Wednesday 3 July 2024

Mountcashel Castle Co Clare


                                   Above Image: South East aspect facing the road

                                               Above Image: North East aspect


Mountcashel Castle or Ballymulcashel Castle as it is sometimes referred to lies in the townland of that name in County Clare. It is believed to have been constructed around 1466AD by the then King of Thomond, Conor O'Brien who died C. 1496.
The castle's history is sketchy but it's resilience down the centuries is plainly evident by it's reasonable condition today. It was certainly inhabited until the early 17th century and later the records of the Ordnance Survey Letters of 1839 state it's condition at that time as being good. So it would appear it did not suffer any exterior damage over the centuries particularly during the Cromwellian invasion nearly two hundred years earlier.
The tower stands high on a rocky base and consists of five storeys. There is a spiral staircase serving all floors positioned in the South Eastern corner. 

It would seem that for a time it became uninhabited and fell into disrepair but it was partially restored in the 1960's and was later put up for sale in the summer of 1979. The conditions within the castle were not particularly homely and so more work was later done resulting in another attempt of sale in 2019. The purchase price was a mere 90,000 euros for the castle and the land on which it is sited.
The tower is clearly visible from the roadside but is not i'm afraid open to the public. But you can still get a good view of its exterior.
To find the tower take the junction 5 exit off the N18 onto the R462 signposted for Sixmilebridge and drive approx. 6KM until you reach Sixmilebridge. Continue straight through the town on the R462 for another 3KM and you will see the tower on your left. We parked just beyond the tower at the wall of a farm bungalow. We first visited this castle in 1991 as the first photo above shows. It has not changed much in 30 years.

GPS:  52.768912,  -8.776763

Wednesday 29 May 2024

St. Patrick's Well Blessington Co Wicklow


                                        Above Image: Direction sign at the lane

                                          Above Image: The lane way to the well

                    Above Image & Below Image: The entrance gate & Steps downward

                                              Above & Below Image: The well

This holy well is one of those I have come across on trips around the country and now and then I like to record them as they can bring focus to local history and of those who availed of them over the centuries.
Immediately of note is the name given to this particular well hidden off the main road in Blessington  Whether St. Patrick visited here is long lost in time but the naming of the well must have at least some significance. It is not too far from Burgage which itself has a lot of history attached. 

Originally situated in meadowland the well was over the years visited by people in search of hope and perhaps healing from its water. By the nineteenth century it had been upgraded and from 1825 provided a supply of water to the town for a good number of years. The townland is known as Millbank and a corn mill had once stood nearby but with the coming of the reservoir and dam at Poulaphuca it was submerged by the waters and the road leading to it closed off by a barrier.

The well became overgrown with some rough steps and a dangerous wall until in 2004 a joint operation between some like-minded locals led by Aidan Cruise and the Electricity Supply Board resulted in the restoration of the well, the steps and brand new supporting walls. It was finally made accessible to all but still remains hidden off the main road. A quick study of some local mapping led us to the old lane and the metal entrance gate. There is a commerorative sign on the wall outside and a set of steps down to the alcove in which the well lies. It is a quiet and reflective spot here and not too far from the lake. I am led to believe that it was the victim of some vandalism a while back some time after our visit and it also appears the access lane is on the cards for some upgrading by the Council. So I would be interested to know if it is still currently accessible.

To find the well take the N81 West from Tallaght towards Blessington (approx 12 miles). Drive through the Town until you have passed the tower of St. Mary's church on your left then take the next left hand turn onto Kilbride Road. Drive approx 150 metres until you see a sign on your right pointing to the well. The road splits here on the right with the old abandoned lane sloping downwards and the well entrance on the right hand side. We parked on the road just above the lane entrance.

Wednesday 8 May 2024

O'Connell's Rock Co Dublin


                          Above Image: The site of the rock (In greenery on the right)

                                                   Above Image: The inscription.







