Monday, 19 September 2016

Rush Castle Co Dublin

                                         Above Image: The entrance stile

                          Above & Below Images: The Enclosure & the entry point

                                       Above Image: Remains of spiral stair

                                          Above Image: Entrance doorway

                                           Above Image: Vaulted chamber

                                      Above Image: Small adjacent chamber

                                     Above Image: Possible chimney interior

I was recently in the area of Rush visiting a few of the ruins there such as Kenure Portico and Old Kenure Church (both previous posts) but it was only on researching an ordnance survey map for the post on Kenure Church that I discovered that there were the remains of a Castle that I hadn’t been aware of and it was literally across the road from the Church. So recently on a drive back from Skerries I diverted to try and locate this ruin. I found the road leading into St Catherine’s estate which had the Church ruins on the left. On the right side was a low boundary wall surrounding the playing field of Rush Athletic F.C. There are two small pedestrian gaps in the wall and I discovered that the one further West led directly to a fenced off Ivy covered ruin to the left of a white spectator barrier. I have to say it’s in a bad state. The Council erected the fencing because of anti-social behaviour and so the ruins have just been let go to ground somewhat. I circumnavigated the fence only to find that at the rear part of it had actually been knocked down. Poking around a bit I saw the remains of a spiral stair leading nowhere as the remains now are only about six or seven feet high but below it was a doorway that looks as if it led into a vaulted room. I suspect this to be the original ground floor of the castle and not the basement as the land level around it has probably risen over time. It was mostly dark inside with light just streaming in from a single window aperture , a small adjacent chamber and the doorway I was entering from. I went in with some trepidation and was glad I was wearing some decent boots as the floor inside was strewn with broken glass and flattened plastic bottles. Hardly remnants of battle. It’s so disheartening to see an historical site in such a state no matter how small it is. I don’t really blame the Council they tried to protect the structure from vandalism but this could be an interesting place if cleaned, maintained and more importantly respected by those visiting. Across the vaulted room another doorway led to a small chamber which looks as if it might have been a kitchen area because above you the walls taper into what looks like a chimney. This appears to be the highest point remaining. Most of the other walls have been diminished a lot above ground but I still got a sense of history here. Of its origin it’s hard to determine. It could be a Butler Castle as the lands in this area were granted to Edmund Butler in 1315 when he was created Earl of Carrick. Or indeed it could be one of the numerous £10 castles built in the early 15th century to defend the pale, although I’m not sure that the Irish Clans such as the O’Tooles and O’Byrnes made coastal attacks and most of these type of castles were built on the inland perimeters of The Pale.

To find the ruin take the R128 heading Northwards from Lower Main Street in Rush. This is the road opposite Hackett's Victuallers. Drive for approx 1.8Km until you reach the old graveyard on your left. There is a left hand turn just past this with a sign pointing to St Catherine's Estate. Turn left and park a little way up this road which is called The Drive. You will see the boundary wall with pedestrian gaps opposite. Enter by the gap furthest in. 

