Friday, 18 May 2018

Clonreher Castle Co Laois

                                              Above Image: East facing aspect.

                              Above Image: East facing tower. There is a similar one 
                                                     on the South facing wall.

We came across this ruin just outside Portlaoise on the road to Mountmellick.
Clonreher Castle's construction date is unclear but it was originally owned by the O'Dowlings who lost possession of it first to Sir Ralph Bagnell and then in 1562 to John Dunkirley who owned lands in Maryborough (now Portlaoise). Clonreher was used as a defensive outpost for Tudor settlers against the O'Moores. The O'Moore lands were later called called Queen's county in honour of Mary Tudor. After the Cromwellian invasion the castle's defences were diminished and by the time Robert Hartpole gained possession in 1576 it was in a ruinous state.
The four storey tower which has a vaulted cellar is situated today in a farmyard surrounded by outbuildings and various pieces of farm equipment either in use or abandoned. It is really disappointing to see an historical castle in such a bad state. It is slowly decaying evident by some nasty fissures in the wall of the corner tower. When we eventually moved on to our next destination it was with a tinge of sadness.
To find the ruin take the N80 North out of Portlaoise. You will go straight through two small roundabouts and then a third larger one. Once through the large roundabout continue on the N80 towards Mountmellick for approx 350m then take the first left hand turn. You will find the ruin approx 700m down this road on your left. You can pull in at the farm gate.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Oliver Plunkett Memorial Church Co Meath

                                      Above & Below Images: The entrance gate

                                                  Above Image: Entrance door

                                          Above Image: Stairs to tower entrance

                                                    Above Image: Tower stairs

                                           Above Image: The nave & East gable

                                                 Above Image: Interior of tower

                                               Above Image: The armorial crest

                                                Above Image: Southern aspect

                                    Above & Below Images: The ancient graveyard

This sturdy church with fortified tower house is thought to have been constructed circa 1520 by Christopher Plunkett. Indeed Oliver Plunkett who was later canonised was born here in 1625 as the family dwelling was the tower house. The Plunkett's remained in possession until the 1650's when the lands were given to the Napers. Over the window of the Southern transept there is an armorial crest which bears some semblance to that of the Napers and possibly the Barnwalls. The church remained in use until the 1830's by the Church of Ireland and following that subsequently fell into ruin.
This is a striking structure and is located within the grounds of the Loughcrew gardens & adventure centre. We were given access through the cafe by the very genial lady running it. It was late April and very quiet with no other visitors at the ruin.Access is through a very fine arched. entrance gate The church and very sturdy three storey tower are surrounded by a very ancient walled graveyard. Some stones here are now completely illegible. The entrance door leads you through the shell of the tower. There are stone steps leading up but the second set are sadly blocked by a locked gate, Even so from this vantage point on top of the first set of steps you can look down into the undivided nave and chancel.
There is a lot of historical aspects to Loughcrew which I will cover later but this unusual ruin with its interesting history is tucked away and is really worth your time checking it out. You can even have some refreshments later in the cosy cafe.
To find the ruin take the junction 9 exit from the M3 for Delvin. On exiting, take the N51 towards Athboy. When you reach Athboy take the right hand turn half way up the town signposted for the R154 to Oldcastle. Keep to this road until you pass through the crossroads in Crossakiel and approx 3.5KM out of the village you will reach a T-junction. Turn left here following the sign for Oldcastle.
Drive for another 2KM until you see a left hand turn for the L2800. Approx 4.5KM along this road you will find the cafe & gardens on your left ( It's just past a porticoed lodge on the right). 

Saturday, 21 April 2018

The Gates Of Heaven Co Wicklow

                                                  Above Image: Entrance gate

                              Above & Below Images: The landscape of the cemetery

                                  Above & 3 Images Below: The Gates Of Heaven

                                         Above Image: Grave of Sam MacAlastair

                                 Above & Below Images: Two ancient stone crosses

                                             Above Image: St Bridget's holy well

                                 Above Image: Some of the foundations remaining.

                   Above Image: The rear gate & well enclosure in right hand backround

                     Above Image: Keadeen Mountain with images of Fionn MacCumhaill
                                            and his wife on slope in centre of image.

