemingly not maintained, subsequently the ruins remain hidden under a blanket of overgrowth and are slowly being engulfed by nature. I had a devil of a time locating what was a window in one section of the East wall.  On the perimeter of the South wall of the graveyard and set partly into the graveyard is what looks to be to all intents and purposes to be a shed, but this is actually the remains of a watch house. I’ve come across these before for example the Cruagh watchtower in Dublin (see earlier post) These were watch posts that would be manned to ensure that the devilish art of body snatching would not take place. This watch house probably dates to the mid 1700’s and more than likely fell into disuse after the ghoulish practice ceased. A new door and roof have been added and today it is perhaps used to store tools for the modern church grounds.
At the entrance of the lane leading to the Church ruins is a large grassy mound visible beyond a field gate. This is in fact a large Norman motte upon which a bailey or wooden fortification would have stood. It is approx. 25 feet in height with its base diameter around 204 feet tapering to 105 at the summit. Although most of these mottes were built by manpower there is some speculation that because of its size it may originally been of ancient origin.
To find both the ruin and the motte take the N2 heading North from Ashbourne and drive for approx. 8.5km until you see a left hand turn signposted for the L1002 to Rathfeigh. Turn left here and drive for approx. 1.2km until you reach a fork in the road. Tale the left hand road at the fork (again signposted for Rathfeigh) and continue for approx. 400m where you will reach a T-Junction. Turn left  here and after a few metres take the first right hand turn. You will spot the motte on your left beyond a field gate and the ruins are approx. 100m along at the end of the lane. Ample room is available to park here.

Monday 5 December 2016

Oughaval Church Co Laois

                                   Above & Below Images: Entry gate & stile

                                 Above Image: North West corner section almost
                                                       resembles a castle tower

                               Above & Below Images: The great vaulted chancel

                             Above Image: Fissure along the length of the ceiling

                                         Above Image: Chapel shaped vault

                                                Above Image: East gable

                                        Above & Below Images: Cosby Vault

                                           Above Image: Southern aspect

This Monstrous sized ruin lies a little South East of the village of Stradbally. It is so unlike many of the church ruins that we normally find scattered around the countryside. Looking rather taller in height to its peers it measures approx. 77 feet in length by 32 feet in width.
Built on the site of a sixth century monastery founded by St Colman mac Ua Laoighse of which there is nothing remaining today, it is something of a mish-mash construction-wise. The earliest section is the nave of which only fragments remain now. The other remains of this section date to the 1500’s with some restoration work done and the addition of a chancel completed in the middle of the eighteenth century. The Cosby’s, a well renowned local family were involved in most of this later work and indeed there is a family mausoleum here. The book of Oughaval later renamed the Book of Leinster was held here for many centuries until it was transferred to Trinity College Dublin.

We visited on a crisp but sunny day in February and found access by way of a V-shaped gap to the left of a small iron gate in the enclosure wall. As the ruins are placed on elevated ground a set of stone steps lead up into them. Within, a small mortuary chapel can be seen and a large triple window in the East gable. The huge vaulted ceiling of the chancel designed for strength seems to be at odds with the climate as a large fissure is forming in the middle along its entire length and seriously looks as if one day soon it will split. While visiting there were constant drops of water kissing the ground beneath it. The atmosphere within this great vaulted chancel has a desolate feel about it and although quite a marvellous structure it just made me feel as if I was inside the belly of a huge whale.
The tall tower section at the North West corner viewed on approach would lead one to believe it to be a Castle tower house but this is actually a section of the church (possibly bell tower) of which the interior is exposed due to the collapse of its Southern wall.
All in all an impressive ruin then and well worth a trip to see especially as it is so near the amazing Rock of Dunamase (see earlier post here ).  
To find the ruin head West on the M7 toward limerick and take the junction 16 exit signposted for the R445 Carlow. At the top of the exit ramp take the second exit on the roundabout signposted for the L7830 Ballycarroll and drive along this narrow road until you reach a slanted T-junction with the N80. Turn left onto the N80. Drive straight through the village of Stradbally and continue on the N80 and you will spot the ruins on your right just outside the village. There is a right hand turn just at the graveyard enclosure wall onto a road called Kylebeg. Turn right onto this road and you can park opposite the enclosure wall.