                                          Above Image: Ruins of Carhan House

                                        Above Image: Memorial bust of O'Connell

West of Glencullen nestled amongst the vegetation at the foot of a forest on a road skirting the Glendhu Valley is a large misshapen boulder known as O'Connells's Rock. The rock bears an inscription including the date "23rd July 1823" and commemorates the spot where Daniel O'Connell the great Liberator made an early speech to the local community while on a visit to his daughter who was married to a local landowner. A large group of people it seems were celebrating Garland Sunday (in anticipation of harvest time) and so O'Connell seized the moment and climbed up upon the huge rock and spoke to the crowd of his oncoming crusade for the liberation of Catholics and a repeal to the 1801 act of union.
O'Connell was born in 1775 just outside Cahersiveen in County Kerry and while there last summer we visited the memorial garden and saw the ruins of his birthplace (Carhan house, built 1770)
On his personal crusade he organised what would be known popularly as "Monster meetings" with one of the largest taking place at the Hill of Tara in County Meath with an incredible three quarters of a million attendees. Borne out of his repeal movement emancipation was achieved in 1829 but he unfortunately died in Genoa in 1843 with the act of union still in place and an Irish parliament for Irish people unachieved.
O'Connell's rock is easily accessible and was unknown to me until recently. A 15 minute drive from my home brought me to this mostly overlooked historical site and I was glad I sought it out. There are many hiking trails around this area and many thousands of people must have stopped on their way to have a look. In exploring this area over the years I must have driven by several times and not considered it any different from many other rocks strewn around what was once a glacial valley. There are probably many more interesting sites I have yet to discover in this particular area. And I look forward to doing so.
To find O'Connell's Rock follow this route. The easiest direction is from the crossroads at Johnnie Fox's pub in Glencullen heading West on the Ballybrack Road (R116). Drive a little over 4KM until you see a field gate entrance to a driveway on your left with a sign stating Glendhu Farm. The rock is directly opposite this gate a couple of metres back from the roadside. There is really no safe place to park on this road except at the farm entrance gate but it can't be blocked either so be prepared to move quickly. We had enough time to examine the rock but as we were leaving a land river pulled up to enter the gate so bear that in mind.

GPS:   53°13'58.7"N 6°16'35.0"W

Sunday 31 March 2024

St Maelruan's Tower & Monastery Site Co Dublin


                                            Above Image: View from main gate

                                        Above Image: Exterior steps to first floor

                                        Above Image: Granite cross West facing.

                                          Above Image: Granite cross East facing.


                                       Above & Below Images: St Maelruan's Losset

                       Above Image: Part of the remains of the monastery embankment

                         Above Image: Tallaght Castle now incorporated into the priory


There is an abundance of history in and around the village of Tallaght and the Dominican priory at it's centre is the tail end of almost 1300 years of ecclesiastical history in the village which began in 769AD with the foundation of a monastery by St. Maelruan. In 1223 the Archbishop commissioned a palace to be built which in 1329 fortified against attack from the Wicklow clans. A tall castle tower was also constructed for further protection. The monastery slowly deteriorated over the years until in 1720 the then Archbishop had all but the castle tower torn down and a new Archbishops residence built. The castle tower now is the only remaining construct of the old site and has been incorporated into the current priory buildings.
Adjacent to the monastery site lies the church of St Maelruan which was constructed in 1829 by the board of first fruits and standing beside it is the tower of the non-extant medieval parish church. The tower stands four stories high with an external stairs leading to the first floor. Within, a spiral stairs reaches to the other floors. The third floor has a vaulted ceiling and above it a bell cote. The interior of the tower is generally not open to view.
Within the church grounds left of the main gate are a couple of remnants from the old monastic site. The first is the 60" wide St. Maelruan's Losset. It was probably named so as it's shape rembles that of an old wooden utensil for kneading bread. This granite losset was more than likely originally a font. The second item is just South of the Losset and is a 36" high granite cross on a circular base with an arm width of approx 22". Local lore is that it marks St. Maelruans burial spot.
As an aside, part of the old fosse embankment belonging to the monastery is still visible from the car park of the retail area behind the church. I eventually located it between DID electrical and Smyth's Toys. A small OPW plaque had been placed to mark it but had been moved further down by the property management just causing confusion. But eventually I informed them of it's relation to the monastery and they seemed surprised but said they would move it back. The tower of the Tallaght castle can be seen from the private car park of the retreat house in the priory grounds. We entered not by the main gate to the priory but through the side gate down the laneway on the Eastern boundary. We didn't meet any opposition to us photographing it and our visit was brief.

To find the site take the N81 towards Tallaght and upon reaching the junction with Old Bawn Road (R113) turn right into the village. Continue straight on through the next two sets of traffic lights and you will find the church gates on your left just past Fanagan's funeral home. You can park safely enough just outside the gate.

