river entrance to gardens
This is a very interesting place to visit in an area steeped with ghostly happenings. The estate lands of the former Killakee House lie at the foot of Montpelier Hill which has upon its summit the infamous Hellfire Club (see earlier post here )
The large estate house of Killakee was constructed by Luke White a wealthy bookseller in the early 1800’s. His son Samuel developed areas of the estate into walled gardens that contained some fabulous glasshouses designed by Richard Turner a pioneer in this field. A great variety of different trees were planted and the estate flourished. In 1880 the lands passed to the Massy family headed by the 6th Baron John Thomas Massy. By the early 20th century the Massy’s were in financial debt and unable to upkeep the estate and the last Baron, Hugh Hammon Massy, was evicted in 1924. By arrangement with the bank which was foreclosing the estate the family moved briefly to the steward's house and finally to the small gate lodge. Massy relied on his wife’s small income and became known as the “penniless peer” At times he had been reduced to foraging for firewood on his former glorious estate. He died in 1958. After the Massy departure the house and lands were eventually sold on by the bank to a building company who completely demolished the house in 1941. The formal gardens already overgrown fell back to nature and many new trees were planted turning the area into a forest which was eventually opened as a public amenity by the state.
Having visited the nearby Hellfire Club I was intrigued by the fate of the estate adjacent and had heard that there were ruins of various descriptions still visible in the forest. The remains of the former stables and belfry of the Killakee estate are across the road from the woods and can be seen from the roadside today. The house a former arts centre and restaurant is now a private residence. In the late 1960’s during renovation the then owners had many complaints from builders that they were experiencing apparitions including spectral figures and a ghostly black cat with piercing red eyes.
So off into the woods then. We followed the main trail from the entrance barrier which after a short while led to an old stone bridge over a gurgling stream. A short distance further there is a second bridge but here there is a weir and on the river bank are the ruins of the former estate sawmill. The gables and South wall remain along with some partial ruins at the riverside which I couldn’t identify for sure but may have been part of a structure to hold a mill wheel. Back up on the trail the route forks just after the bridge so we followed the left trail the runs parallel to the river which I believe is called the Owendore. Along this route and signposted are the remains of the Ice house. It is a half cylindrical shaped stone structure built near the river to store lamb and other meat. There appears to be a natural chill here as even on a warm day you can see your breath in the air. Stepping down to take a closer look inside the chamber something moved within it in the dark at the very back. A bit startled we decided that discretion was the better part of valour and moved on rather than explore the movement further. Another of Killakee’s ghosts? More likely it was a large rodent of some sort.
The trail past the Ice house dips down following the course of the river and we began to notice the existence of some stone walls on our right hand side among the bushes and trees. Eventually we came to area dominated by a very tall tree. To the right of this was an arched entrance in the wall. This was one of the many entrance ways of the former walled gardens. We entered through this doorway and turned left following pathway parallel to the high wall until we came to another archway. Turning right here we could see the opposite wall through the trees and about half way across to this we saw more ruins to our left. Here are the remains of the great glass houses. All that remains now are the irrigation troughs and pool depressions for exotic flora that stretch many yards in length. Scattered around are small pieces of glass which may actually be remains of the glasshouse and not from some recent antisocial gathering. Beyond the glasshouse ruins is the northern boundary wall with a gap that allows you to climb down into the ruins of an ancillary building that overlooks the river and brings an end to the walled garden area. Apparently the walled gardens have had their share of stories mostly a spectral figure spotted even during daylight hours and some visitors have had the strong feeling of being observed. Hugh Hammon Massy maybe, still wandering his former estate? Who knows? Ourselves we didn’t encounter anything unusual on our visit in the walled garden area apart from a rope with small noose dangling from the large tree outside the walls.
If you work your way back to the bridge where the sawmill is situated there is another interesting sight to see. Just between the weir bridge and the other stone bridge is a track leading up into the forest. Follow this up until you see a dip-like a gully on your left. Just beyond this behind the remains of a small stone wall is a tree with a megalithic wedge tomb at its base. The tomb was discovered in 1978 by archaeologist Patrick Healy. Most of the stones had been taken and used to construct the aforementioned wall but you can still clearly see the remains of the rectangular chamber. At the time of its construction this hill would have likely to been bereft of trees and the tomb wold be overlooked by nearby Montpelier and Cruagh mountain. It’s a strange little remnant hidden away but worth visiting and is curiously not signposted in any way by the forestry commission.
To find Massy’s wood take the R116 Southbound from the roundabout at Taylor’s Lane in Rathfarnham. Take the first right turn onto the R115 and then the second turn left which is a continuation of the R115 (known as Stocking Lane). Drive approx. 800m to a roundabout and continue straight through it. Drive a further 2.5KM and you will see the entrance barrier to Massy’s estate on your left a little after the Timbertrove Store & Cafe. About 50m further on the right is the entrance to the Hellfire Club car park. Park here and just walk back to the estate entrance. Opening hours for the car park are April to September 7.00am-9.00pm and October to March 8.00am to 5..00pm. Keep an eye out for any ghosts!