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Old Ballymagarvey Church & Cross Co Meath

                                            Above Image: Entrance gate

                                               Above Image: West gable

                                               Above Image: East gable

                                         Above Image: West face of cross

                                          Above Image: East face of cross

Here we find another Church ruin that is slowly being entirely covered in creeping ivy and really should be cleared as the graveyard around it is so well manicured. It’s almost as if it is being deliberately let go to ground.
The Church thought to date to the mid 1600’s is built on hallowed ground that far precedes its construction. Both gables still stand although as mentioned they are hidden by overgrowth. The North and South walls have almost completely collapsed and are also overgrown. A long narrow window most certainly exists in the East gable although it's hard to see it clearly at the moment.
This is a particularly pleasant part of the county and the Church is positioned on elevated ground above the River Nanny a small distance from Balrath crossroads. If maintained this would be a very striking ruin especially viewed from the main road. A new development Ballymagarvey Viillage is the access point and you find the graveyard enclosure just before the entrance to this. There is room to park outside the walls and a metal gate offers entry to the site. I walked around the ruins but found myself shaking my head at the condition of them. I realise that there are so many of these old churches around but I myself think that these historic remnants should be given room to breathe as they can illustrate the history of this land for future generations. (I'll step off the soapbox now!) 
Just inside the South enclosure wall a large stone cross is to be found. This is the sixteenth century Balrath Cross which was moved to this site during the widening of Balrath crossroads where it had stood as a wayside cross for hundreds of years. The cross is very detailed with a Pieta on its East face. There is also an inscription here stating it was "beautified" in 1727 by Sir John Aylmer and his wife Catherine. A crucifixion is carved on the West face and there are carvings of masks on the arms.
This is a very quiet and reflective spot which we visited after revisiting Athcarne Castle (see updated previous posthttp://irelandinruins.blogspot.com/2011/08/athcarne-castle-co-meath.html )

To find the ruin and cross take the N2 heading North from the M50 motorway and drive until you reach a roundabout at Ashbourne. Turn left here continuing on the N2 Northbound for approx. 11KM. You will reach a left hand turn onto the R153 for Navan. Turn here and 200 metres along this road take the first left into Ballymagarvey Village. You will see the ruin on your right hand side and room to park at the enclosure wall.

Thursday 3 November 2016

Lord Meath's Lodge Co Wicklow

                               Above & Below Images: The beginning of the trail

                                      Above Image: View back towards Bray

                                       Above Image: Approach to the Lodge

                                      Above Image: Rock outcrop above ruins

                                    Above Image: Remains of Arched doorway

                                       Above image: Remains of a fireplace

                          Above & Below Images: Remains of steps to the estate

                            Above Image: View of ruins from above with Dalkey &
                                                  Howth in the backround