On a bright sunny day we ventured into the garden of Ireland to locate a remote graveyard containing an odd but alluring feature known as "The Gates of Heaven". Kilranelagh graveyard is located on a slope in Colvinstown Upper not far from the striking Keadeen Mountain with its odd markings one of which is said to be an image of Fionn MacCumhaill and his wife.The graveyard is quite well signposted once you start on the right road.
When we reached the last signpost it led us up a a very narrow uneven gravel track about 200m long.It was a bit hairy on the ascent and the track ends right at the gate of the graveyard with no place to turn. So we prayed the gate was unlocked or we were in trouble as a backward descent was out of the question. Luckily the gate is held closed only by a ring of wire and please take note that it opens outwards, if you push it in it gets jammed. Inside is a wider area to turn the vehicle.So once parked we began our search. The uneven slope of the landscape was a bit tricky at times as the grass could be deceiving hiding potholes underneath. A stick or a staff is ideal for poking a route around. Curiously also the grass was alive with small darting black spiders that seemed like they were everywhere. I have not come across this before in other such places. The ground contains a lot of foundations one I know was of a Church as it was mentioned on an old ordnance survey map but there appeared to be foundations of other buildings too. After a bit of a search we eventually found the Gates. They can be difficult to spot as there are so many ancient stones here to confuse you, The easiest way to locate it is to walk to the rear gate of the cemetery and cross to the metal fence erected around st Bridget's well. The gates of Heaven are located in the area to the right of this. The "Gates" appear to be two remaining orthostats and a sillstone from a portal tomb. I believe before they got their name that they functioned as gateposts to a more ancient graveyard here.They get their name from a local custom that before a body was interred here they would pass the coffin through the stones which would ensure that the deceased would enter straight through The gates of heaven. They are fascinating to see be it legend or not and must be many thousands of years old. The graveyard also contains some ancient stone crosses, the holy well and the grave of  Sam MacAlastair a hero of the rebellion of 1798. It is well worth your time to make a visit as there is a lot of antiquity here.
To find Kilranelagh graveyard take the R747 East out of Baltinglass and drive for approx 3KM until you come to a left hand turn signposted for the L3273 to Rathdangan. Turn down this road and drive for approx 2KM where you will reach a T-junction. Here you will see the first sign pointing left for Kilranelagh graveyard. Follow the signposted road for approx 1.5KM until you see another sign for the graveyard pointing right. Turn right here and drive for approx 350m and a sign points left up the track to the graveyard. Your decision here is to drive or walk up but it's pretty much decided for you as there is virtually no place to park on this road or indeed the one you just left. It would be an idea if you are unsure to send someone up on foot who could check the gate is unlocked and then phone down to you. Do drive slowly and carefully up this track.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Aideen's Grave Co Dublin

                                  Above Image: The access steps right of the Hotel

                                                   Above Image: The initial trail

                                            Above Image: Dolmen direction sign

                                            Above Image: Take the right hand trail

                                          Above Image: First view of the Dolmen

                                           Above Image: Beneath the capstone

                                            Above Image: The portal tomb floor

Here's another hidden treasure. Located in the woodland behind the Deerpark Hotel in the grounds of Howth Castle this ancient portal tomb bears a legend that doesn’t quite ring true.
The story goes that this is the grave of Aideen wife of Oscar of the famed Fianna. When Oscar died at the battle of Gabhra, Aideen went into shock and died as a result. Oscar’s father Oisin had her buried at Howth and had the Dolmen constructed as a memorial to her. The Fianna are of a time dating around the very early medieval period but the portal tomb is exactly like others of it’s ilk dating to the Neolithic period which ended in 2500BC. But as they always say print the legend! The tomb has the second largest capstone in the country weighing in around 75 tons. The largest is the Brownshill Dolmen in Co Carlow (see earlier post here)
The grounds behind the hotel have many trails but the trail to the dolmen takes you through the rhododenrons. It’s a narrow trail with many little tracks leading off mostly to the left. A lot of large rocks lie among the trees and could be mistaken for the dolmen at first sight but they are just debris from the nearby cliff face. One you stick to the trail its not too long before you come across the tomb and it really is a stunning example of its type. The huge capstone has collapsed to one side forcing the portal stones apart but you can still step inside although the imposing capstone certainly made me a little nervous. The woodland setting and nearby craggy cliff all lend a very atmospheric feeling to the place. We visited on a Friday afternoon and encountered no one else at that time

To find the Dolmen take the R809 from the M50 motorway towards Clarehall. Continue on this road through Donaghmede until you reach a T-Junction at Baldoyle. Turn right and take the nearby left hand turn onto the R106. Go through the railway level crossing following the coast until you reach Sutton cross. Turn left at the Bank of Ireland and continue on this road (R105) towards Howth. After approx. 1.9km you will see the large entrance gates to The Deerpark Hotel on your right. Follow the road right up to the hotel ( you will pass Howth Castle on the way which I will cover later) Park in the car park and Follow the steps up on the right hand side of the hotel adjacent to the golf course. Follow the pathway and you will see a sign posted on the tree directing you to the Dolmen. Turn right here and follow the path keeping to the right along the way and approx. 200m along you will reach a T-junction with another pathway. The Dolmen is a few metres down the right hand path.