Thursday 29 June 2017

Finglas Abbey Co Dublin

                                          Above Image: The entrance gate

                                     Above & Below Images: The Nethercross

                                             Above Image: entrance door

The history surrounding this abbey site stretches right back to through the centuries when St Canice from Co Derry founded a monastery here in 560AD. He would later become the patron saint of Finglas. The early monastery thrived for centuries but was laid open to many attacks by the Vikings and virtually destroyed. It was rebuilt during the tenth and twelfth centuries and it is the ruins of these structures that we see today. The abbey was suppressed during the dissolution of the sixteenth century under Henry VIII. Later during his daughter Elizabeth’s reign the church ceased being a catholic place of worship and transferred to the protestant community which it served until 1843 when a larger more modern church was built. The abbey subsequently fell into ruin.
A visit to the ruins can only be made at certain times and outside of those you need to obtain a key to gain entry to the graveyard in which the ruins lie. On my visit on a Sunday morning the gate was unlocked and I had no trouble gaining entry. The ruins are extensive enough and you can walk around them but sadly not enter as the entrance and windows have been barred up. (I must enquire if there is a key available for here also) Nonetheless you can still see around the interior quite clearly. One very interesting monument within the graveyard is a large Celtic cross known as the Nethercross. The name derives from the barony of Nethercross but this ancient monument was carved in the ninth century and stands seven feet high resembling the one actually carried by St Canice. It is the only remnant remaining from the original monastery. During the Cromwellian invasion the locals dismantled and hid the cross in a secret location fearing that the invaders would destroy it. The cross remained hidden until 1816 when a clergyman named Robert Walsh through dogged research eventually discovered its location through the oral history of a local who's forebears passed the secret location down. Walsh had the cross re-erected in the South East corner of the abbey grounds.

To find the ruins and cross take the junction 5 exit of the M50 for city centre/Finglas. This leads onto the R135 (North Road). Continue on until you reach a roundabout. Go straight through and approx. 500m later you will drive under an underpass and subsequently an overhead footbridge. 140m beyond the footbridge on the left there is a Permanent TSB bank with a small car park in front and you can turn in here and park. Directly across the road you turned in from is Wellmount Road. Simply cross over the road to it and on the corner there is a line of stone cottages with a ramp leading up in front of them . At the top of the ramp is the entrance gate to the graveyard. The gate is open on Sundays and Bank Holidays from 10.30am-5.30am. Outside of these times you can obtain a key from Thomas Lynch at 5 Barrack Lane which is one of the stone cottages mentioned.

Monday 19 June 2017

Knockmaroon Cromlech Co Dublin

                                      Above Image: Pathway up to the site

                                           Above Image: Eastern aspect

                                           Above Image: Western aspect

This small but significant cromlech (or kist) was accidently discovered in 1838 when a renovation of the Phoenix park was taking place. The workmen who discovered it were charged with the removal of a mound which turned out to be an ancient tumulus standing 15 feet high and 120 feet in circumference.on which the cromlech was positioned. It would date sometime between 2500BC to 1700BC. The Royal Irish Academy at the time investigated it and removed two human skeletons and a number of other items including a flint arrowhead. This is reckoned to be the smallest of this type of burial chamber in the country. The name given to the monument is usually Knockmary as it is positioned beside Knockmary keeper's lodge and the area outside has the name Knockmaroon both are derivations of the name Knockmaridhe. It is tucked away from sight and wouldn’t really make itself aware unless sought out. I had a general idea where it was located from an old ordnance survey map so I set out one day to seek it out. I was driving so I entered the park from the Chapelizod gate and once I spotted the Knockmary lodge up on the hill I just parked on the grass verge at the bottom and walked up the pathway towards the lodge. The lodge is surrounded by a fence and you just need to follow the fence around to the right where you will locate the cromlech. To be fair it has been damaged in the past mostly by people knocking parts off as souvenirs and there are signs that a large crack in the centre of the capstone has been repaired but not entirely successfully sometime in the past. The capstone is believed to be made of bedrock extracted from the River Liffey. A large more modern block props up the large capstone on one side where the original stone has either been removed or was damaged and replaced. The burial chamber is underground leaving the rest of this tomb standing on grass but this is nonetheless an interesting piece of ancient history which goes generally unnoticed.
To find the cromlech enter the park by the Chapelizod gate and a few metres in you will reach a T-junction with Upper Glen Road. Turn left and follow the road .You will pass two signs pointing right into gateways, one for St. Mary's Hospital the other for Cheshire home. Approx 100m past the second sign you will see the small pathway leading up the hill. You can park on the grass verge at the bottom.If on foot you can also access by way of a laneway in Chapelizod village that lies beside the Newsagent/Post office. A small pedestrian gate at the bottom of the lane leads into the park directly opposite the hill with Knockmary lodge visible on top. 

