Saturday 30 September 2023

Old Kilmore Church Valentia Island Co Kerry


Above Image: Iron railing denotes former nave
                                          Above Image: View up the tower interior

                                             Above Image: The arched doorway

In the far Southwest of Ireland on the Skellig coast lies the Island of Valentia, a small but un-spoilt corner of the country. The Island not unlike Achill in County Mayo is very close to the mainland and is reached either by bridge or a short five minute journey on a car ferry.
It was on Valentia that we found the rather lonely looking tower of old Kilmore church which served its community for a short period in the 19th century.
It was built during the time of the Board of First Fruits, an institution of the Church of Ireland designed through grants to fund the founding of and improvement of its churches in Ireland.
Kilmore was completed in 1815. It was designed by James Pain and purposed to hold up to sixty people. Years later it became too small to accommodate the growing congregation and so a newer larger church dedicated to St. John the Baptist was constructed in 1860 within the island's singular village, Knightstown.
The old church fell into rack and ruin by the turn of the century after decades of dereliction until finally later in the 2oth century, the nave was completely demolished leaving only the tower as a sentinel to the graveyard it inhabits. An iron railing maps the outline of the now demolished nave.
The ruin is located just off a narrow road the leads from Knightstown towards the lighthouse at Cromwell Point. A small iron pedestrian gate gives access from the roadside and the tower stands on elevated ground within. It stretches three stages in height and is silhouetted against Kilbeg mountain in  the backround. We found the remains of an arched doorway in the South facing wall and within you can see right up through the tower to the now open top. The summit of the tower has a castellated design.
It's a lonely spot in a bucolic setting and the wind seems to swirl in circles around the tower adding to the feeling of solitude that exudes from the place.
To find the ruin, leave from the pier at Knightstown turning left at the Royal Hotel and then driving approx. 250m until you reach a fork in the road at the newer church gate. Take the right hand fork (which is School Road) and drive approx. 1KM and you will see the tower on your left. You can park off road at the gate. Alternatively if you are crossing the bridge from Portmagee take the R565 and drive until you reach the said church gate in Knightstown, then follow the previous directions down School Road towards the tower.