A guide to the best and sometimes off the beaten track historical ruins around Ireland and how to get there.
Friday, 26 June 2020
Chapelmidway Church Co Dublin
Chapelmidway draws its name from its location which is halfway between St. Margaret's and Kilsallaghan both also recorded as being ecclesiastical sites.
The remains of this medieval church circa early 15th century are situated on elevated ground within a walled enclosure.The Church which was in use certainly up to the dissolution of Irish
monasteries and churches by Henry VIII between 1536-1541 was recorded in 1615 as being ruinous. The final nail in the coffin was struck by Cromwellian forces who mostly destroyed it in 1649 as they moved towards Drogheda. In later years the grounds were used for burials with the earliest stone recorded here as being from 1740.
A narrow lane leads up to graveyard from the roadside and we were greeted on both sides by barking dogs who sprang into action literally at the sound of a leaf being trod on. To be fair they were in adjacent garden enclosures which were fenced and so presented no physical inconvenience to the us.
On first sight of the ruin it appears to be a square structure with a doorway in East side and the remains of a narrow tower on the East/North Corner. On looking inside the doorway the chamber within was quite small, too small for a church and had what looked to be the remains of a fireplace on the inner West wall. Strangely too, the room was vaulted and from this I could only assume that this was a supplementary part of the church and not the main nave or chancel. As I discovered later it is in fact the remains of quite a large West tower and what I thought to be a small tower on the corner was actually remains of the East/North corner of this larger tower. Evidence is also present of an extended building with the sloped mark of a former roof on the taller part of the East wall. Apparently a reasonably large church had once been attached as some of its foundations were discovered almost 25 feet to the East of the ruins.There is also evidence of a former staircase on the outer South wall leading up above the vaulted chamber.This area is partially covered in ivy.
The ruins that have survived have left us a most unusual looking structure and are well worth a look. Hidden from view now by the modern housing on the roadside it would be so easily overlooked but once you enter the enclosure it is just feels soaked in history.
To find the ruins take the junction 5 exit for Finglas from the M50 onto the N2. Once on the N2 drive approx 500m and take the exit left for Coldwinters. This leads to a T-junction where you turn right and drive 1.4Km to Kilshane Crossroads. Turn right here and drive to the next roundabout where you turn left onto the R122. Drive on for approx 1.2KM and then take a left at the sign pointing to St Margaret's (R122). A few metres on you reach a T-junction. Turn right here and follow this road until you have passed a left hand turn signposted for Mulhuddart (R121). 500m further on you will reach a small row of bungalows on your left. The lane way up to the ruins lies between the 2nd and 3rd house. There is just enough room to park at the foot of the lane.
Monday, 15 June 2020
O'Brien's Tower Co Clare
Above Image & Below Image: Views of the Cliffs
Cornelius O'Brien a wealthy landowner of the estate of Birchfield and of some 10,000 acres was a parliamentarian representing County Clare for around 20 years beginning in 1832. His legacy appears to live in the existence of this tower and the various improvements he paid for in making it accessible to visitors more than in the fact that he was a well to do landlord. Many speak today of his treatment of the tenantry in harsher words than those in the day who applauded his vision of early tourism.
The castellated tower was a folly he built to impress visitors and indeed some of his lady friends as well with it's commanding views of the famed Cliffs of Moher
There was apparently also a tearoom built inside along with a staircase to the top and a large cast iron table outside. He built the tower in 1835 and with new pathways leading to it attracted flocks of people. The tower over time was weathered by the salt air sweeping in from the Atlantic and in 1970 it was decided to renovate it and open a small visitor centre nearby. Between 2005 and 2007 a larger brand new centre was constructed into the landscape and covered over so that it blended pleasingly into its surroundings
Today you can visit the centre and if by car it will cost 8 Euro per adult for entry, a price I find a bit punchy if I might say. This fee includes entrance to the centre, car parking and access to the cliffs. To enter O'Brien's Tower it is another 4 Euro. But truth be told the views at ground level are spectacular enough. I like the look of this little tower as it stands like a sentinel above the vast ocean that sweeps up against the cliffs with the next port of call just above the 53rd parallel being Belle island off the North coast of Newfoundland.
If you are on foot you can bypass the visitor centre and it is on an honour system that you will pay at the centre. Locals tell me that it is a right of way to the cliffs and have never been asked to show a ticket. But if you wish to have the visitor experience inside you can always opt to pay at the visitor centre itself.
We were impressed by both the new pathways and the views from there. The tower is well worth a visit and I have heard that since my visit it has been newly rendered with lime to match how it originally looked, From the tower area you can look down also on the magnificent sea stack called "An Branan Mor" and the distant Hags Head which I hope to visit as soon as this pesky virus moves on.
One word of advice try and visit early in the morning or late evening to avoid crowds, tour buses etc.
This site can become extremely busy at times.
To find the tower take the N67 South from Lisdoonvrna and follow the signs for the cliffs. Approx 2Km out of the village take a right hand turn onto the R478 again following the "Cliff" signs. Drive for approx 8KM on the R478 until you see the car park on the left. This is where you pay the entrance fee, so if you are just walking up to the cliffs only then it would be advisable for the driver only to park the car and join the others on foot as the charge applies to each person in the car. Alternatively if visiting during June - August a shuttle bus serves several towns to the cliffs. See info here https://www.cliffsofmoher.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Cliffs_of_Moher_Shuttle_Bus.pdf and prices here https://bookings.cliffsofmoher.ie/
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