Monday 17 May 2021

Minard Castle Co Kerry


                                                 Above Image: Entrance point

                                        Above Image: Part of a mural passageway

                                 Above Image & Below Image: Photos taken in 1991

Minard castle is certainly one of the most scenically placed fortresses in Ireland. It stands on a high promontory overlooking Kilmurry bay with the stunning acres point to its east and the distant Iveragh peninsula to the South.

The castle is believed to have been built by the Fitzgerald's in the 15th century It is thought that it originally stood three or possibly four storeys high but tragically in 1650 during the Cromwellian invasion of Ireland and while it was garrisoned by Walter Hussey of Dingle, it fell siege to the cannons of English Colonels Sadler and Lehunt. Hussey's men held firm despite the few weapons available to them but the cannons could not bring down the castle. Finally a huge amount of explosives were ignited below the walls and seriously damaged Minard killing all within. The very unstable look of the base of the ruins today attests to this assault. The remains though have stood the test of time, weather beaten by the Atlantic storms from the Southwest that batter the storm bay below. 

A barely visible track leads up the raised ground from the location of the information notice just off the approach road. About halfway up a small wire fence holds a rudimentary notice warning of the unstable ruins but is easily stepped over. Care of course should be given but I think the danger of slipping on wet grass is a more likely endangerment here.

The entrance is on what remains of the West face which overlooks the bay and a short passage brings you to the interior. Not much is left but it is interesting to see the layout of former floors and parts of some mural corridors that the castle one sported. They certainly blew this place to smithereens.

Incidentally, the castle made a brief appearance in the 1970 David Lean film "Ryan's Daughter" where Rosie has her first meeting with Major Doryan.

It really surprises me that these ruins have remained extant for so long given the location. Some of the more recent and damaging storms have destroyed ruins much further inland, for example, Coolbanagher Castle in Co. Laois which suffered great damage in 2014 so much so that the council demolished the remaining ruins as they were deemed too unsafe. 

Minard is a testament to its builders and I hope it remains a sentinel over the bay for many years to come. 

To find the ruins take the N86 heading West from Annascaul toward Annalack and about 500m out of Annascaul take the left hand turn signposted for the R561 to Castlemaine..Drive for 400m then take a right hand turn onto a narrow road and continue for approx 4KM. You will clearly see the ruins on your left upon approach. There is a small car parking area at Minard beach about 100m before the castle.

Wednesday 5 May 2021

Ballitore Mill Co Kildare


                                            Above Image: View from the R747

                                           Above Image: South facing main block

                                         Above Image: Western six storey tower

                            Above Image: East facing block and adjoining buildings

                                    Above Image: River Griese and old entry gate

This ruin on the outskirts of Ballitore in Co. Kildare poses a striking presence on its surroundings. Ballitore translates from original Gaelic to "Town of the Marsh".

The ruins are the remains of a once productive flour mill founded in 1834 by George Shackleton (1785-1871) who was the grand uncle of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton.

The Shackleton's were part of the local Quaker community that began with the founding of the village of Ballitore by Quakers from Yorkshire. The first two immigrants John Bancroft and Abel Strettel began farming the area in 1685.

The Shackleton mill was a huge building composed of rubble stone with four storeys and a six storey section on the West end that looks to all intents and purposes like a medieval castle tower. The building was designed with specifically designed wall openings that aided in the proper air circulation needed to keep the stored flour dry. According to a local Historian the mill ran productively for nearly forty years until its closure in 1873 when production moved to the Anna Liffey mills near Lucan in Dublin. This mill ran until 1998 and the modern Shackleton mill is now located in  Ashbourne Co. Meath.

The Ballitore mill is now without a roof and in ruin with its East wall destroyed. The ancillary buildings  that ran alongside the river have also partly collapsed. There is a small iron gate beside the river that was an access point but it is now signposted, as is the main building, with prohibitive signs warning of falling masonry. Regardless it is still possible to get quite close to parts of the structure without endangerment.

This great hulk now slowly crumbles beside the River Griese which is a pity as it represents a time in Irish history when industrialization was in its infancy especially in the rural countryside and if funded it could have been at least partially restored and along with the interesting Quaker museum in the village provided an enhanced experience for the visitor.

It might not strike one as being a particularly beautiful building but it is nonetheless aesthetically pleasing in some ways.Thanks go to Pauline Fagan the librarian in the museum for her kind assistance on some aspects of this post. The museum if you would like to visit after seeing the ruins is in the main street and is open Weds-Sat 10am-1pm, 2pm-5pm except Thurs which the hours are 12.30pm-4pm, 4.45pm-8pm. Free to visit.

To find the ruin take the M9 motorway and exit at junction 3. At the roundabout at the top take the exit onto the R747 following the sign for Ballitore. Drive for approx 2.25KM until you reach a T-junction with the R448. Turn left at the junction and drive until you reach the first left hand turn signposted for the L8035 to Ballitore. Turn left onto this road and when you reach a small crossroads a few metres on turn left again (Timolin Terrace) Drive for approx 250m and take the fist right turn onto a narrow road (Fuller's Court Rd) and you will see the ruins about 200m ahead on the left. You can park at the area outside the building itself.