Cooley Peninsula and Legananny

Saturday 21 June

King John's Castle, Carlingford (J184125) is a massive polygonal structure. The eastern half is occupied by a large rectangular building, the remainder being a courtyard. The remains of the gatehouse in the west wall of the courtyard indicate a double rectangular structure of at least two storeys with a vault above the ground floor. Only about half the walls of the courtyard remain but they were about 2m thick with deeply recessed windows. At the corners are two-storeyed towers. The large building to the east was at least three storeys high plus basement. Part of the basement is vaulted with good traces of wicker centering. At the SE corner are the remains of large round-headed windows at ground floor and a fireplace at first floor. At the NE corner a spiral stairway rises to first floor level. The building measures about 10m by 25m internally. The courtyard is of similar size.

Taaffe's Castle (J185120) is a crumbling tower-house of at least four storeys with a two-storey building attached at the north. There is a chimney and good crenellations, especially on the lower building. The castle is lit by small slits including a round-headed window near the bottom and an ogee-headed window at the second floor. There are traces of pecked decoration at many of the windows. At the SW corner is a projecting turret and a machicolation at roof level between this projection and the main building.

The Mint is a rectangular tower of three storeys with good crenellations. There is a very good machicolation above the doorway. The doorway has been rebuilt and features very fine pecked decoration. The windows have mullions and transoms with some ogee heads. On the outside there are square mouldings and very fine decoration. There are no floors or fireplaces inside. There is a small mural chamber at the first floor in the south-west corner. In the east wall at the first floor the large window has very fine window seats. There are also good seats at the blocked window in the same wall and at the single window in the opposite wall.

Beside the Mint is the Tholsel which was probably one of the town gates. It is a two-storeyed building, the lower half consisting of a fine arch beside a small chamber. The upper chamber occupies the full width of the building. It features a small round-headed window which may be from another building.

Carlingford Dominican Friary (J190112) has the remains of a rectangular church with a detached building to the south. At the west end of the church are the remains of two corner towers. A slim tower divides the church, being slightly nearer the east end. There are only traces of a large east window and some evidence of a west doorway, now blocked. There are blocked windows in the north and south walls and traces of a blocked doorway in the south wall near the east end. There may be crenellations on the north and south walls but this is not clear due to the overgrowth. The tower may have been climbed by a stairway at the south but it was not possible to view this closely. There is a good machicolation over the west doorway. The building to the south is an empty shell with possibly two storeys. It may have been L-shaped.

A small rath/cashel (J195093) was inspected but due to overgrowth no details or dimensions could be recorded. Ballug Castle (J201060) is a ruined tower-house. At the south-east corner, within a small projecting tower, is a fine spiral stairway, lit by narrow slits and rising to roof level. The ruins consist mainly of the intact east wall and fragments of the north and south walls. It may have been about five storeys high. The rest of the tower is reduced to ground level and there is a large amount of rubble. The doorway is in the south wall at the bottom of the stairs and is protected by a good murder-hole leading from the first floor. There is a second entrance through the east wall but this may not be original. The tower was vaulted above the ground floor and there are traces of a small turret at the north-east corner.

In Templetown, Kilwirra Church (J210081) has a fine ogee-headed window in the east wall beside another window, now blocked. There is a doorway in the south wall and a small ambry in the south-east corner. The north wall is buttressed.

Rockmarshall Court Tomb (J125081) is now greatly overgrown and is set within a cairn about 20m long. At the north-east about half the court is visible. It is about 3.5m wide and deep and is composed of stones less than 50cm high. Running south-west from this is a segmented gallery with possibly four chambers up to 2m wide. There is a definite division between the second and third chambers and it is possible that there are two two- chambered tombs back-to-back. However there are no traces of a south-west court. There is a great deal of confusion in this area and there may be another chamber. The exact nature of the structure is unclear due to overgrowth and rubble.

Beside Proleek Dolmen (J081111) is a fine wedge-tomb with one capstone in place and part of the facade visible. There is no antechamber. The tomb is about 7m long by 1.5m wide at the front and 1m wide at the back. The capstone is about 1m by 2m and the upright stones are less than 1m high. Proleek Dolmen is a fine example of a tripod dolmen. The portal stones are over 2m high by about 1m long and 60cm thick. The capstone is massive. It is covered with small pebbles and is used as a wishing stone.

At Aghnaskeagh (J075135), within a modern enclosure are three uprights of a tripod dolmen but no capstone. The portal stones are over 2m high and the backstone is about 1m high. There are considerable remains of a cairn. A short distance to the south is another enclosure containing a low cairn with a number of megalithic tombs. Two structures stand back-to-back E-W and consist of polygonal chambers with small antechambers. There are at least three other smaller cist-like structures one of which has a capstone. The larger tombs are about 2m by 1m and the orthostats are generally less than 1m high.

The souterrain at Drumad (J078156) is about 65cm high by 80cm wide at the entrance opening out to about 1m high. About 5m from the entrance a passage, about 5m long, goes off to the right. It is less than 1m wide at the entrance and opens to about 1.5m wide at the inner end. The main passage continues curving slightly to the right and opening to about 1.2m high. About 10m from the entrance the passage height increases to about 1.7m and continues thus for about another 10m. It then closes rapidly to less than 1m high and curves sharply to the left where it is blocked.

Sunday 22 June

Legananny Cross-inscribed Stone (J303427) was inspected. On one side is a small cross with expanded ends measuring about 25cm by 25cm. Along one edge of the stone is a faint and crude inscription which may be Ogham. The stone is about 2m high by 35cm square and there is a shoulder about 20cm from the top.

Finnis Souterrain (J273442) is about 1m high at the entrance and widens to about 1.7m square at the inner end. About 10m from the entrance a side passage, about 10m long, runs off to the right. About 11m further on a similar passage occurs and the souterrain ends about 10m beyond this. The main passage curves slightly to the left throughout its length. This is possibly the longest souterrain in Co Down.