Monday, 5 September 2016

Deserted Village Achill Co Mayo

                    Above Image: The lower Southern slope of Slievemore mountain

                        Above Image: Typical cottage with possible stable addition

           Above Image: What appears to be the Nephin Beg mountains in the distance

                                 Above & Below Images: Single door entrances

On The Northern end of Achill Island a little North of Keel and South East of Dugort lie the remains of Slievemore Village an almost mile long series of ruined cottages scattered along the lower Southern slope of Slievemore mountain. Consisting of a main village and two ancillary villages in close proximity they are a poignant example of Ireland’s past.
Archaeologists believe there was a settlement here at least as far back as Anglo-Norman times. The cottages themselves were more than likely from a later date and families occupying them were certain to have been living under the control of a local landlord. Times were hard and many would face eviction if they did not pay the rent. When the great famine arrived in 1847 the residents were devastated by it and some moved out to Dugort to be near the sea so they could attempt to live on catching fish. Many others emigrated at the time and also in successive years thus leaving the village eventually abandoned. Eerily deserted the village remained that way and began to fall into ruin. Interestingly enough up to the 1940’s a practice called booleying was in effect. This would take place during the summer months when cattle were grazed on the mountainside and people from nearby villages would use the remains of the cottages as temporary domiciles while they tended the herd. In most cases young people would be involved in this. Eventually even this practice died out and now the village is now truly deserted except of course for the thousands that visit it every year.
We paid a visit during the Summer and on Slievemore because of its exposed slope it can get quite warm. There was fair amount of people about but there are so many ruins to wander around that you frequently found yourself alone. While we were there a rescue helicopter was scouring the mountain for a man who had gone missing while hillwalking. They thankfully found him in the end incapacitated on a high part of the mountain. We kept to the safer lower level and walked up the track heading West from the car park and worked our way back down exploring the cottages one by one. The ground is uneven in places but easy enough to navigate. There are upwards of 100 cottage ruins here, most were one room structures built in the same fashion as the field boundary walls that are prevalent here in the West of Ireland, constructed not with mortar but by stacking and slotting the large stones into place. They vary in size some with substantial remains others at near foundation level. They are all almost parallel to each other in a North-South direction with the scant remains of a very old pathway in between. Looking at these humble abodes I can only imagine that life must have been very hard in those times with potatoes being the main staple diet and when famine swept the land these poor souls would have been hit the hardest. I found it a very sobering experience and certainly made me grateful to be returning to the comfort of our Hotel.
These are really a very interesting set of ruins, it’s not often you find an entire village in this state of affairs so if you find yourself in the vicinity of Achill it is well worth a diversion to view Slievemore. Achill which is the largest of the Islands off the coast of Ireland is so close to the mainland that a simple short road bridge at Achill sound is all you have to navigate  

To find the ruins take the N59 heading West out of Mulranny (or Mullaranny as it is also known) and just as you leave the village there is a left turn onto the R319. Take this turn and follow the road until you reach Achill Sound (approx. 15KM). Cross the bridge at Achill Sound and continue on the R319 for approx. 14KM until you reach the village of Keel. Just after the prominent Minaun View Bar take a turn Right and follow the narrow road for approx. 2KM until you cross a narrow stone bridge. Just after the bridge the road forks left and right. Follow the narrow left hand lane right to the top which leads you to a graveyard and a car park. You will see the ruins of the village on the left. Please note on this last narrow stretch after the bridge if you spot a tour bus heading in the other direction from the ruins stay where you are until it passes as you will never get by it on the lane itself.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Old Hollywood Great Church Co Dublin

                                       Above Image: View from the roadside

                                       Above Image: Roadside entrance gate

                                          Above Image: Approach lane way

                                   Above & Below Images: Southern doorway

                                   Above Image: West gable with triple bellcote

Out into the heart of North County Dublin again where there are many ruins dotted around the landscape and this time we have a ruined Church situated in the townland of Hollywood Great.
The Church mentioned is late medieval in date and is thought to have been preceded by an earlier stone Church which was listed as in ruins by 1630. The present Church according to records was probably constructed on this site around the late 16th century and is recorded as being in full use in the 1750’s and remained so until the early 19th century. By the late 1880’s it was described as falling into ruin.
I like the location of these ruins which are situated on a side road called Sallowood View off the R108 between Ballyboughal and Naul. It’s a very quiet and pleasant part of the county. A roadside gate which is unlocked is the access point and you are led down a long lane to a second gate for the graveyard enclosure in which the ruins are situated. The lie of the land is such that although the Church seems elevated above the land extending  behind it in which the hump of Lambay Island can be seen in the distance it is really only slightly elevated to its surroundings. In fact the access point at the roadside is at a higher level to the graveyard enclosure.
 A tall triple bellcote tower stands on the West gable and the Church extends Eastward towards the Chancel. The walls of the Nave survive but the Chancel area itself is reduced to a few feet above foundation level. There is a medieval holy water stoop just inside the South doorway hidden a little by ivy. The interior of the West gable displays evidence of the former roof, a triangular pattern etched into the brickwork. The Church in design is not dissimilar to the nearby Ballyboughal Church (see earlier post) which has a more notable history attached to it.
All in all an interesting enough ruin in a nice location with easy access which could be incorporated into a visit to the aforementioned Ballyboughal Church for comparison.
To find the ruins head Northwards on the R108 from Ballyboughal village and drive for approx 5.5KM until you reach a crossroads with the Jamestown Road. There are signs pointing to the N1 and Lusk and you need to turn right here. A little way down this road the name changes to Sallowood View. Drive for approx 700m from the crossroads and you will spot the entrance gate on your right. It is possible to park alongside the wall left of the gate. 

