To the Barrow Valley
Thursday 12 February
In Ballyboggan (N636403) there is the ruin of a large rectangular church. This is all that remains of the Augustinian Priory De Laude Dei. A section at the east end appears to have been walled off at a later date, but this may be simply a field boundary. The walls of this section are much more complete. About the middle of the church, in the north wall, is a small projection, which may have housed a stairway. There are traces of a south transept. At the east end of the north wall are traces of some lancet windows and a tomb niche. There are remains of a large east window. There are doorways in the north and south walls. The inside of the east section of the church is greatly overgrown. The west section is less overgrown but more ruinous. At the wst end in the north wall is a pointed doorway part of which has ben rebuilt. The west gable is almost totally gone but there are traces of a very large window. There are remains of windows in the north and south walls. The building sits inside a large low enclosure.
At Rathangan (N671197) there is a large rath about 58m diameter with a good entrance causeway in the east. There are traces of a low inner bank outside of which is a massive ditch about 12m wide. The height of the rath platform above the bottom of the ditch, particularly in the north, is very great. There are no traces of an outer bank. The interior of the rath is bare but the outer slopes are greatly overgrown with thorn and bramble. The nearby Church of Ireland was rebuilt in 1828. The churchyard contains a number of good mid-19th century gravestones. The castle near Rathangan (N662178) is a small heap of rubble in the middle of a field.
A small interesting church was investigated at Lackagh (N678128). It is intact except for the roof. The entrance under the tower at the west end divides to enter the church on either side of the fireplace. The church is very short and is greatly overgrown inside. There is a good three-light east window and three lancet windows in the north and south walls. Above the doorway is a four-light window and the tower is lit by lancet windows. It has a castellated top. On the outside of the east wall is a memorial of 1655 to four people sentenced to death and about three dozen others sentenced to transportation to Barbados. The memorials in the graveyard date from the 18th to the 20th century. In the field beside the church is a small fragment of a castle and a little further away is a greatly overgrown motte.
At Monasterevin (N629100), flanking the road, is a collection of buildings which look like mills. Closer investigation shows that they are the remains of Cassidy's Distillery. The most interesting structure is a circular building with a wooden cap. This is the only brick mash tun in Ireland. Just outside this are two sets of millstones. The building at the other side of the yard housed the copper kettles which are now removed. However the chimney is still in place. There is another large chimney near the mash tun. Beyond this is a wooden crane and the remains of a turbine. Some of the buildings are still used by an engineering firm.
Also in Monasterevin is a collection of transport structures (N623107). The Grand Canal crosses the River Barrow by an aqueduct. Just upstream the Cork Main Line crosses the river and a little further upstream is a fine road bridge of five arches. A little to the east of the aqueduct the road crosses the canal by an excellent drawbridge. Just beside the drawbridge is a collection of canal warehouses and a canal hotel. A short distance away is Monasterevin Railway Station which is now closed. It is a two-storey grey building with one storey below platform level. All the windows facing the platform are now blocked. The building is on the down side.
Ballyadams Castle (S630909) is an unusual structure. Approaching from the roadway one sees a tall tower with attached lower building of three storeys. The tower is possibly five storeys high and has rounded corners. The appearance is like that of a gatehouse with two unequal round towers. The doorway is set in the short wall between the towers and is protected by a murder-hole leading from first floor and a machicolation at higher level. A spiral stairway rises to the left of the entrance. At the base of this is a small room. To the right of the entrance is a small chamber with a hole in the leading to a lower chamber. The main entrance to this latter chamber is from the rear of the tower. The stairway rises to first floor where a small room leads off to the left. Straight ahead is a large room with a fireplace. The stairway rises further on the right to a similar arrangement on the second floor. Beyond this level the stairway is broken but appears to rise to roof level. There is no access to the lower building from the tower. The large rooms above second floor level both have fireplaces and the walls of all the rooms are plastered. The windows at the fourth storey are two-light with ogee heads. There are good crenellations on the tower and the narrower section rises above roof level to form a small turret. The lower building is rectangular with large window openings, all now damaged. It is divided to first floor level by an interior wall but all the floors are missing. Just outside the castle is a concrete-lined well.
Tullomoy Castle (S604909) was noted in passing. It appears to be a rectangular hall. The remains of a round cairn were inspected at Brennanshill (S576868). A well defined kerb encircles a low cairn. Just off centre is a large stone which may be a capstone. The ciarn is about 9m diameter and the stone is about 1m long by less than 1m wide.
