A guide to the best and sometimes off the beaten track historical ruins around Ireland and how to get there.
Friday, 6 December 2019
Old St. Seachnall's Church Co Meath
These few remains may seem a bit insignificant but I always like to investigate ruins no matter how small they may be.
This single pointed arch and half of another are basically all that remains of the medieval parish church of St Seachnall. St seachnall is reputed to be a nephew of St. Patrick and died in 448AD. It is believed that his remains are buried in what is now the South east corner of the present churchyard.
The church was built in the 15th century on the site of the original monastery which was finally destroyed by fire in 1143. The church remained in use until the 17th century when it was noted by the Bishop of Armagh that it was in ruins. Isaac Butler writing in 1749 said that the chancel was ruinous but the tower still stood. Over the years since then these too became non-extant, A new church for the Church of Ireland community was built in 1813 and is still in use today standing adjacent to the remains of the earlier church. You can find a font and decorated lintel stone from the previous structures within the new church.
The existence of this arch suggests that the nave had an aisle and that the church would have been quite bigger than the normal structures built around this time. Below the arch there is a tomb inserted and around the base of the piers are fragments of window heads from the long gone church.
The ruin can be found in the graveyard of the present Church of Ireland in Dunsaughlin which derives its name from the Gaelic "Domhnach Seachnail" meaning "The Church of Seachnall"
To find the ruin take the M3 from Dublin heading North and exit at junction 5. Follow the roundabout around to the right and take the exit listed for the R147 to Dunsaughin.A few metres on there is a second roundabout. Turn left here again following the signs for the R147, It is approx 10KM to Dunsaughin and when you drive through the village you will pass the Village Grill on your right which is located further down the main street. The entrance to the churchyard lies between the Village grill and the Veterinary Hospital. A short drive up the avenue leads you to the small church car park.
Monday, 11 November 2019
Kilree Monastic Site Co Kilkenny
There are many atmospheric ruins spread throughout Ireland and this must count as one of the top ten. On approaching this site your attention is immediately drawn to the striking round tower jutting upwards from the treetops and you know at this point you are going to see something special.
The name Kilree one would assume comes from the Gaelic for Church (Kil) and King (Ri) but in fact it is named after the saint Rhuidche (pronounced Ree) so it is the church of Ree. The site is ancient and the 29m high round tower dates to the 10th century. It towers above the site with its conical cap missing and crenellations present instead, The doorway is unusually lower than normal at about 1.8m from the ground. There are no steps inside the tower as it originally consisted of wooden floors accessed by ladders and ropes. These apparently were still in existence until at least the mid 19th century. Today only the wild vines creep upwards inside.
The site as mentioned is ancient with a record of the O'Neill Northern high king of the Niall Caille drowning in the Kings river in 844AD and supposedly buried beneath the high cross adjacent to the site, The Medieval church dates to the 10th century with a chancel being added in the 12th century.
Kilree came under the control of the Augustinian priory of Kells in the mid 13th century. Kells is a really fine set of ruins not far from Kilree and was the subject of an earlier post to be found here.The church was disestablished in 1539 during the dissolution and has fallen into ruin since.
When we pulled up at the gate a family were leaving the site and I asked them was there any sign of the bull in the field as a large sign on the gate gave warning. They just laughed and said "Nothing but cows in there" I would imagine that the farmer although obliged to let the public access the graveyard would probably still rather they didn't. At the time of visiting I was on crutches after an accident and the idea in my mind of me trying to outrun a bull while on sticks played out in my head 000like something from a Buster Keaton movie!
In the end there was no hide nor hair of a bull and even 0the main field gate was unlocked. A short 50/60 yard stroll took us to the gate of the enclosure and a pedestrian swing gate gives access.
I was struck immediately of the tranquility of the site. The ruins are surrounded by trees and the light streamed through them in a very pleasing way. A lot of the gravestones have Celtic type crosses on them lending even more antiquity to the general atmosphere here. It was so quiet, We had a good look around and found the church doorway in the West gable. Both the East and West gables have antae, which is where the side walls extend beyond the gables. The west gable is also supported by two buttresses which were placed here by the OPW in 1940 to prevent the collapse of the gable.
