Friday 4 December 2020

Old Killary Church Co Meath


                                          Above Image: The roadside entrance

                                              Above Image: Graveyard entrance

                                               Above Image: North gate (exterior)

                                               Above Image: South gate (interior)

                                          Above Image: Cross base within church

                                              Above Image: Gate of mausoleum

                                      Above Image: Three stone steps in North wall

                                             Above Image: South gate (exterior)

                                           Above Image: High cross shaft & base

                                            Above Image: Cross shaft West face

                                            Above Image: Cross shaft East face

                                                 Above Image: Standing stone

                                     Above Image: Damage marks on face of stone

                                     Above Image: Skull & crossbones grave slab

This medieval church dates back prior to the 14th century as it was mentioned in the ecclesiastical taxation report for Pope Nicholas IV made during the period 1302-1306.
It was a functioning parish church at least up to the dissolution and was dedicated to St Ivarii. The church was in ruins by the time of the Irish confederate war in the 1640's
We have come across quite a few church ruins in County Meath during our summer expeditions between the Covid lockdowns this year. Quite a number are on back roads or in this case secreted away from the road up a narrow laneway. We chose to visit this one in particular because the grounds also contained a few interesting features.
Firstly. the church ruins which are positioned in the centre of an walled enclosure, consist of a divided nave and chancel with a great deal of the walls still extant apart from the East wall which is now at foundation level. Two doorways stand opposite each other in the North and South walls with the remains of the base of a high cross just inside the Southern doorway. The absence of a church roof ensures this base is always full of water in the aperture at the top where the shaft was formerly inserted giving it the look of either a font of a large bullaun stone.
A little set of three stone steps lead up through the North wall which may have been another doorway to the exterior or a now non-extant extension. A mausoleum with a lintelled doorway and a dedication from 1818 to one Patrick Russell is located within the North was on the East end of the ruins.
Within the grounds just to the North West of the church are the remains of a high cross. What is present is the base and shaft. There are some interesting depictions from the Old Testament carved on the East face namely from bottom to top Adam & Eve, Noah's Ark ,The sacrificing of Isaac and Daniel in the Lion's den. The West face depicts scenes from the New Testament which are The annunciation to the Shepherds, Jesus's baptism, Adoration of the Magi and the Marriage at Cana. 
Elsewhere in the grounds you can find a curious grave slab located just South of the church walls possibly two to three centuries old which has carved upon it a skull and crossbones with a heart in the centre and also just about visible beneath the bird droppings an hour glass and a bell. I have come across similar stones such as these around the country and they apparently are supposed to depict mortality and a reminder to those viewing that they too will one day succumb to inevitable demise.
One last item we came across was a standing stone located on the perimeter path to the South of the ruins. It is leaning at a slight angle and stands approx one metre in height. The surface on its West face appears to have been damaged by some implement or other as someone tried unsuccessfully to forcibly remove it.
The ruins and indeed the graveyard lie silent and we were not disturbed during our visit as we have been on occasion in the past when visiting out of the way sites, usually by well-meaning locals who are just curious as to what you are up to.
To find the ruins take the N52 heading North East from Kells towards Ardee.and drive for aprox 22KM then take a right turn onto the L1604 signposted for Lobinstown. Continue for approx 2.2KM and look for a narrow laneway on your left with a single stone pillar and open metal gate. it can be easily missed on this narrow winding road so drive slowly and you should spot it eventually. There is a photo of the lane entrance above for reference. Drive up the lane and you can park outside the graveyard at the top,

Sunday 8 November 2020

Dunseverick Castle Co Antrim

                                    Above Image: The ruins on the basalt outcrop.

                                                Above Image: Scant remains

          Above Image: Print by Jean Watson circa 1879 displaying parts now non-extant

Set strategically on a large basalt rock outcrop on the dramatic Northern Irish coast lie the scant remains of Dunseverick Castle. It is thought to have been constructed in the the 15th century by the O'Donnell's who were preceded by the O'Cathain's and McQuillan's. Indeed the O'Cathain's held ownership here from 1000AD for over 300 years then regaining control in the mid 16th century. 

In 1642 General Robert Munro, a veteran of the Thirty Years War, took hold of the Castle by force as he did with many castles in his Ulster campaign during the Irish Confederate wars and almost destroyed it. An attack occurred again in the early 1650's when Cromwellian troops completed the task leaving only the remains of a gatehouse and small tower which they had failed to uproot from the ground. The remains suffered another loss in 1978 when subsidence caused the collapse of a small attached tower into sea below.

The site at Dunseverick is a very old an important one in that it was the terminal point of the fifth ancient road from Tara, seat of the High Kings. It was known as the Slige Miiuachra. Legend has it that St Patrick also passed through here in the 5th century.