                             Above Image: The cliff walk beyond the lodge ruins

               Above Image & Below 4 images: Views of the railway from the cliff walk

                                     Above Image: Remains of Toll gate posts

I came across this interesting little ruin during some online research on the area. I had previously visited Bray Head to see the old ruin of Raheen a cluig Church (see earlier post here ) which is located at the start of the Bray to Greystones cliff walk. The walk which runs approx. 7km is a must to do as the panoramic sea and cliff views are not to be missed. Along this route you will find the ruin of Lord Meath’s Lodge.
The Lodge’s history is strongly associated with the construction of the rail line South from Bray by the Dublin Wicklow & Wexford Railway Co. which began in 1850 and opened in 1856. Originally an inland route was planned across the Glen of the Downs but an objection from Lord Meath of Kilruddery estate scuppered plans because he declared that the railway would divide his estate in two. So the difficult Bray Head section was the only alternative. It involved several bridges and tunnels which had to be bored through the rock and the great engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel was in involved in this. The cliff path was constructed during construction to allow equipment and construction workers to be facilitated. After the railway opened the public were allowed to use the cliff path but again Kilruddery estate intervened and Lord Meath the 11th Earl William Brabazon (1803-1887) deemed that the path crossed the estate land and so a lodge was built as a toll house and a gate installed across the pathway to which a toll of one penny was charged to anybody wanting to continue on to Greystones. It was manned by an individual whose sole task was to collect the tolls. This levy was active Saturday to Thursday only as on Fridays the gate was locked so that the Brabazon family could use the cliff path for their own leisure activities.
For easy access we parked the car in the Raheen car park from where you can see the aforementioned church ruin just above it and we then took the path to the left that starts the cliff walk. There is another path to the right up through the woods that leads to the summit of Bray Head. This can be quite strenuous a climb at times. The Cliff walk is a lot easier and it gets narrower at intervals huddling to the cliffs which are netted to avoid subsidence. It only took about 10 – 15 minutes to reach the lodge ruins. Along the way you peer down on the parallel running railway and the rocky sea inlets. The lodge is nestled below a less rocky part of the cliff although there is a single huge rock outcrop just above it.
The lodge was designed as a two story dormer style building and was built using redbrick and locally sourced stone. It had an arched doorway of which only a remnant of the arch remains. Within, the overgrowth is a bit wild but you can still get an idea of the overall shape of the place and there is also the remains of a fireplace. There is a gable that is still standing which may have been originally the Southern end but some further building continues beyond it covering a set of stone steps that lead up to, well…nowhere! Originally they led to the Kilruddery estate but now they just end in scrub land. There are great views though from the top of the steps of the surrounds and the ruins below. When the tolling ceased here I have still to discover but the lodge has been in ruin a long time.
A short walk past the lodge some of the rail tunnels can be viewed. One the original tunnel mouths which led to a timber trestle bridge can still be seen but an accident which killed 2 people and injured 23 in 1867 put paid to the tunnel/bridge system and tunnels were later constructed further in on the cliffs. Also on this walk on an inlet just prior to the Lodge is a point called the Brandy Hole which contained a huge cave which was used by smugglers bringing contraband in from France and it is thought that a there was a tunnel leading from the cave inland. The cave was destroyed during the rail construction.
I found this a very interesting visit and the walk continues all the way to Greystones where rather than trailing the 7km walk back to Bray you can simply hop on the train for the short return journey. Bearing this in mind if you are planning on returning by rail it would be better if coming to Bray by car to park along the esplanade which is nearer the Bray rail station than the Raheen car park. It’s not a long walk to the cliffs.
To find the Raheen car park take the junction 5 exit of the M11 and at the small roundabout turn onto the R761 which leads directly onto the main street in Bray. Continue along the main street until you reach the old town hall building which now houses a McDonalds. Keep to the left of the hall and continue for approx. 850m until you see a left hand turn onto Putland Road (There is a large cross at the corner of the turn) Turn left onto Putland Road and continue until you reach the second of two crossroads and turn right here onto Edwards Road. Continue on through the next crossroads onto Raheen Park. Halfway down the road veers right but a lane way continues straight on. Take this lane way as it leads directly to the car park.


Having not being back since 2016 I was saddened to hear that since 2021 the cliff walk has been closed to the public. This was due to a rock collapse near the Greystones side and the subsequently some more subsidence and rock falls on the Bray end. Fencing was erected to stop access but it appears some die hard visitors are taking a real chance and avoiding the prohibition. It has benn discussed that remedial work may go ahead soon but it will result in limited access to the walk which will never be as complete as in the past. When it does reopen I will hopefully get a chance to see what access is available and hopefully it will stretch as far as the lodge.