Monday 21 August 2017

Leixlip Spa Co Kildare

                                  Above Image & Below Image; Access track

                                         Above Image: Steps leading to Spa

                                         Above Image: Trickle of spa water

                        Above & Below Images: Remains of Lengthsman's cottage

                                  Above Image: Steps leading down to waterfall

                                      Above & Below Images: The waterfall

                                   Image Below: Mouth of the aqueduct tunnel

This unusual site can be found adjacent to the Royal canal near Louisa Bridge in Leixlip.
In 1793 when excavating the land near the canal to build an aqueduct so that the canal could cross the Rye Water some of the workers discovered a hot spring with the water emanating at a temperature of approx. 75 degrees Fahrenheit.  William Connolly of Leixlip Castle (nephew of the famed “Speaker Conolly”) requested the Royal Canal Company to divert the spring water into a brick basin alongside the banks of the Rye Water. Connolly’s entrepreneurial mind envisioned a Roman style outdoor bath and commissioned its construction.  He was motivated by the success of the spring at Lucan which was discovered in 1758 and became very lucrative spawning a hotel at the site and thousands of visitors. The Leixlip Spa once constructed was indeed quite popular but the vision of a hotel never materialised especially following Connollys death. The spa was still in use over the years but by the 1960’s it had fallen into disrepair. A combination of committees and donations helped restore it somewhat and it was a feature in one of the late great Dick Warner’s Waterways documentaries in 2011 showing it then to be in good condition. Sadly now it has regressed, becoming a receptacle for litter and debris.and has also been daubed with graffiti
My curiosity took hold of me recently and I decided to take a look at this oddity. Free parking near Louisa Bridge seems hard to find so I just parked in the railway station car park and paid the fee. I crossed the road to the track the runs alongside the canal and found that a few yards down it split in two. I took the left hand track that runs away from the canal and after a short walk came upon the Romanesque bath in an area just below the grassy ridge I was standing on. A rudimentary set of steps led down to the bath. Unfortunately things have not improved and there was the remains of a fire that had been lit on the stone surround. It would seem that the site is unfortunately attracting more anti-social rather than social gatherings these days. There are two sets of stone steps on each end of the bath which are still in very good condition. This is such an unusual and pleasing remnant of the past and it would be great if it could be restored again. I’m sure if properly managed it would attract visitors to avail of what is said to be healing water.
I left the site following a track that led up through the bushes toward the canal pathway and here I found the derelict remains of the canal lengthsman’s house. This too was unfortunately defaced by graffiti. The Lengthsman would have be responsible for a stretch of the canal maintaining the water level. The run-off water was directed down the slope to the Rye Water forming a manmade waterfall. Water still runs off to this day and you can access the waterfall by taking the long set of  purposely built wooden stairs down towards the river. The area around the Rye water banks is of great ecological interest with some very diverse fauna to be seen.  In late summer and early Autumn be wary of the white flowered giant hogweed that is quite abundant near the river and make sure your skin does not come in contact with it and especially its sap which can cause serious burns.

To find the Spa take the M4 junction 6 exit heading north toward Leixlip. Follow on through two roundabouts and turn right on the second one onto the R149 and continue until you reach the bridge over the canal at the train station. Take the first right hand turn after the bridge and you will see the car park on your right. The fee for the day is €4.50. The Spa can be found on the opposite side of the road. Just follow the track alongside the canal and take the left hand fork a few yards down. 

Monday 7 August 2017

Tullaherin Monastic Site Co Kilkenny

                                              Above Image: Entrance gate

                           Above Image & Below 2 Images: Interior of the church

                                       Above Image: The large Ogham stone

                     Above Image: The tower entrance now looks like a gaping maw

                                Above Image & Below 2 Images: Stroan Fountain

This monastic site is associated with St Ciaran the elder who on returning from twenty years in Rome founded a monastery at Saighir and also here in Tullaherin sometime in the 5th-6th century. While none of the original structures survive at Tullaherin the site was deemed very important and was built upon during the next few centuries. The incomplete Round tower we see today stands approx. 73 feet high and was constructed in the 9th century and as with most towers was designed to protect the monks and their valuables from marauding Vikings. The tower is missing its conical top and indeed shows evidence of leaning somewhat. St Ciaran is reputed to be buried here, some believe in  the vicinity of the tower. The large ruins adjacent to the tower are of an 11th or 12th century Church which was added to in the 1400’s by the construction of a chancel. It is divided into two sections. After the dissolution the Church changed hands to serve the Protestant community and was greatly renovated in 1616. However, the 1837 ordnance survey map lists the church as being in ruins.
The site is very impressive. It is somewhat off the beaten track but is well worth a visit. We were directed here whilst visiting nearby Kilfane Church (see post here) by a local man binging his kids to see the magnificent medieval Knight effigy. We later ran into them again at Tullaherin. A combination of both places makes for a really rewarding journey.
Two Ogham stones were discovered here in the past one of which was removed from the site and rediscovered in the 1980’s propping up a gate on nearby lands. It was brought back to Tullaherin and placed adjacent to the South wall and close to the base of the tower. It still has some inscriptions upon it but they are fairly illegible.
I’m not sure if there is work going on here at the moment but there are warning signs placed on the church ruins to avoid entering the ruins. However you can pretty much get around what you need to see.
Two asides of interest. The first is the existence here of a cillin which is a rather sad thing to encounter. It is basically a kind of potter’s field for children. A mass burial site where unfortunately deceased and unbaptized infants were buried. This was usually situated nearby the consecrated graveyard but still outside the walls leaving them in some respect divorced from the normal populace. It was a common practice in early Ireland and there are numerous examples around the country. Very sad indeed. The other item of interest is on one of the approach roads to Tullherin. It is an ornate fountain called the Stroan fountain It was commissioned by Colonel Bushe of Kilfane House in 1766 using local limestone. Its purpose was to supply water to the tenants of his estate. It is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and was renovated but unfortunately the tantalisingly clear water flowing from it has at the moment a warning not to consume direct from the fountain due to bacteria present. Hopefully this will be resolved at some stage. 

Take the M9 heading South and exit at Junction 7 and at the top of the exit ramp take the left hand exit for the R448 (signposted for Thomastown). Continue straight through the next roundabout and on the subsequent roundabout turn right on to the continuance of the R448. Continue on through the villages of Gowran and Dungarvan and approx. 4KM out of Dungarvan you will find a right hand turn. Unfortunately there are no direction signs but if you pass the Long Man restaurant & bar on your right then you need to turn and go back approx. 500m and take the first left turn. Follow this road for approx. 1.75KM and you will reach a crossroads at Tullaherin Church. Turn left and you can park in the car park of the modern church. The monastic site is directly opposite.