Within the church the nave and chancel are divided by an archway. It is quite noticeable that the original Romanesque style arch had been supported from collapse by a new arch built underneath.
There are a few interesting grave slabs to view here but the most interesting feature is the altar tomb belonging the Richard Comerford' Baron of Danganmore and his wife Johanna St Leger. The only date visible is that of Johanna's death in 1622. No matter where you are in the church I noticed that the round tower outside looms above it.
If you leave the church and go around the base of the round tower to the side opposite the tower doorway you will find a stile in the wall which leads to a field where you will find the Kilree high cross. The cross is about 50 yards from the tower but beware the field can be a bit mucky due to the movement of cattle therein.
The cross now worn by the weather still has some interesting designs to see. It dates to the 9th century and stands approx 2.75m high. It is missing a former capstone but is still a great example of its type. I wonder if Niall Caille's remains are actually buried beneath?
The site is really worth making a visit to and is accessible all year round, While in the area you could also visit nearby Kells and make a day of it,
To find the Kilree ruins take the M9 motorway and exit at junction 9 for the N10 to Kilkenny. Once on the N10 take the first left hand turn which is signposted for the L4200 to Callan. Drive for approx 1.7KM until you reach a crossroads with the R697. Turn left here and drive 5KM until you enter Kells. When in the village you will see a pub called "Shirley's" on your right. Take the left hand turn just past this pub and drive for approx 450m until you see a right hand turn opposite the car park for Kells priory. Turn right onto this road and drive for approx 2KM and you will spot the round tower on your right. You can park by the roadside opposite the field gate entrance. Beware of the bull!
Saturday, 12 October 2019
Old Mulhuddart Church Co Dublin
This forlorn little ruin is all that remains of the medieval parish church of Mulhuddart. More precisely the land is called Buzzardstown named after William Bossard, one of the Norman settlers. The church dates back to the fourteenth century with the tower being an addition possibly about a century later. The addition of the tower blocked the original entrance and so a new doorway was created in the North wall.
The church stands on a hill which once afforded fine views of the rural countryside but it now finds itself dwarfed by urbanisation. The church is dedicated to the virgin Mary as it is in close proximity to an important holy well which is now housed in a small chapel shaped structure on the roadside opposite the church. This well also gave a name to the local area of Ladyswell,
The church remained in use until the early 1600's although since the reformation mass could no longer be said there and so it was passed to the protestant community. A royal visit in 1615 had stated the the church was in good repair but with such a low protestant community to support it, the church finally fell in ruin as attested by Archbishop Bulkeley in 1630. It has remained a ruin since then.
I visited this site one day during a lunch break from work as it was close by. While not being awestruck by it, I did find the nature of the structure interesting, especially the vaulted lower room of the remains of the tower. A local tale tells of a company of men belonging to Col. Foulkes took refuge from a storm in the ruins in 1690 during the Williamite wars only to find themselves discovered by the Jacobites and killed outright. I felt that especially in the vaulted area there was still a tinge of something in the air that didn't seem quite right. I wasn't aware of the killings until later when researching the site but it still sticks with me that death had left a stain of some sort there.
What remains today are parts of the nave and chancel but most of the tower which would have been quite sturdy is non-extant. A modern graveyard has emerged beside the church which began around 1891. The old graveyard surrounding the ruins contains some very old stones. Access is easy by way of a swing gate at the roadside and the ruins are worth a visit if you happen to be in the area.
To find the ruins do as follows. From the junction with Snugborough Road at the North end of Blanchardstown village drive straight on towards the Shopping centre. When you reach the roundabout take the third exit and continue up this road until you reach a major junction with Blanchardstown Rd North. Continue straight across this junction and drive for approx 600m until you reach a right hand turn for Church Road with Circle K service station on your left. Turn right onto Church road and go straight ahead on the next roundabout. Approx 700m on after the roundabout you will see the graveyard on your right hand side. You can park alongside the graveyard wall
Thursday, 26 September 2019
Charleville Castle Co Offaly
Above Image: The entrance door
Above Image: The fabulous main stairs
Above Image: The great ballroom
Above Image: The door of the red room
Above Image: The octagonal ceiling in the red room
Above Image: The haunted staircase
Above Image: The library room
Above Image & Below Image: The ruined church
Above Image: Ruinous section of the castle
Chareleville is a wonderfully atmospheric and magnificent looking castle set deep in the forest of Charleville demesne. The castle has been partially restored through public donations and work is ongoing on the ruinous sections and the church.
