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.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Connolly's Folly Co Kildare

                                    Above & Below Images: Pineapples and eagles

                             Above Image: Photo from Autumn 2017 for comparison

This unique and imposing structure can be found along a very narrow laneway not too far from Leixlip. To be honest unless you were deliberately looking for it you would never know it was there.
Following a bitter winter and a hard hitting famine in 1740  Katherine Connolly, the widow of the famed William “Speaker” Connolly, who was of a very humanitarian disposition commissioned the renowned architect Richard Cassels whose work has included Leinster House and Powerscourt House to design an elaborate structure that would also serve as a rear entrance gatehouse for Castletown estate. The locals could then be employed to construct it thus giving them a source of income to navigate the hard times.
The structure when completed cost a hefty £400 and stood 140 feet in height. It is composed of several arches and a very tall obelisk stretching skywards. There are adornments of eagles and of pineapples. The inclusion of pineapples represents at the time a sign of affluence as this fruit was exotic and much sought after. The actual position of the structure left it actually in the end not on Castletown estate but on the adjoining lands of Carton House thus it became known as Connolly's folly. Nonetheless this incredible monument has stood for nearly 300 years but did over time fall into disrepair. To prevent it becoming ruinous it was acquired and eventually restored in 1965 by the Irish Georgian Society and it is now under the auspices of the OPW.
Unfortunately these days it is surrounded by an ugly looking fence with a large padlock but it still does not deter from the majesty of this monument. There are rails visible above the main arches and I wonder are they merely an adornment or was there actually access inside to reach these. Standing at the base and looking up you really feel dwarfed by it. I visited briefly last Autumn but on this visit recent snowy conditions really brought definition to the structure.
Katherine Connolly also commissioned another folly on Castletown Estate known as The Wonderful Barn. You can see my previous post here Thanks to Karine Demeure for suggesting a visit to Connolly's folly.
To find the folly take the M4 heading West and exit at Junction 6 for Leixlip. At the top of the exit ramp follow the roundabout around to the right and take the exit for the R449 again for Leixlip. Continue on this road and on the second roundabout encountered turn left onto the R148. Drive through two sets of traffic lights and after the second take the small laneway on the left signposted as the L81206 (Obelisk Lane). About halfway down this long lane you will reach a fork in the road. Keep to the right hand lane and continue on for approx. 1.7KM until the road bends sharply to the left. The folly is approx. 100m along on the left. You can park at the gate which though locked has a small pedestrian entry point to the right of it.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Ballyowen Castle Co Dublin

                                      Above Image: North & West facing walls

                                         Above Image: North & East facing walls

                                     Above Image: Old print showing original castle

You never know when you are going to come across some hidden historical site that is literally under your nose. I had been aware that there had been in the past a castle at Ballyowen but with all the development of the area in the closing years of the last century I imagined it had disappeared into rubble. Well thanks to Kevin Andrew for mentioning it’s existence on the comments in the Old Irishtown Castle post.(see here)
Only a portion remains today and it has been incorporated into Ballyowen shopping centre and is currently in use as a solicitor's office.
The castle originally dates back to the 16th century but there is not a lot of information relating to it other than it was occupied in the 16th century by the Taylors and subsequently by the Nottinghams and the Rochforts in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Looking at the structure now really the only original remains are of part of the tower. If you look at some old prints depicting the castle you will notice it was L-shaped. The tower was also much taller standing at three storeys. The building attached to the tower today is probably the remains of the later added farm house building.

While not the most spectacular of sites it is still interesting to see how the past can be incorporated into the present and form a function.

To find the Castle remains take the N4 west from Dublin and exit at junction 3 for Ballyowen. At the traffic lights at the top of the exit ramp turn left onto the R136. Drive on through the next major junction and continue on until you pass The Penny Hill Bar on you left. At the next junction just past the bar turn left and then take the first left into the car park. The castle building is at the bottom of the park beside the Eurospar shop. 

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Old Cannistown Church Co Meath

                                            Above Image: Entrance gate

                                             Above Image: Entrance door

                                              Above Image: Ancient arch

                              Above & Below Images: Decorative carvings on arch

                                      Above Image; Bullaun & other remnants

                                          Above Image: Remains of a font

                         Above Image: West gable as seen through the East gable

                                              Above Image: East gable

The site on which this Church was constructed is believed to be that of a monastery founded in the 6th century by St Finian of Clonard. The ruins we see today are the remains of a Church built by the Norman family De Angelu or the Nangles. They had been granted the land by Hugh De Lacy who was then Lord of Meath. It became the local parish church of St. Brigid in the 13th century and a lot of rebuilding was done over the next two centuries before it finally became a victim of the reformation. It is listed as being in ruins in 1612.
What we can see today are the remains of the chancel and nave. Within are the remains of a very fine arch  with decorative carvings on either side. Really well worth having a look at.  Both gables are quite tall and the West gable has the remains of a bell cote. It is a very lengthy  building and probably was quite important in its time. On the visit I came across a number of interesting remnants including a small bullaun stone in the nave and also a font. The grounds are well maintained and is a very peaceful site.
To find the ruins take the N3 heading North and exit at junction 8. The circular slip road leads you onto the Navan South road. Continue on this road until you reach a roundabout just past an overhead footbridge. Turn right off this roundabout onto the R147 and take the second turn right just past the Old Bridge Inn. Drive for approx. 1.2KM until you pass Keating’s Oil on your right. Just past Keating’s there is a turn right with a sign pointing to Bective GFC.  Turn down this road and after approx. 300m you will see the Church grounds gate on your left. You can park on the footpath here.