Monday 20 February 2017

Kiltimon Castle Co Wicklow

                                     Above Image: One of the four bartizans

                                   Above Image: The walled garden enclosure

This picturesque castle with its decorative bartizans is located in a circular walled garden of Dunran Demesne on a back road South of Newtownmountkennedy.  It has long been the subject of speculation as to the authenticity of its age.
Originally Kiltimon Castle was a three storey Norman tower built circa 1550. It was later occupied by the O'Byrnes a powerful Irish clan prominent in Wicklow but was lost to them with their lands during the Cromwellian invasion in the 1600's. A print by Gabriel Beranger (1725-1817) from 1750 shows the castle in complete ruin. It is from here that the unsurety begins. In 1781 the Estate was owned by General Robert Gun Cunningham (1726-1801) who went about a large renovation of the house and lands and in doing so built this present castle as a garden folly. It was thought that this was at a different location to the original Kiltimon Castle but an investigation revealed that some inner sections were actually of medieval date so in fact he had the folly built up from the ruins of the original castle. It is somewhat ironic that the folly that is purporting to be a ruin is in fact a ruin that is now a fol!y! 
When I visited I had hoped to get closer but the large gates of Dunran remain squarely locked. I could see plainly over the wall a pathway leading from the drive leading down to the gate of the circular walled garden. The roadside wall is one of those distinct types devilishly built with pointed capstones designed to make access difficult, and I have to say it does its job well. I would hope to return again and see if access is allowed by the owners, in the meantime it is still worth a visit if in the area especially as it is in close proximity to both Newcastle Castle and Old Killadreenan Church (see earlier posts here & here )
To find the ruin head South on the M11 Dublin to Wexford motorway and exit at Junction 13 for Newcastle. The exit loops round to a small roundabout. Take the left hand exit signposted for the R772 to Newtownmountkennedy. Follow the road for approx 400m until you reach a T-Junction (you will pass the ruins of Killadreenan Church on your right). Turn left at the junction and drive for approx 1.4KM until you reach signs saying "No Through Road Local Access Only" with a small road slanting off to the right. Turn right onto the small road and drive for approx 850m until you see the castle jutting above the wall on your right. It is narrow along here but I managed to park a little down from the castle location. It's not a busy road so you should be okay for a short visit. 

Thursday 9 February 2017

St. Catherine's Chapel and Mill Co Dublin

                                        Above Image: St Catherine's chapel

                            Above Image: Chapel viewed from the grassy mound

                                                 Above Image: Mill ruins

                                  Above & Below Images: Mill yard & stables

                                           Above Image: Gable of the mill

                    Above Image & Below 2 Images: The castellated lower yard gate

                                     Above Image: St Catherine's Well in 2011
                                     Below Image: The Well in 2017

The foundation of a monastery on these lands in 1219 by the priory of Canons of the order of St Victor and dedicated to St Catherine gives St Catherine’s park's name its origin. The monastery’s benefactors included Waris De Peche and Adam De Hereford chief Anglo-Normans in the area. After the dissolution of Abbeys in the 1530’s the priory land and house were leased by the crown and this remained the norm until they were bought by Robert Butler in 1795 who renovated the house and made many structural additions. The lands then passed to a relation through marriage named David La Touche a prominent Huguenot banker. He had not resided there long when the house was destroyed by fire and so a new house bearing the same name was constructed in 1798. This building remains today more modernised and now serving as a hotel called Leixlip Manor.
The lands have become a public park retaining the name of St Catherine and within are some remnants of the old estate. These include the castellated gate and wall of the lower yard in which there are the ruins of stables and a mill. These have been cordoned off and many dangerous building signs placed upon them. But there is apparently restoration work afoot and so on my last visit I was surprised to find the usually austere black security gate open and unattended. Of course I took the opportunity to have a stroll around the yards but it wasn’t possible to enter the large mill ruin. What was milled here I’ve yet to discover it may have been a flour, oil or even a sawmill but there is a small stream running adjacent which leads into the Liffey waters which may have served as a millrace. The stables seem full of debris from the house possibly the one that was burned or the derelict farmhouse adjacent to the mill. One item was the remains of a toy rocking horse. The mill and farm buildings all now abandoned combined with the castellated gate give an impression of the grandeur that the estate must have had in its day.
Very close to the stream on one of the pathways outside of the mill and stables is St Catherine’s well founded at the time of the priory and now maintained visited as a healing well. A short walk down from the well heading into the parkland are the ruins of a small chapel which some records state was built in the 18th century as a possibly as a family chapel most likely when the additions were being made by Robert Butler. It is also likely that it was a small COI chapel that fell into disuse and ruin after 1900. It too now lies fenced off with danger signs upon it but truthfully a little clearing out and restoration and it would be fine. The ruin lies at the bottom of a grassy hill which I believe is the location of the former priory that was destroyed.
It’s an interesting little quarter within the park and well worth a visit. The park is usually open until 5pm in winter and 9pm in summer. Two entrances from different directions are served by car parks. The one I took was the one leading in from Laraghcon just over the Liffey bridge from Lucan Village.
To find the ruins cross the Liffey Bridge heading Northwards out of Lucan Village. Follow the main road straight through two roundabouts and approx. 300m after the second roundabout there is an entrance left onto a lane. (It is signposted for St Catherine’s) Follow the lane which bends at one point to the right and then subsequently to the left. This leads you to the car park. Once out of the car follow the trail on the West end of the car park through a black barrier. Follow this road adjacent to some sports grounds until after a bend to the right there is a small left turn. Follow the left turn to the bottom past the locked security gate (through which you can see the former stables) and turn left. This gives you a proper view of the mill through another gate and also on this path to the right of the gate is the holy well. If you continue down this pathway to the junction at the end and turn left this will lead you directly to the ruined chapel.