Lower Shannon

Saturday 16 February

A castle at Aughrim (M790285) was investigated. Only one corner and a pile of rubble remain. It was not closely inspected. Another castle was investigated (M820251). A tower fragment stands at one edge of a low circular mound and on top of a heap of rubble. The mound has some traces of an inner bank and some evidence of a ditch. The whole appears to be a tower set within a rath. Nearby (M828245) is a rath on top of a hill. It has an outer bank and ditch on two sides and is about 35m diameter.

At least eight raths were noted in the region of M820240 and some of them were inspected. The rath nearest the road has some traces of an outer ditch and a low bank. The diameter is about 27m. About 100m east of this is a rath of similar size with a very good outer bank and ditch. About 100m south of this rath is a low circular bank within which are a number of standing stones some of which form an alignment. About 200m south of these stones is a third rath with substantial remains of an outer bank and ditch on two sides. It is of similar size to the other two raths. Between the second and third raths is a low grass-covered cairn. About 1km west of this site a rath was noted at the roadside and another rath about 1km further west. A rath was investigated (M803237). A low, circular platform, about 30m diameter, is surrounded by a shallow ditch outside of which is a substantial bank which is fairly intact. There are traces of a second ditch and another bank.

At Killeen Mill (M798055) there are traces of a millrace and sluice. The axle of the mill wheel is in place and fragments of a millstone would indicate a corn-mill. The remains on Holy Island (R689850) were viewed from a distance. They consist of a Round Tower and a church.

Tuamgraney Church (R638828) has a doorway with inclined jambs and a massive lintel. There are antae. High up on the opposite gable is a weathered mask. The window has been rebuilt from a pointed window to form two lights with rounded heads. The corners of this gable are round pillars with carved capitals. The doorway of the castle beside the church is blocked up. There is a good machicolation. The first floor ceiling is vaulted with marks of wicker centering. A broad spiral stairway leads to roof level but is missing above the first floor. A small rectangular room may be reached from the stairway. It leads to the first floor room (floor missing) beyond which is apparently another small chamber. The rectangular chamber leading off the stairway has two small windows.

Inside St Flannan's Cathedral, Killaloe (R703729) is a rebuilt Romanesque doorway of four orders. It is highly decorated with human and animal heads as well as geometric motifs. Beside it is a stone with Runic and Ogham inscriptions. There is also a finial from an early church and a High Cross originally from Kilfenora. Beside the cathedral is St Flannan's Oratory, the nave of a small nave-and-chancel church. It has a good Romanesque doorway and a high-pitched stone roof. Beside St Flannan's Church (R701729) is St Lua's Oratory, a small nave-and-chancel church with a lintelled west doorway. It originally stood on Friar's Island and was rebuilt on its present site in 1929.

The Graves of the Leinstermen appear as a jumble of stone of little interest. Derry Castle (R707774) was viewed from a distance. It is a ruined square tower on a small island in the Shannon.

Sunday 17 February

Rockstown Castle (R623464) is a tower-house sitting on a rocky outcrop behind the ruins of Rockstown House. It is almost intact with some damage around the doorway above which there are the remains of a machicolation. It is well equipped with narrow defensive slits most of which have square heads. Some of those at the upper storeys have ogee heads. There are some two-light windows at the top floor. The first floor is missing but the ceiling is vaulted and the corner windows have deep recesses. A spiral stairway, lit by narrow slits, rises in the corner to roof level. Some of the slits have slopstones. The tower-house is similar to some Co Galway types with large rooms occupying the bulk of the building and small rectangular rooms leading off the stairway. The second floor room has a fireplace in the corner. The floor above is missing but above that is another vault. There are good hinge stones at the doorways leading from the stairs. Three windows at the top floor have deep recesses with round heads. Two of them are two-light and the third may be similar but it is greatly ruined. There are some narrow windows also. The roof is missing but there are some corbels in place. A small tower rises above roof level in one corner. The castle stands near one edge of a rocky outcrop which is divided, just outside the door, by a deep rock-cut ditch. Just beside Rockstown House is a ruined church with a good two-light window similar to the larger windows in the castle.