It is possible to get up close to the ruins by way of a rough track leading from the wooden stile at the roadside just before a car parking area which is adjacent to the rocky outcrop. The route is an offshoot of the causeway cliff walk and although it's only a short walk to the castle it is quite a steep walk up a grassy track to get to the rocky summit. I wouldn't advise doing so after rainfall or in any windy weather as it could increase the chance of losing your foothold. But if you do reach the ruins you will find it worth the effort if only for the dramatic sea views from there.

Not much remains now of the castle just a few shards of former walls. The the small tower that appears to be attached in older prints subsided into the sea in the same manner as the kitchen of nearby and very striking Dunluce Castle (see earlier post here) I am led to believe that a well also existed on the northern side of the former castle but it too seems to have succumbed to the ravages of time and no doubt the earlier destruction of the castle.

The causeway coast is so rich in history and antiquity and is worth spending a few days exploring. The seascapes are also very dramatic looking out where the North Channel joins the North Atlantic.

To find the ruins take the B15 out of Ballycastle and continue on to Ballintoy. Drive through Ballintoy and the road becomes the B147 so continue on for approx 9.5KM until you see a sign pointing right for the R146 to Dunseverick. Turn right here and continue for approx 1.8KM and you will eventually spot the ruins on your right. There are a small group of bungalows at the roadside and a parking area is signposted to the right just past them. Then to get to the ruins simply walk a short distance back along the road you came and you will see the wooden stile beside a field gate that allows access.

Tuesday 6 October 2020

Grangegeeth Castle Co Meath


                                    Above Image: Remains of East and North walls

                                                     Above Image: West gable

                                          Above Image: Slit window in North wall

                        Above image: Window in separate wall West adjacent to gable

                         Above Image: Castle as was illustrated on Down Survey map
                                                 placed on modern map.

A peculiar site this in the fact that the castle tower that stood here is now non-extant but that the walls of a once attached house appear to remain. 
The possibility of the present ruins here being of a later buildings than the castle cannot be overlooked but judging by reference to old maps there is still a likelihood.that this was part of the castle complex.
The original tower was apparently embellished by four round corner towers and stood a few metres from the roadside directly behind the current ruins and adjacent to it there was also a well. Somebody out there might be able to elaborate upon this and any information is welcome about the origin of these remnants,
The castle would probably have been built in the latter medieval times and the lands were depicted as having a house attached without roofing on a very old hand drawn map made by the Down Survey in 1654. The lands of Grangegeeth were owned by Mellifont Abbey (see earlier post here) but then went to Sir Edward Moore after the dissolution and to his son 1st Viscount Garret Moore in 1603. After Garret's death in 1627 they passed to his son Lord Charles Moore who died in a battle in the Confederate rebellion in 1643. Whatever fate the castle subsequently suffered or who indeed had resided there is not clear but it was certainly non-extant by 1778 according to historical maps of the time. The ordnance survey of 1837 (a most valuable resource) indicates the site of the former castle even going as far to depict a line drawing of the foundations. I checked the field for the possibility of some remains but as expected nothing is visible above ground. 
To find the ruins take the N2 North of the crossroads in Slane village and drive for approx 5KM until you see a crossroads with a left turn onto the L5605. Turn left here and drive down the L5605 for approx 3KM and you will see the ruins by the roadside. You can park beside a field gate here.

Wednesday 16 September 2020

Old Dulane Church Co Meath

                                         Above Image: Main road entrance gate

                                      Above Image: The entrance gate of enclosure

                                        Above & Below Image: Cylcopean doorway

                                     Above Image: Vertical arrow sharpening marks 

                                           Above & Below Image: Antae on walls

                                           Above Image: Outer Southern doorway

                                           Above Image: Inner Southern doorway

                                                      Above Image: Stone font

                                        Above image: Cross base among bushes

                                           Above Image: possible standing stone?

The very ancient remains of Dulane church have left us little of the building but a number of interesting features. The date of origin of the church is not clear but it is thought to be no later than 919AD. It was dedicated to St Cairnech a son of a British Chieftain who arrived in Ireland not long after St Patrick. He may have founded the site here and a stone church may have been in existence before 919AD. One way or the other it would have been ransacked by the Vikings and later in 1171 by Dermod McMurrough under the Norman invasion. McMurrough would die that year at the very old age especially for that time of 81. By the 13th century Dulane had become a parish church under the auspices of Kells but was out of service and in ruin by the early 17th century.
The remains of the church visible today are standing on elevated ground within a D-shaped graveyard which has now been extended on its Northern end to accommodate more recent burials 
The ruins are situated away from the main road at the end of a narrow laneway and we had no trouble finding parking at the enclosure gate.
My first impression of the ruins which looked rather scant was the type of stones used to construct it. The West wall is constructed of large blocks (Cyclopean is the term I believe for these) particularly the doorway where a lintel is replaced by two huge blocks. The South wall has large blocks on the Antae (extensions of the walls beyond the gable) on Its West end and with tracings on the East end. The Antae of the non-extant North wall is partially present. Both of the extant walls are sunken somewhat below present ground level, although the undulating ground within this graveyard has probably added to this.
A Second doorway is present in the South wall and the wall surrounding it over its arch may have been rebuilt later as the stones are smaller than the blocks at the base of the wall. 
On the interior of the church there is a small stone font set into the wall East of the South doorway 
On the inner right hand side of the West door are long incisions in the upright blocks which are attributed to arrow sharpening.
A couple of other features we spotted here were the base of an old stone cross which is now obsured on either side by some out of control topiary bushes and by a grave stone on the East side. You can just about see it poking through and it lies a few yards North East of the church. Also present is a strange leaning stone with some indents on its East side which could be a standing stone, although it is of a defined shape and although I checked the old ordnance survey maps it doesn't merit a mention.
To find the ruins take the M3 motorway West towards Kells and as the motorway ends just before Kells take the third exit off the roundabout and then the first exit on the following roundabout onto the N52. Continue on this road through the next roundabout and on the subsequent roundabout take the first exit heading Northwards on the R164. Drive for approx 2KM  and when you pass Murray Ward accountants on your left, take the next right turn. Drive down this road for approx 350m and you will see on your left two metal gates between two pillars, The gate on the right is usually unlocked and you just need to open it so you can drive up to the small parking area at the end of the lane.


