Monday 30 January 2017

Old Kilteale Church Co Laois

                                             Above Image: Entrance gate

                                           Above Image: North facing wall

                    Above Image: Entrance door (Rock of Dunamase in the distance)

This very old ruin lies way off the beaten track on a by-road not too distant from the Rock of Dunamase (see earlier post here ) It’s not too difficult to find once you get the directions but I certainly in the past would have unknowingly passed by it several times.
The ruins are situated in the centre of a walled graveyard and date to approx. the twelfth or thirteenth century. The ground within the graveyard is at a more elevated height than at the roadside. It is thought that there may be an association here with Saint Tiedil. I’ve yet to find a record of the history of this Saint anywhere so it would be interesting to know how there is an association.
 The Church would have been Roman Catholic until the reformation and it apparently changed hands along the way as it is recorded as being in use as a Protestant Church during the seventeenth century. When it fell into ruination is unclear but it is listed on the 1837-1842 OS map as being in ruins at that time.
Access is by way of a roadside gate onto maintained but uneven ground. What remains of the Church today is the East Gable with an arched doorway and window along with partial remains of the North and South walls. There is also a small window in the North wall. The West gable has completely disappeared altogether. The foundations measure approx. 42 feet by 26 feet making it a modest little Church but one noticeable thing is that it has been kept clear of the dreaded ivy. The grounds  also appear to be fairly well kept. From this vantage point looking Westward you can get a clear view of the Rock of Dunamase ruins sitting spectacularly in the near distance. It would be ideal to take in both sites in the one trip or if time allows a triple visit incorporating the nearby Ougheval Church in Stradbally (see earlier post )
To find the ruins head West on the M7 motorway and take the junction 16 exit for Portlaoise. At the top of the exit ramp there is a small roundabout. Take the second exit straight ahead for the L7830 for Ballycarroll. Drive down this country road until after approx 3KM you reach a T-Junction. Turn right and drive for approx 200m until you reach a small crossroads. Turn left here and continue for approx 700m and you will spot the ruin on your right. You can park alongside the boundary wall.

Tuesday 17 January 2017

Rathcoole Standing Stone Co Dublin

                                Above Image: The Western aspect of the stone

                    Above Image: The ancient cross with the stone in the backround

                                        Above Image: Entrance gate to site

I had heard that there was a peculiar looking standing stone present in a Churchyard in Rathcoole so one early Autumn evening I went there and was lucky to find it in the first churchyard I encountered on entering the village. The location of the stone is in the Rathcoole Church of Ireland graveyard. There are a small number of parking spaces outside and an iron gate for entry. I was thinking that this gate was probably locked but was surprised to find it otherwise. Not being exactly sure at that moment what to expect and if I was even in the correct location I scoured the lawn behind the Church building and eventually found the stone on the East end of the graveyard. Now I believe there are a few of these types of standing stones sprinkled throughout the country but this is the first I’ve encountered. It is a rough looking stone unusually short at about 30 inches in height and 27 inches wide. It is standing at an angle leaning back Eastwards The stone most likely dates back to Celtic times or before and what is peculiar about it is that it has a perfectly smooth elliptical hole carved through it measuring 10 inches by 8 inches.
There are some legends attached to these Holed stones. One story is that in Celtic times prior to or during a marriage ceremony a couple would stand either side of the stone and link hands through the aperture which was at shoulder level. This was done to seal the relationship. Another tale is that on stones with a larger aperture children who had fallen ill with some malaise or other would be physically passed through the aperture and in many cases they quickly recovered health. This superstitious practice has continued to some degree to this day in a particular holed stone called the Tolven stone at St Constantine in Cornwall, England. Both of these types of practice it would seem would not relate to the Rathcoole Stone as the aperture is too small to pass through and not high enough for the linking of hands. So either this stone has another significance to it or that the top part had somehow detached from a taller stone leaving this smaller relic to mystify us today. Approx. 12 feet to the South East of this stone in the graveyard there is also an short but stocky ancient cross of unknown origin also leaning at an angle
To find the stone take the N7 heading West from Dublin to Naas and exit at Junction 4. At the roundabout at the top of the exit ramp take the 2nd exit straight ahead onto the R120 (you will pass Avoca Hand Weavers on your right. Drive to the next small roundabout and go straight through. Drive for approx. 200m and you will see the Church of Ireland behind a wall on your left. As mentioned there are 2 or 3 parking spaces at the entrance gate. Once inside the grounds head around the right hand side of the church and look for the stone in the back of the graveyard just beyond the East gable of the Church.