Castlemore Motte (S828738) was inspected. It is enclosed by a good ditch but is greatly overgrown. It is surmounted by a rectangular granite block with a crude raised cross on the east side. The stone is about 1.6m high by 40cm wide and 30cm thick.
Friday 13 February
Moatabower Motte (S830782) was inspected. It is overgrown and greatly mutilated. A large amount of quarrying has taken place and there are no traces of defensive ditches.
Aghade Holed Stone (S846696) was investigated. It is a large granite slab about 2m by 1.5m by 50cm and contains a large perforation about 30cm diameter. A motte was inspected (S843680). It has no defences and it is greatly damaged on the south side. A standing stone was observed from the roadside near Aghade Bridge (S859683). It is about 1.5m high and less than 1m square with a projecting knob on the east side.
A stone cross at Nurney (S733675) was inspected. It has an unpierced ring and stands about 1.7m above the base. It is about 1.2m wide at the arms and 30cm thick. There is a good raised boss on both faces but no other decoration. The base is large compared with the height of the cross.
At Milford Mills (S700703) there is a short section of the Barrow Navigation with a lock and drawbridge. There is a derelict lock-keeper's house. Upstream beside the bridge is a large castellated mill six storeys high by eleven bays long and three bays deep. It may have had an internal wheel but there are no remains. A stone dated 1891 is set high in the wall.
A motte was investigated (S580570). It is oval being about 17m long and 7m wide with a bailey to the south. It sits on top of a steep hill but it is not very high. The bailey is about 22m long by 8m wide.
Clara Castle (S574580) is a very fine tower-house about five storeys high. It is vaulted above the third floor and the original oak beams of all the other main floors are still in place. A spiral stairway rises to the left of the doorway and there is a small flat- roofed chamber to the right. The door is hung on the original hinge-stones. The floors of all the small rooms above the entrance are missing but some of the beams are still in place. The small room at first floor was originally painted blue and one wall has a good crucifixion mural. The large room at ground level is lit by small slits set within deep recesses, as is the first floor. There is an ambry at the first floor and a brick fireplace built in front of a small window. There is a small chamber in the south wall at the second floor. There is a large two-light window and in the south-west corner a mural passage leads to a garderobe in the west wall. Within the west wall at third floor level is a secret chamber which now has an opening behind a latrine. It is lit by one small window. Above the vault is a room with a fireplace. It is lit by two-light windows in the south and west walls and by single-light windows in the north and east walls. The fireplace is in the east wall. The secret room may be entered from this level through a hole in the floor. From this room the stairway becomes a straight mural structure which rises to roof level although this was not accessible during this visit. However the allure seems to be intact and there are good weepers and crenellations. There is a slopstone over the doorway at the third floor and possibly one leading from the stairway just below this level. The stairway is lit by small slits including a cross-shaped loop just below first floor level. There is a very fine machicolation at roof level. The entrance to the tower is well defended by a small bawn about 3.5m wide and 13m long. It has a number of small defensive loops.
St Mary's Church, Gowran (S633536) is a fine rectangular structure the east end of which is roofed and still in use as the Protestant church. A large tower is centrally placed and the west end is ruinous. The north wall survives to full height and is crenellated. The north aisle arcade of four arches is intact and there are traces of a possible south transept. In the north wall above the aisle arcade are traces of two quatrefoil windows now open and two similar blocked windows. The church has many niches particularly in the south wall where there are four tomb niches and a piscina. There is a south aisle but the arcade is now gone. The east window of this aisle is a fine two- light structure with a decorated hood. The nave of the church has a good three-light west window. A small arch, now blocked, leads under the tower which is buttressed. The top of the tower has good crenellations. The ruined section of the church has many carved masks. There are a number of box-tombs and some good coffin lids. In particular there are two effigy slabs featuring a man and a woman standing on serpents. In the west corner is a fine box-tomb the lid of which is carved with a shrouded corpse. Some of the panels feature the instruments of the Passion and one of the end panels has a crucifixion. It is dated 1626.
To the south-east of Gowran is the ruin of a castle (S641511). Three storeys remain beneath a vault. The entrance is in the south. The outer doorway is mising and the inner doorway is fragmentary. It is protected by a very good murder-hole leading from the first floor. A stairway rises within the west wall to above first floor where there is a slopstone. There are chambers in the north and south walls at first floor level but access to these is not possible. The stairway then rises in the north wall to above the vault. It is protected by a small murder-hole just above second floor level. There may be a mural passage along the west wall above the second floor. The first floor is lit by some two-light windows and elsewhere there are some very fine defensive slits including a corner slit just below the vault. Externally the castle measures about 10m from north to south and slightly more from east to west.