Friday 14 August 2020

Rathkenny Churches Co Meath

                                              Above Image: The entrance gate

                                         Above Image: West wall entrance door

                                Above Image: Fragments, some from medieval church

                                        Above Image: Fireplace in North wall interior

                                                       Above Image: Apse (interior) 

                                                  Above Image: Apse (exterior)

                                              Above Image: Mausaleum remains.

                                            Above Image: Possible old gate posts?

                                        Above Image: Remains of 1869 Church

                                  Above & Below Images: Main doorway of church

                                     Above & Below Images: Unidentified fragments

                                       Above & Below Images: The medieval font


This was originally to be two separate posts but I discovered that they are linked by one feature.
The old church ruin in Rathkenny's older graveyard is recorded as being an 18th century Church of Ireland construct which was built upon the site of a former medieval church dating back prior to the 14th century. The older church which had been dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary was in ruins by 1682 and is now non-extant although locals have said that grave digging in the cemetery has exposed  possible foundations that give the impression that the medieval church may have been bigger than the later extant ruins. (There was also said to have been another old church 900m East of the this graveyard opposite the Lacken Bar that shows absolutely no trace of itself today.) 
The only remains from the medieval church visible in the graveyard are some small fragments from a door projection and part of a sill. These appear to have been placed within the 18th century church along with some other odds and ends. 
The extant ruins of the later COI church are situated on elevated ground with a back drop of nearby Simpson's mountain. The church has all walls intact and has at its Eastern face an apse in the wall. This is the first large apse I have encountered as most of the small church ruins I have visited have flat walls. The apse is a semicircular recess which is concave within the church and concave on the exterior. There is a large window in the centre of this.
The entrance in the West wall has a nicely decorative Georgian style doorway with steps leading up to it. Both North and South walls have two windows each while unusually there is a fireplace in the interior North wall. 
Outside on the South East corner of the apse there are the remains of a barrel-vaulted mausoleum which has been blocked up with rubble and this sits atop a chamber which is a few feet underground.
The 18th century ruins are within an enclosed graveyard on a quiet side road. Approx 330m Southwest is another graveyard this one more modern which contains the impressive remains of the entire South wall of the 19th century Rathkenny church built in 1869 but disused and dismantelled in 1974. A new modern church lies a short distance South of this. What remains are two tall square towers on either side of a decorative central arch. There is a central doorway and two porch recesses, one in the base of each tower. the Western recess has a grotto installed while the Eastern recess holds a connection to the old medieval church just up the road. This one last remnant from the said church is part of the underside and partially damaged basin of a stone font which has been given a home here as its parent structure no longer exists. It was once believed it might have come from the other older church to the East which there is no trace of but it's more likely from the nearer medieval site. This font was to me the highlight of the visit as it ties together the ecclesiastical history of Rathkenny. 
This was a particularly enjoyable visit as we were allowed to travel outside our county for the first time since the covid lockdown. As for social distancing you can't get better than being the only two visitors!  
Rathkenny lies in a very picturesque part of County Meath and both church sites are well worth taking time out to see.
To find the ruins take the N2 North toward Slane and when you reach the main crossroads in Slane village (crossing with the N51) turn left and drive for approx 1.8KM and take a right hand turn onto the R163 (which is opposite the gate into Slane castle). Continue on this road for approx 5.2KM and you will reach a crossroads with a pub and shop on the left hand corner. Turn left here and drive for approx 4KM and you will reach Rathkenny Cross. The Twin towered church remains with the font are on you right hand side while the 18th century ruins are 1KM up the right hand turn at the crossroads, Parking is not a problem at both sites. Access to both graveyards are by unlocked gates although there is the addition of an elaborate stile at the medieval site.