Tuesday 3 January 2017

Newcastle Castle Co Wicklow

                  Above Image: The West & South walls with armorial crest remains
                                       above door

                                Above Image: View of the West wall and Motte

                             Above Image: Ruins as viewed from the Churchyard

I previously spotted this unusual ruin a while back while heading for the nearby ruins of Killadreenan Church (see earlier post). It was a late spring evening and light was failing when I had finished the Church visit so I made a note to return again to check out what looked to be a Castle. That revisit took place just after Christmas this year as we happened to be in the area. It was a mild and breezy day for December and quite cloudy but nonetheless we decided to take some time out to have a look.
The ruin is known locally as Newcastle Castle of which history records was built by Hugh De Lacy, Lord of Meath around 1172AD under the command of Henry II and became an important fortification of The Pale. Indeed it may have originated as a Motte & Bailey as the Motte-like mound that still exists today would attest. The Castle known as Newcastle Mackynegan fought off the attacking O'Toole and O'Byrne clans many times before eventually succumbing to defeat and finally destruction in the 16th century.
So in fact the ruins that we see today on the hill are a bit puzzling and certainly open to debate. Some say that this is not the original Castle but a fortified Elizabethan manor built on the site. An environmental protection agency report from 2007 lists it as a 17th century L-Plan gatehouse, but a lot of research has found that elements within far predate the Elizabethan era. Another suggestion is that this is in fact the original gatehouse of the Norman Castle that has been extensively re-modelled for domestic use and indeed the great barrel vault within like most barrel vaulted chambers tend to withstand the ravages of time. I myself lean towards the latter theory as it tends to fit to most of the evidence available. There is a plaque on the roadside wall stating Royal Oak Castle 1172 (another name it was known by because of its strong association with the English crown) and most older ordnance survey maps mention a Castle in ruins and not "the site of". Locals also tend to refer to the ruins of the "Castle" and not the "Manor" and while this could be just local terminology I think there's more here than meets the eye.
 As far as being an Elizabethan manor, there are remnants of some coats of arms above the doorway, a practice of the time among the gentry. I suspect that some remains of the gatehouse were greatly added to converting it to a domicile. However, who resided here and until when is still uncertain and much of the research I've done has not brought anything to light.
The ruin is highly visible from the roadside and reminds me somewhat of Puck's Castle in Co Dublin (see earlier post). The Motte and ruins appear to be on private land and a gateway and drive allows access to a different view of the ruins. There are no restrictive signs but the field gate is locked which generally speaks for itself. I would like to get a closer look here so I intend to return and find the land owner and ask permission to enter. If the ruins had been out in the wilds of the countryside I'd probably have been over the fence and gone, but in this case there is some ambiguity and also the sound of a nearby dog.(Man's best friend, scourge of the ruin hunter!)  Funnily enough during our visit nobody passed along the road that I could enquire further about access. I did spot a Glebe Warden locking the door of the Church opposite but he had disappeared before I reached the spot where he had been. Since the visit I've come across the land owners name so no problem then I'll just have to go back and besides I've recently heard of another Castle ruin quite close by that will add icing to the next visit.
To find the ruins head South on the N11 Dublin to Wexford Road and at Junction 13 exit for Newcastle. The exit reaches a small roundabout. Take the 2nd exit on the right again posted for Newcastle and drive for approx 1.2KM and you will spot the ruins on your left. You can park in the lane way opposite to the right of the Church.


I was passing this Castle about a month after my last visit so I thought I'd stop and take a few new photos as the day was much brighter. Incredible weather for mid-January. I got talking to a builder working in a small site opposite the Castle and he confirmed that it was set on private land but that he had taken a stroll up there one day on the sly and the Castle he said was pretty much waterlogged inside. I still intend to make another trip out and get up close. In the meantime the ruins seemed to have acquired a couple of new residents, two very docile white horses.