Two standing stones (R653475 & R660453) were noted in passing. Cahergelly Castle (R658438) was viewed from the roadside. It appears to be a ruined tower-house, greatly overgrown and close to a modern house.

A number of sites close to Lough Gur were investigated.

Site 17 (R652411) is a stone circle about 14m diameter, composed of stones fairly close together, with a few gaps. At one edge is a small low cairn. The circle is set within a much larger enclosure about 40m diameter surrounded by a thick earthen bank lined with stones. The bank is about 3m thick. Nearby is Site 16, a low circular cairn about 10m diameter, with a well- defined kerb. Bourchier's Castle (R647411) is a large tower-house with three small corner turrets. It has a number of small slit windows and at least one large window with mullions and transoms. It was not closely inspected. In Carraig Aille is Site 7 (R652407), a stone fort with walls about 1m high and 4m thick. The entrance is well defined and is partly paved. The diameter of the fort is about 35m. Nearby is Site 8, another stone fort of similar size and appearance. It is less well preserved. Close to one side is the foundation of a small rectangular structure. Site 4 (R645402) is a wedge-tomb about 8m long. The burial chamber has four capstones. There is a good double wall and a well-preserved antechamber with a portal stone. The tomb is about 3m wide at the front and the antechamber is about 1.5m deep. The tomb is made of limestone slabs. Black Castle (R645404) was observed from a distance. It is an ivy-covered ruin. In Grange townland is Site 28 (R633406). It is a large stone circle composed of contiguous stones outside of which is a massive earthen bank about 10m wide. It is about 45m diameter. Some of the stones in the circle are huge boulders, the largest being about 2.5m high by 2m wide and 1m thick. The stones at the entrance are also very large. In the field beside the large circle is a much smaller stone circle (R633407), about 15m diameter with 15 stones. A crannog site (R635410) was noted but not closely investigated.

Ballygrennan Castle (R634350) is a large tower-house set within the remains of a bawn. There are remains of a number of later buildings with chimneys. The tower-house has two square bartizans at opposite corners. There are a number of slit windows as well as mullioned windows, some with transoms. The first floor room has a good vaulted ceiling. The spiral stairway is blocked at first floor level and is missing beyond that. The bawn has remains of corner bartizans. Dunmorrisheen (R636339) is a low grassy mound about 20m diameter.

Knockainy Castle (R680358) is a tower-house about four storeys high. Part of the top storey is missing. There are good defensive slits with larger windows at the higher levels. The original entrance is intact and there is a second entrance in the adjoining wall. The third floor ceiling is vaulted and there is a half vault at first floor level. A murder-hole just inside the entrance leads from first floor level and a spiral stairway in the corner leads to the higher levels. A mural passage skirts the top floor room on two sides leading from the stairway to a garderobe. There are a number of good defensive loops in this passage including two circular loops. The windows at the first floor have deep recesses and there may be a small chamber leading off one of them. There are corbels of a bartizan at one corner.

Inside the old church at Hospital (R706361) are three slabs with effigies. One is very low relief and another is high relief. The third is high relief with two effigies and very greatly damaged.

In the gable of the church are a number of carved stones including a good crucifixion. A fort near Hospital (R710378) is a polygonal structure with low grassy banks about 25m diameter. A number of large pits just outside may be modern quarrying. There is some encroachment by a modern house and garden on one side. About 100m east of the fort is a standing stone (R710379). It is about 2.5m high by 1m wide by 20cm thick and tapering.

A stone circle (R695385) was investigated. It is about 30 ma diameter and has a bank running through it. The stones in one section are very close together and many stones are missing. A greatly overgrown fort with a large bank was inspected (R745386). It is about 30m diameter but close investigation was not possible due to the dense growth inside. The bank is about 4m high in places and there is no trace of an outer bank or ditch.

A standing stone (R798394) was inspected. It is about 2m high and less than 1m square and tapering. On the ground beside it is a large stone with a bullaun. It stands in the middle of a low circular bank about 15m diameter. Outside this is a shallow ditch and a large flat area. Beyond this is a second broad shallow ditch and an outer bank. The total diameter is about 50m. The entrance is on the east side. On the west and south-west sides are three structures which appear to be small barrows. One is a well-define, low, circular mound with a ditch. The second is less well defined and higher and the third is less circular and low.

