A guide to the best and sometimes off the beaten track historical ruins around Ireland and how to get there.
Wednesday, 21 November 2018
Old Knocktopher Church Co Kilkenny
We found this very interesting ruin on the same day we visited Aghaviller (see earlier post here) and Old Sheepstown church (see post here). All three sites were very close to each other.
The ruins at Knocktopher are all that remain of the medieval parish church built on the lands belonging to the Canons Regular of St. Augustine.. What is extant today consists of a 13th century tower with a Romanesque doorway, a portion of the North wall showcasing a fine 15th century window, a few parts at foundation level and one tall shard with a box tomb beneath which may be part of the former East wall. The church suffered closure under the dissolution in 1542 and most of it I believe was demolished in the 19th century.
The ruins are now surrounded by a modern an very well kept cemetery. Judging by the scattered remains it must have been a large enough building. the Romanesque doorway in the tower is gated and the vaulted archway beyond contains a 14th century double effigy tomb which doesn't appear to indicate if the internees were persons of note. The archway has also become a sort of storeroom for various stone artifacts some with decorative carvings upon them. We were pleasantly surprised to find the gate unlocked so we could get in and have a closer look. I would suggest if visiting try to also take in the other two sites mentioned earlier.
To find the ruins take the M9 motorway and exit at junction 10. Take the R699 heading East and drive for approx 1.3KM and as you pass through the small village of Knocktopher the road bends to the right. Continue on down this road for approx 250m and you will find the ruins on your right hand side. You can park safely at the gate.
Saturday, 3 November 2018
Dowth Abbey Co Meath
Situated a short distance from the megalithic tomb of Dowth this often named Dowth abbey is actually a former parish church which was constructed in the late 14th century. It is thought to incorporate some portions of an earlier church on the site. The extant ruins consist of a nave and chancel with a double belfry on the extended Western tower gable.
It was built next to the estate of the Netterville family and fell into ruin due to extensive damage during the rebellion of 1641. The grounds in subsequent centuries have been used as a burial ground. One of the more noted features here is that of a memorial for John Boyle O'Reilly, an Irish patriot who had been transported to Australia in 1868 and managed to escape to the United States where in Boston he made a successful career as a writer and journalist. He is buried in Holyhood cemetery in Massachusetts. A large and impressive memorial now stands in this cemetery at Dowth, his place of birth, Behind the monument on the side with the effigy of a dog are the faint remains of a Sheela-na-gig set in the wall.
When visiting I was impressed that for such an ancient church that all the walls were still standing although some repairs appear to have been made. It is also quite a long structure and has two doorways in the nave on opposite walls.
Nearby as mentioned is the ancient tomb of Dowth which I will cover in a future post. Ideally you can visit both it and the church in the same trip.
To find the ruins take the M1 heading North and at junction 10 just after the Boyne bridge take the exit for the N51 to Navan. Drive approx 1.8KM until you pass the gates of Townley Hall on your right. Take the next left hand turn onto the L1607. Drive down this road for about 1.8KM until you have passed two sharp bends to the right. Continue on for another 1KM and you will see an entrance on the left to Netterville house with a sign pointing to the O'Reilly memorial. Drive up the narrow avenue and you will find limited parking space at the church gate.
P.S. I have recently added more photos of Maynooth Castle to the earlier post. It can be found here
Thursday, 11 October 2018
Howth Castle Co Dublin
one partially destroyed
Home to the St Lawrence family for over 800 years this partially ruined castle is a sight to see.
The first structure built was a wooden castle commissioned by Almeric the first Lord of Howth in the 12th century.
The oldest parts of what we see today date from the 15th century. Originally a large tower house it was greatly added to over the years with a second tower and a gate tower being added with a crenellated wing. A further wing was added in the 19th century. Although tours can be arranged you can still get fine views by simply walking around the grounds. Within the gate tower arch there are a couple of doorways one of which the fortified wooden panelling is falling apart. The grounds are easily accessible from the road and while here you can also visit Aideen's grave a stunning tomb in the woods (see earlier post here)
To find Howth Castle take the Howth road Eastwards from Sutton cross and drive for approx 1.5KM until you see the large pillared gates on your right. Simply drive up the avenue until you reach the castle..
Saturday, 29 September 2018
St. Peter's Churchyard Effigies Co Louth
These creepy effigies are one of only ten of their type in Ireland. They are to found in the grounds of St Peter's Church of Ireland in Drogheda town.The remains are from the tomb of Sir Edmond Golding and his wife Elizabeth Flemyng and date back to approx 1520. An old medieval church once stood here but is now non-extant. When the present church o Ireland building was constructed in the 1750's the tomb was disturbed but most of its parts are preserved by being set into the Eastern boundary wall of the churchyard. The effigies formed the top slab and some of the side slabs are adjacent to it on the same wall.
Standing at approx seven feet high the effigies present the couple as rotting cadavers in torn shrouds.
The eerie disembowelment on Elizabeth is said to depict the hollow where once their was a womb. On inspection we found a large spider had spun a web within adding more creepiness to the macabre skeleton. The idea of depicting the couple as cadavers was apparently not meant to shock but to remind people of their mortality and that no matter how affluent they are they will all end up the same way. From the womb to the tomb so to speak. The church stands in the centre of Drogheda and can be accessed on foot during the daytime. There a a few parking spaces outside the church walls but thee are other parking sites nearby so a short walk is all that may be needed. One would not easily find these cadavers normally as you would likely pass the church without knowing of their existence. But they are quite a rarity and are well worth checking out.
To find the tomb remains take the MI and exit at junction 10 onto the N51 for Drogheda. Drive for approx 600m until you reach a roundabout. Go straight through and at the next roundabout take a right hand turn off the roundabout onto the R132 signposted for Drogheda..Drive for approx 1.8KM until you reach a set of traffic lights and a sign pointing left to Beaulieu. Turn left here (R166) and continue for approx 350m and you reach a small crossroads. Go through the crossroads and take the next right hand turn onto King Street. Take the second turn right off King Street onto William Street. The church car park can be found on the right hand side at the junction of the next crossroads. (There is a pub called Clarke & sons opposite). You will find the tomb remains in the Eastern section of the churchyard. .
Monday, 17 September 2018
Old Sheepstown Church Co Kilkenny
This small early parish church was constructed in the 12th century and dedicated to St Mulcin, a bishop.who died in 630AD.
Although construction focused on simplicity it does contain a few interesting features.
The church is situated in a walled enclosure that lies in a private pasture but it is only a short distance from the roadside and a sign and entrance gate allows pedestrian access.
The West facing wall features a fine Romanesque doorway and above it to the left a protrusion from the wall known as the "Clock Stone" This is a type of corbel which was an architectural feature serving basically as a bracket or hook.to support an object.
The church is small measuring approx 15m x 7m and most of the walls are intact. A second doorway in the south wall leads into the graveyard and is thought might once have led to a sacristy.. Two buttresses can be seen on the exterior of the East wall which were probably added later to support the wall from falling outward. All four corners of the church have beaded mouldings in the stonework. This beading is also evident on the Romanesque doorway.
It's very peaceful here considering there is a main motorway nearby and the ruins are very pleasing to the eye. Access was so easy but be careful crossing the field to the enclosure as there are sometimes thin electric fences erected to keep cattle away from the church. On our visit there were two or three long cords strung out on posts but they were only cord and not electrified.
To find the ruins take the M9 motorway and exit at junction 10 taking the R699 for Callan. Drive a short 100m and park at the small parking area in front of the first cottage on your right.then simply cross the road where you will see the entry gate and sign.
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