Wednesday 20 September 2017

Termonfeckin Castle Co Louth

                               Above & Below Images: The locked entrance gate

                                         Above Image: The projecting tower

Termonfeckin was originally a monastic site founded by St Fechin of Fore in the latter part of the 7th century. The Norman invasion resulted later in the building of two castles in the town but only one survives today. The non extant castle known as "The primates castle" had been used by the Bishops of Armagh over the years most notably by Archbishop Ussher in the early 17th century. It  was partially damaged in 1641 during the rebellion and although still used for several years by James Ussher it fell into further disrepair and was finally demolished in 1830.
The remaining tower is the very sturdy Termonfeckin Castle which was constructed in the 15th or 16th century. It stands three storeys tall with a vaulted second level and a spiral stairs. It has a prominent projecting tower. Originally there was a second projecting tower but it too had been damaged in 1641. Later Captain James Brabazon (1619-1674) repaired and made some alterations to it but it now stands as a ruin.
We visited this castle during a weekday in September with a view to getting a look inside and reaching roof level. I was aware in advance that a key holder had to be located. Actually there is a notice on the gate advising that an entry key may be obtained from the first house on the right of the castle but when we followed the instructions we unfortunately found that there was nobody home and the mobile phone number supplied just rang out. Disappointing maybe as we probably just chose the wrong time to visit. However, I have every intention of returning soon to investigate the interior.
Please note if visiting that the key holder will request a deposit of 50 Euro which is fully reimbursed on the return of the key.
To find the ruin take the M1 heading North and at Junction 10 take the exit for the N51 to Drogheda. At the top of the ramp follow the roundabout to the right until you see the Drogheda exit.. Drive straight through the next roundabout and on the roundabout following that take the second exit to the right onto the R132. Drive for approx. 1.8KM until you reach a set of traffic lights with a left turn onto Patrick Street. Turn left onto Patrick street which once out of Drogheda becomes the R166 and continue for 7.5KM until you reach Termonfeckin. Once you have entered the village and you have crossed over the small stone bridge near the lofty spired church, take the first turn right which is opposite the car park of The Waterside restaurant. Drive up this narrow road and take the first turn left and the subsequently the next turn right down a cul-de-sac.. The castle is located on your right. You can park on the grass margin opposite. 


                                      Above Image: Castle gate viewed from inside

                                               Above Image: Interior ground floor

                           Above Image & Below Image: The vaulted above first floor

                                      Above Image: Exit door from stairs to rooftop

                                                  Above Image: Turret chamber

As promised we returned to this castle with the intention of accessing the interior. A knock on the key holders door yielded no answer and we began to feel we were out of luck again. However on ringing the mobile number provided the lady of the house answered and gave us the key without a deposit and so we were in!
The interior displays a sturdy vaulted ceiling above the first floor and a set of very steep and narrow steps brought us to the second floor and subsequently the rooftop. It was really worth the climb as the views from here were amazing. There is a small turret chamber up here which may have served as a guard post. a second one in ruins was situated on the opposite corner. All in all a rewarding visit and well worth the persistence of returning and obtaining the key.

Tuesday 5 September 2017

Maiden Tower Co Louth

                        Above Image: The Maiden Tower with obelisk in backround

                          Above Image: The boathouse building and Maiden Tower

                              Above Image: Blocked up entrance to Maiden Tower

                                             Below 2 Images: The obelisk

These two unusual structures are situated at the estuary of the River Boyne at Mornington (town of the mariners) in County Meath. The taller of the two is called the Maiden Tower standing 60 feet in height.. It was constructed in 1582 during the reign of Elizabeth I who ascended the English throne in 1558. One of its main functions after 1585 was as a look out post in case of invasion by the Spanish Armada The origin of it's name is unclear. Some say it is in honour of Elizabeth who was known as the virgin Queen but the townland at that time was called Maydenhayes so this would also be a likely origin. Nevertheless it served as a navigational aid for ships attempting to enter the estuary. At night it would be a beacon and during daylight a navigator would know he was on track when the smaller structure disappeared behind the Maiden Tower.
The structures are accessible by a sandy track that leads to the rather stony beach. Apparently within the Maiden Tower a set of spiral steps leads to a barrel vaulted ceiling with an access point out onto the pararpets. A doorway which stands about 3 feet off the ground is now sadly barred up with a steel plate by the County Council as a result of vandalism to the tower in 2003. The original iron grill that blocked the door was forcibly removed  by a vehicle with tow rope for no other reason than pure vandalism and to infiltrate and cause damage to the interior.  To protect the tower from further harm it was closed to any public access.
We come now to the smaller structure which stands at 42 feet in height and is actually an obelisk of sorts. It was most likely used as described to act with the large tower as a navigational aid. It is local folklore that a lady awaiting the return of her mariner husband was viewing the ship's approach and on seeing the black sails which had been raised in error by the crew saw this as a signal that her husband had been killed. Quite distraught the lady threw herself from the tower to her death. It is said that the mariner who was still quite alive constructed the obelisk in her memory and it was called The Lady's Finger. That is the name to which it still known.
The building that stands adjacent to the tower was once a 19th century boathouse for the lifeboat service. This particular one ceased to be in 1926 falling into ruin thereafter. It was later refurbished to avoid more vandalism into a private dwelling but still daubings can be seen on a gable end one of them stating "The Mornington Mafia"
The tower and obelisk are well worth a visit especially on a clear day and with the backdrop of the estuary it's a very picturesque spot.
To find your way there take the M1 motorway heading North and exit at junction 7. Turn right at the roundabout at the top of the exit ramp and cross over the motorway taking the exit ahead on the next roundabout for the R132. Drive for approx 5KM and you will reach Julianstown. Continue through the village and drive another 3KM until you reach two roundabouts in close proximity. Take the right hand exit on the second roundabout onto the L1611 for Mornington. Continue on for another 3.5KM until you reach a stop sign at a staggered crossroads. (you will see a Texaco station ahead). Turn left at this junction and approx 400m along take the third turn right . This is called Tower Road. Just follow it until you see the entrance track to the Maiden Tower & Obelisk ahead. There is a height restrictive barrier for 2 Metres at the entrance but will fit under.and there's space beyond for a few vehicles. 

P.S. I have substantially updated the post on Bective Abbey in county Meath if you would like to check it out.