Saturday 2 March 2024

Old Knocksink Dam Co Wicklow


                                             Above Image: The track entrance

                                          Above & Below Image: The forest track

                                         Above Image: First sight of the remains

                                         Above & Below Images The Dam remains

                                     Above Image: Arch below the Knocksink bridge


                      Above Image: A fallen tree in Bog Meadow gives the appearance 

                                             of some huge sylvan creature grazing

I have always found that half of the joy in ruin hunting is finding historical remains no matter how large or small in hidden spots or out of sight in normal everyday places. Knocksink dam falls directly into this category.
The Knocksink bridge (1859) is located on the cusp of Enniskerry where the Glencullen river beneath winds through the extensive Knocksink woods from the Dublin mountains.
Probably no more than 100 metres West of the bridge are the scant but still significant remains of a small dam.
The dam in question was part of a hydro-electric system and apparently was linked in its day to providing electricity to Powerscourt Estate, seat of the Wingfields, the Viscounts of Powerscourt. 

The Enniskerry Electric Supply Co-op supplied local businesses and homes with power until the ESB took over in the mid 1940's. Enniskerry was incorporated into the Shannon electric system around 1942 and it was sometime following that the small dam on the river was deemed unecessary and was dynamited leaving only partial remains on the riverbank.
Though not a remarkable ruin it is well worth your while on nice dry day to take the rough track that leads from the top of the bridge adjacent to the Parish house and then begin to descend through a landscape of leafy ferns and bushes down a slope towards the river. At times it is stoney and uneven underfoot and be wary of a small concrete ridge that lurks under the vegetation. I tripped once or twice on this. Eventually if you track close to the river, which is barely more than a stream at one point you will find the dam remains. Down in the small gorge it is like another world and seems far away from the busier world above. The Knocksink bridge stands high in the distance dividing the woods from the area known as Bog Meadow, which is a wonderful public amenity.

To find the ruin, take the R117 from Kilternan towards Enniskerry. As you near Enniskerry you will pass a small sliproad on the right signposted for Knocksink Woods nature reserve. Drive on across the walled bridge and park at the main entrance to St. Mary's Parish Church. Then walk back to the entry to the old parish house and you will find the track entrance at the roadside to the right of the parish house entry. It has a streetlight pole beside it. Follow the track adjacent to the parish house wall and the begin to descend towards the river,

Monday 29 January 2024

Old Slate Quarry Valentia Co Kerry


                                               Above Image: Old mining tower

                                      Above Image: Part of the road to the quarry.

                        Above 3 pictures: Quarry cavern with grotto visible in lower two.

While touring the back roads of Valentia Island our attention was drawn to a sign for the Valentia slate quarry. So we drove off the beaten track to be eventually greeted by the sight of a huge cavern.
The slate quarry was originally founded in 1816 by the 18th Knight of Kerry, Maurice Fitzgerald (1772 - 1849).  Its purpose was to supply materials for roofing and flooring. The excellent quality of the slate quickly gained a reputation becoming much sought after and word of it soon reached far and wide.  A dedicated pier was constructed in 1835 for the purpose of exporting the product and subsequently led to the founding of the small village of Knightstown. Both were designed by Alexander Nimmo, the Scottish born surveyor and engineer.
The slate has been utilized by among others the great London cathedrals and in stations on its underground system but also notably in the Paris opera house.
In 1858 one of the quarry buildings was involved with the transatlantic cable project.
Between the years 1880 and 1900 the quarry closed but reopened for a few years until disaster struck in 1911 when a huge rockfall ceased all operations. In 1991 a group of entrepreneurs reopened the operation and hired some Ukranian workers to work the mine so that modern generations could once again avail of this excellent slate.
When we visited there were one or two hard hats walking around but it was generally quiet. I believe that in season a tour can be made to some extent of the mine interior but this was not available on our visit which was unfortunately just out of season.
The huge cavern excavated from the North-Eastern slope of Geokaun mountain is a terrific sight and in the Marian year of 1954, on an upper crevice, two statues were placed to form a grotto. You can see them clearly in the above photos. They were reached by a ladder which now lies on the ground underneath the grotto. On the approach to the cavern is the lonely ruin of a tower which as it turned out was the only remnant remaining of the long gone machine house.
To reach the quarry, 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 where you will see the ruined tower of old Kilmore church on your left (see previous post here) Continue driving on this road for approx 1.6KM (be careful as at times this road is very narrow) until you reach a staggered crossroads. Follow the sign for the quarry which is straight ahead and drive approx 1KM and you will then reach the quarry. There is parking in front of the barrier at the cavern.

51.92354. -10.34278