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.


  1. "Water kissing the ground" you have a lyrical side to you Castle Hunter, of course how could you not when you spend wonderful time among these ruins. You're right though, even all the way over here, this place looks and feels different. It has a real solid depth to it in its design. I really envy the iron fence in picture four, want it for our family cemetery. Will have to look into the art of welding I suppose.

    1. Hi Donna, Good to hear from you. I guess I must get inspired by the surroundings. It just felt like that was the best description of the water droplets at the time. Now that we are in Winter here I plan to visit a couple of previously visited sites just to see how different they look at this time of year. Will keep you posted.

    2. Glad to see that the cold, short days haven't dampened your enthusiasm!
      I've been following your blog since earlier this year, and it's so refreshing to see web content that's the result of someone wrapping up warm and getting their feet muddy.
      Your excellent pictures and words are second only to being there: something your infectious enthusiasm has moved me out of doors for more than once.
      Happy new year and keep up the good work!


    3. Happy new year t o you too Kevin and thanks for looking in. My enthusiasm is made tenfold by comments such as yours. I always like to hear if my posts are of use to others who enjoy getting out into the countryside and discovering these gems. Hope you get your feet muddy some more in 2017!

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