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Ballyteague Castle Co Kildare

                                      Above Image: South-West facing aspect

                                     Above Image: South-East facing aspect

                         Above Image: Huband Bridge with Castle in the backround

                           Above Image: The canal facing South from the bridge

Locating this Castle was a joy as it is in such a picturesque location alongside a section of the Grand Canal deep in the heart of County Kildare. I was surprised however on researching it later that it is not quite what I thought it to be.
There are records of a Fitzgerald Castle located at Ballyteague of which it is said that one of the
more famous members of that family, Silken Thomas the 10th Earl of Kildare, took refuge in the Castle in 1535 following the nearby Battle of Allen.  Later in 1650 the Castle was badly damaged by cannon fire by invading Cromwellian forces. There was talk of some repair but from what I can gather the sturdy tower house that stands today is not the original Castle but in fact an archaeologically sound reproduction of a Norman tower house constructed by Sir Gerald George Aylmer in 1860 as a folly. Aylmer’s family had inherited the lands at Ballyteague from the Fitzgeralds in 1662. By the early 19th century the Aylmers were almost bankrupt but Sir Gerald George went about a plan of squaring the family finances and indeed subsequently did so and contributed a great deal of good work to the locality including a new road from Prosperous to his newly reconstructed Donadea Castle (see earlier post,) a drainage scheme of the slate river and the partial construction of Kilmeague Village. At this time Aylmer had dabbled in folly’s creating the prominent tower on the Hill of Allen called Aylmer’s Folly (see earlier post). The castle at Ballyteague was designed as a genuine looking three storey Norman style Castle that was pleasing to the eye in a bucolic setting. It is thought that some of the original stone of the earlier medieval tower house may have been incorporated into the building of this folly. The tower was owned by the Thornton family in the early part of the last century and eventually came into the hands of Tom Hendy a well thought of and noted historian who collected and kept many local historical artefacts within the castle. Tom unfortunately died in 2010. This is all the information I could garner on the castle but interestingly enough a well renowned author of some Irish based books called Anita Hendy lives near the castle and indeed one of her Books “The Castle Book” is apparently inspired by Ballyteague. I wonder is Anita a relative of Tom Hendy?
When I visited Ballyteague I expected a ruin and it could very well have been as I had no previous knowledge of it at that point and there is only limited access through a gate in a little grass enclosure on one side. There are some nearby houses but I didn’t think at the time that there to ask if there was any access to the tower and I didn’t want to intrude too much. I wonder if the historical collection is still housed there and if any access is permitted? Maybe someone out there can shed some light.
The Castle is located next to Huband Bridge on the canal and really is worth a trip to see. It’s so peaceful there and though not technically a ruin it may contain parts of the original Fitzgerald Castle now gone in the sands of time.
To find Ballyteague Castle take the R403 heading West from Prosperous until you reach Allenwood. As you enter the village there is a left turn just after the Esso Service Station with a sign pointing to Newbridge. Turn left down this road (R415) and drive for approx 1.5KM until you have crossed two hump back stone bridges. A short distance after the second bridge you reach a third one. Cross over and turn right on the other side and follow the narrow road parallel to the canal. Drive for approx.1.5Km and you will spot the Castle on the far side of the canal. Just before you reach Huband Bridge which leads to the Castle there is a field gate and enough room to pull over. Simply cross the bridge on foot and there is a small metal gate in the wall in front of the Castle