In 1641 Thomas Moore built a fine mansion here and the estate later changed hands to Charles William Bury. In 1798 the Earl of Chareleville decided to build a new edifice and so the castle we see today was created between 1800 and 1812 from a design by architect Francis Johnston who is noted for designing the General Post Office building (GPO) in Dublin.
While the castle was not always occupied it was continuously improved upon and was host to many guests including Lord Byron.
From 1912 onward the castle was unoccupied and had its roof removed in the late 1960's. In 1971 restoration work began and later a charitable trust was formed. The trust is now under the management of Dudley Stewart and a host of volunteers handle the daily functions including tours of sections of the castle.
We contacted Dudley to enquire about a visit and he told us that currently there was activity at the castle so a proper tour might not be possible but he didn't dissuade us from coming.
when we arrived at the gates of the demesne we had to take a lengthy drive up a forest road to reach the castle. Along the way the were nice little touches in this atmospheric forest such as little hobbit-like doors in the tree trunks. Eventually the castle came into sight and it was magnificent.
The "activity" at the castle mentioned by Dudley was in fact a film crew shooting scenes for an Irish comedy horror which turned out to be the 2019 movie "Extra Ordinary" which in fact premieres this week. The film crew seemed oblivious to us and on advising them that Dudley had approved our visit we were offered coffee and told we could look around but be silent during the actual filming. We stayed a while but were really not able to move about much as the crew were set up in various locations. We decided then to take a look at the castle from the exterior and phoned Dudley to arrange a tour on the following week when the crew had completed filming.
We returned and were given an excellent tour by a young French girl who was one of the volunteers. She advised us that certain upper sections were Dudley's private apartments and so were inaccessible. Apparently the second floor is still in bad need of restoration.
The ruinous parts of the castle can only be viewed externally but the mix of ruin and restoration makes for a nice visit.
The castle has been the focus of paranormal investigation over the years and some of the volunteers have witnessed some events.We were shown a very creepy photo one of them took showing a spectral figure Notably, one of the back staircases is haunted by the ghost of a young girl called Harriet who in the late 19th century while trying to slide down the long banister fell to her death in the hallway below. Several visitors have claimed to have seen her on the stairs. The renowned photographer Simon Marsden visited here and was struck by the eeriness of some of the halls and rooms. He recorded this in his excellent book "The Twilight Hour: Celtic Visions From The Past"
A most unusual room is the octagonal red room and our guide advised that strange things have happened there. As it is a bedroom she had the opportunity to spend a night in there but she had not experienced anything strange. One occupant she told us heard something strange at the door and when he tried to open it he could not. He pounded on the door to no avail eventual damaging it and you can still see this today. His wife apparently had left the room and on hearing the commotion returned and had no trouble opening the door as it was unlocked.....
I must say I found the red room and indeed the library room both a bit creepy. I couldn't put my finger on it but they definitely had a vibe about them. In the library there is also a secret passage that leads to the old church. There are a few other secret closets and false doors along the way and I must say we really enjoyed the trip. The tour cost.8 Euro each which goes towards the running of and restoration of the castle. One tip though contact Dudley before you make a visit as there are times you may turn up and find it closed. The contact numbers are as follows: Landline 00 353 57 9323040 or Mobile 00 353 87 7664110
To find Charleville take the N80 heading Northwards to Tullamore from Portlaoise.and continue on this road for approx 40KM passing through Mountmellick and Killeigh. Approx. 6KM out of Killeigh you will reach a roundabout named the Clonminch roundabout. Turn left at the roundabout onto the N52 for Nenagh and Birr. Pass straight through the next two roundabouts. On the third roundabout named appropriately the Charleville roundabout turn right through the gates into Charleville demesne.A drive up the narrow forest road brings you directly to the castle where you can park, Be aware that along the forest road there are several speed bumps which are not that obvious and even at slow speeds can be a bit jarring when not expected.
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