Tuesday 6 June 2017

Old Whitechurch Church & Castle Co Kildare

                                           Above Image: Entrance stiles

                                           Above Image: Part of West wall

                                        Above Image: Remains of a window

                                               Above Image: South gable

                                              Above Image: Hidden tower

                                   Above Image: Entrance to tower and stairs

                               Above Image: A view downwards within the tower

I first came across this site in 2013 as I had heard there was both a church and a castle ruin. All I could locate at the time amongst the trees and wild overgrowth was a partial wall and window. I could not see any part of the castle tower. A bit despondent I left but found myself in the vicinity again recently so I decided to have another look.
The town land on which this ancient graveyard is located is called Whitechurch and it was the site of a monastery in 1300 founded by the white friars hence the origin of the name. The present ruins may or may not have formed part of the monastery but it was certainly used as a parish church until the early seventeenth century where thereafter it fell into ruin. Not much is known of the strong tower that was built here but it most certainly of Norman origin and appears to be placed in close proximity to the church and may not have been a castle as such but have served as a fortified refuge for the clergy..
After crossing the two stiles from the roadside I found myself back at the graveyard. In general it appears to be maintained well and contains a lot of jagged ancient stones. On this occasion I got to see what remains of the church as the overgrowth had receded a little or was cut back. Still standing are the West wall and south gable. The west wall is crumbling and contains the remains of a window and doorway. Within, the ground is badly overgrown and there is the remains of an old font amongst the vegetation. The South gable fares better and has a nice window mostly intact. Having viewed the ruins I scoured the area to locate the castle tower. It turns out to be approximately where the North gable would have stood. A lot of overgrowth hides it from view but I could partially see a section higher up. I then spotted at ground level part of the West wall and a small doorway. I broke away some of the dried branch twigs that occluded the entrance and had to climb over a small fallen tree trunk. Within, ivy was curling about but there was a narrow set of stone steps spiralling upward. I managed to get inside the doorway and carefully ascended the steps which were coated in lichen managing to reach a flat area that must have been the first floor. The stairway was really narrow and the steps badly worn but I at least got part ways into the interior. I figured there wasn’t much likelihood of any further steps as I could see daylight above. It really is very hard to discern what is left of the tower but I’m glad I at least got inside.
The site of the ruins is to the side of a narrow country road where passing traffic is frequent as it leads to Straffan and back to the N4. Also there are almost no places to safely park. I managed after a few drives up and down the stretch of road to eventually tuck the car in on a very small grass verge a few yards North of the entrance stile.

To find the ruins take the N4 heading West and exit at junction 7 signposted for Straffan. At the top of the exit ramp circle the roundabout and cross the bridge over the N4 and on the roundabout on the other side take the first exit again signposted for Straffan. Continue down this road and turn right at the next roundabout onto Straffan road. Continue driving on this road for approx. 4.5km until you have crossed over two hump back bridges (one the canal the other the rail line) Approx 250m after the second bridge look carefully for the gate and stile in the hedgerows on your right. As mentioned parking is difficult but there is a small grass verge just past the entrance on the same side which may be your best bet.