A guide to the best and sometimes off the beaten track historical ruins around Ireland and how to get there.
Thursday, 21 May 2020
Old Kiltartan Church Co Galway
This medieval church ruin lies a little over two miles North of Gort in County Galway. The church is dedicated to St. Attracta a contemporary of St. Patrick.The dedication is a little surprising as the patron saint in this area is generally St. Colman and a number of places have been named after him. His remains are buried in the nearby site of Kilmacduagh (see previous post here).
While the church commemorates St. Attracta the townland of Kiltartan is taken from the Gaelic Cill Tartain, or Church of Tartan.
We found the ruin while travelling in the area and stopped for a look. It was sited in an oval shaped walled enclosure. where a metal swing gate allows easy entry into the cemetery. The peace and solitude of this location is almost deafening, the silence broken only by the occasional crows that seem to congregate for some reason in graveyards.
You can enter the ruin by way of a nicely arched doorway in the North wall which is gated but thankfully unlocked.
The remains measure approx 65' x 25' and all walls are standing although there is some degree of deterioration on The West gable which also has a growth of the dreaded ivy attached to it.
Inside the ground is a bit rough underfoot but there are quite a few graveslabs peppering the floor which aid in moving around. A very tall and prominent yew tree is growing within the walls..
In the inner North wall an arched recess is located containing a crucifix and what looks to be the remains of the font from the church. This recess at first I thought might been a Sedlia or seating for priests but on closer inspection appears to be a Tomb Niche.
There are several narrow windows in the church but the most interesting is the triple lighted window of the East wall which is the most decorative.
Local history records that the church was used as a protestant church after the reformation and when it fell into ruin is unclear. Two facts available are that it is listed as ruinous in 1837 on the Ordnance Survey map of that time and also that a new larger Protestant church was built in Ballyhugh, Gort around 1810. So the larger church may have taken the congregation and closed up the smaller church as was the case with many small churches at that time..
To find the ruin take the N66 heading North on the main street out of the village of Gort and when you reach the roundabout take the third exit signposted for the R458 to Ardrahan. Drive for approx 2.5KM until you have passed through a small crossroads with the L8525. About 80m past this a small road forks to the left. Turn onto this road and continue for another 100m where it forks again. Stick to the left hand fork and you will find the ruins on your right approx 300m ahead. You can park easily enough in the small car park adjacent to the ruin.
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