A motte was noted at Lattin (R814353). Another motte with bailey was noted at Mount Bruis (R837334). A visit was made to St Berrihert's Kyle, Ardane (R947287) with its collection of cross-inscribed stones and fragments of High Cross. There are also some bullauns and some cure (cursing) stones. The collection is housed in a small oval enclosure.

Monday 18 February

Adare Augustinian Priory (R469464) is now in use as the Church of Ireland Parish Church. There are good cloisters and windows. Inside there are two sedilias and an ambry. There are a number of tomb niches and some carved angels at one of the windows. At the base of the wooden lectern is a carved mouse. Adare Castle (R471468) has remains of a massive keep near one corner of a bawn with ruins of a number of other buildings. The keep is surrounded by a broad ditch. A wooden bridge leads to a gatehouse which has two large defensive slits. The ground floor of the keep is vaulted. There is a large rectangular gatehouse at the entrance to the bawn. Near the castle are the remains of two small churches within a graveyard.

Adare Franciscan Friary (R474467) is typical of such friaries with many gables, chimneys and a tall slender tower. The cloister is almost intact apart from the missing roof. Inside the church is a fine triple sedilia and a total of 15 tomb niches. There is very little carving. A number of isolated gateways indicate the former presence of an outer wall.

A castle was viewed from the roadside (R437445). One wall is completely removed and there is a small portion of bawn with a round corner tower. At the top of a hill to the north-west (R428452) there appears to be a rath.

Another castle (R423447) was inspected. A tall tower rises at one end of a lower and wider building. The tower houses a spiral stairway and has some good slit windows, one with a slopstone. There are no machicolations or murder-hole. The lower section rises to four storeys with a good two-light window with ogee head at the third storey. The ground floor room is vaulted. To the right of the doorway there may have been another section of building two storeys high. This is indicated by marks on the wall and two doorways, one leading from the ground floor room and a second one from the stairway at first floor level. At the opposite end of the building are the remains of another two-storey section.

A castle was viewed from a distance (R392452). It appears to be a low rectangular tower with crenellations. It stands very close to a higher tower with remains of a two-light window near the top. The lower tower has a round corner flanking tower and the other corner is also rounded. It sits on an overgrown rocky outcrop. A castle (R398414) built near a modern house appears to be intact with some damage to the top storey. A number of farm buildings are attached to the castle and the interior was not inspected. A small rath (R397409) was noted in passing. A castle and bawn (R420387) is built onto a modern house. It appears to be a tall slim tower, possibly of five storeys.

The castle (R421373) north of Ballingarry is a low ivy-covered ruin. It was not inspected closely. Ballingarry Castle (R414360) is a tall slim tower attached to a lower building. It has good crenellations with a number of slit windows and larger windows at the higher levels. The lower building is about twice the thickness of the tower in both directions. High on the wall near one of the larger windows is a carved face. There is a good squinch between the taller and lower sections of the castle. Close inspection was not possible.

At Bruree (R550305) there is a large corn-mill with a huge waterwheel. It is made of metal and has diameter about 8m and width 3m. The millrace is brick-lined and paved. The mill is being restored.
At Kilmallock the Dominican Friary (R610279) has a tall thin tower. There is a good east window of five lights and a fine tomb niche with a decorated but damaged table. There is a double piscina in the opposite wall with a possible sedilia beside it, greatly ruined. There are remains of an aisle on the south side and a transept with a very good window.

This transept has a short aisle on the west. Carved figures at the top of the aisle columns support the arches. There are a number of good carved masks throughout the church. Only one short section of the cloister arcade is in place. On the north side of the cloister is a building with a good vaulted lower room with two fireplaces. King's Castle (R608279) has the dimensions of a tower-house and the appearance of a town gate. The Collegiate Church (R610278) has a door in the south wall with a fine moulded hood. There is also a west doorway beside which is a Round Tower. The nave has north and south aisles and the east window has five lights. There are crenellations on some of the walls which may indicate later fortification.

A rath was investigated (R578335). It is about 43m diameter and has traces of an outer ditch. About 200m west (R576335) is a standing stone. To the north is a castle (R581345). Two walls and traces of a curtain wall remain. It sits on a rocky outcrop.

Monasteranenagh Cistercian Abbey (R552408) was investigated. Above the remains of the west doorway are two round-headed windows and there are remains of three lancet windows in the east wall. The aisle arcades are in place but the aisles are missing. There are some round-headed windows above the arcades. The nave is almost completely divided from the chancel (only a small connecting doorway) and the columns of the chancel arch have carved capitals. The chapter house has three lancet windows in the east wall. The middle window has been rebuilt as a small two-light window with a transom. Near the bridge at Monaster (R548410) is a mill with a wooden waterwheel.

Rathmore Castle (R568414) was investigated. A tower of five storeys is attached to a lower building which is ruinous. There are good defensive slits and mullioned and transomed windows higher up. The lower building has two storeys with a doorway leading from the tower to the roof. The ground floor of the tower is vaulted. The upper storeys may be reached by a mural stairway but they were not investigated.

A castle was investigated near Glenogra Bridge (R592418). There is a large rectangular bawn entered through a gateway. At one corner are the remains of a large polygonal tower. It has a very good circular basement room with a vaulted ceiling and deep window recesses. Near the gateway is the ruin of a gabled building. In the wall between this building and the tower is a small rectangular chamber which may be a garderobe. Parts of the bawn wall have been greatly damaged by quarrying. Across the road is a ruined church (R594419) with three lancet windows in the east wall and four lancets in the north wall. It is divided into nave and chancel but was not closely investigated.

Tuesday 19 February

King John's Castle, Limerick (R577577) was inspected from the outside. It has a large gatehouse set in a curtain wall with three round corner towers. The gatehouse has two D-shaped towers. On either side of the gate are deep defensive slits and the track for the portcullis is visible. One half of the curtain wall is missing and the area within the wall is occupied by modern housing.

Cratloe Castle (R514595) was viewed from the roadside. It is a large tower-house with two corner bartizans and good slit windows. In was not closely inspected. Another castle (R512590) was noted on the opposite side of the road. Bunratty Castle (R452610) was noted in passing. An ivy-covered castle (R368650) about four storeys high was investigated. There are two large mullioned windows at the third floor and a small two-light mullioned and transomed window at the fourth floor. The entrance is well preserved and there is a blocked murder-hole inside. The doorway has a good hinge stone and a defensive loop. The spiral stairway to the left of the entrance is almost completely blocked and removed at higher levels. To the right of the entrance is a small vaulted chamber. The large vaulted ground floor room has marks of wicker centering. Another castle (R385664) was noted near Newmarket-on-Fergus.

Dromoland Fort (R418706) is a large triple-walled fort, now greatly ruined. The vast walls are greatly scattered and overgrown but the two outer walls may be distinguished. Near one edge is a small stone cashel. It is well preserved and is about 25m diameter. The walls are about 2m thick and up to 2m high. There is a good entrance in the north. The complete enclosed area of the large fort is estimated to be 27 acres.

At Dysert O'Dea (R281847) there are the remains of a nave-and-chancel church with an elaborate Romanesque doorway in the south wall. It is of four orders with the outer arch featuring carved heads. The round-headed window in the west wall is richly carved. There is a plain chancel arch and three lancet windows in the east wall. Near the north-west corner are the remains of a Round Tower. About 100m east of the church is a High Cross with figure carving in high relief. About 300m north of the church is O'Dea's Castle (R282850). This is a tower- house about five storeys high with the top storey damaged and under renovation. There are no machicolations or bartizans. The ground floor room is vaulted. There are a number of slit windows and some large window openings. One small corner slit has a carved head. One window at the top floor has a mullion and transom and appears as two small two- light windows with ogee heads one above the other. There are remains of a similar window in the opposite wall. A short section of bawn has some corbel fragments which may indicate a bartizan. A castle (R380980) was noted at Lough Bunny. One wall, two fragments and a mound of rubble remain. There is a two-light window near the top.