Access to the castle just south of Gowran (S632530) is not possible. It appears to stand to full height but there are no crenellations. The doorway in the east wall is now blocked and it was protected by a machicolation, remains of which can be seen at roof level. There is a latrine chute exit at the base of the south wall near the west corner and this was also protected by a machicolation. The north end of the castle rises above the level of the rest to form a turret running the full width of the building. There is a fine mullioned and transomed window in the north wall. At the top floor there are some good two-light windows and there is a good slopstone in the west wall.
A rath was investigated (S650565). The platform is about 60m diameter with traces of an inner bank. There are some traces of a ditch on the south side and an outer bank on the north side. The rath platform in the south-east has been greatly quarried leaving a large circular depression.
Saturday 14 February
The remains of the Cistercian Abbey of Baltinglass (S868890) consist of a ruined cruciform church with east chapels in the transepts. To the south is a fragment of re- erected cloister arcade. The church has three lancet east windows and fragments of similar windows in the west wall above an unremarkable doorway. The arcade of the south aisle is intact with nine arches. The pillars are alternately round and square. The capitals are finely carved and the bases of the round pillars have projecting feet. There is a fragment of a north doorway of three orders. The middle order features chevron decoration. Only two arches of the north aisle arcade remain at the east end. At the site of the high altar is a plain font beside which is a smaller stone with a deep depression. Beside a plain piscina in south wall is a very fine triple sedilia. The tower near the middle of the church is a much later addition and near it is a possible cross base. The site of the chapels in the south transept is occupied by a large tomb within which are coffin niches.
A motte was noted in passing (S918938). Castleruddery Stone Circle (S916941) is about 25m diameter. There are at least 30 stones erected inside a substantial bank. A number of stones are approximately centrally placed but they form no definite pattern. Two very large quartz boulders at the east side of the circle seem to form an entrance. They are about 1m high by 2m long and 2m thick. Flanking these are two tall stones about 1.7m and 1.25m high. The other stones of the circle are about 1m high or less. Running east from the quartz boulders is a small alignment about 15m long.
Athgreany Stone Circle or the Piper's Stones (N930032) is about 21m diameter with 14 stones. The tallest stone is about 1.8m high by 1m square. One of the stones has a curving groove about 1.4m long by 4cm wide and 4cm deep. There are a few outliers to the north-west and a large boulder to the north-east. This has a number of grooves which form a T-shape or possibly a cross. There are also some cupmarks. There is a smaller outlier to the south-east.
Another stone circle was investigated (N929075). This is also called the Piper's Stones. It is about 27m diameter with at least 27 stones. All of them are about 1m or less high and 1m or more long. The circle appears to enclose a low platform.
The castle at N884111 is just a fragment of a wall sitting on a low mound. Mullaghmast Long Stone (S772955) is about 1.8m high by 70cm wide and 60cm thick. It is slightly tapering with three long grooves. Mullaghmast Rath (S760969) has a large inner bamk surrounded by a broad shallow ditch. There are no traces of an outer bank. The height of the bank on the outside could be 5m. It is planted with small trees and shrubs. The platform has some bramble but a large section is clear. There is a good entrance causeway in the east. The total diameter including the ditch could be 85m.
Moone High Cross (S790937) is tall and narrow. It is richly carved on all sides. On the north of the base are the Twelve Apostles, above which is a possible crucifixion; on the south of the base is Daniel in the Lions' Den, Abraham & Isaac and Adam & Eve; the west of the base has the Loaves & Fishes, the Flight into Egypt and the Three Hebrews in the Fiery Furnace; the east of the base has intertwined beasts, the Temptation of St Anthony and two figures holding a round object between them. There are animals carved on the shaft. At the top of the south face is a crucifixion; the north face has interlacing. The cross stands beside the ruin of a church of which the gables and south wall are fairly intact. Inside is a reconstructed fragment of a cross and there are two cross bases to the north of the church. The north and south walls extend beyond the level of the east wall in the fashion of antae. The tower-house to the south of the cross appears to stand to full height although the crenellations are not intact. It is lit by two-light windows at the upper floors but close examination was not possible. The roof is in place but is overgrown with ivy and grass. It may be five storeys high. Downstream from the castle and on the other side is a large ivy-covered mill. It is an L-shaped building one end of which has crenellations.
The churchyard at Castledermott (S783850) has two very fine High Crosses. The east face of the south cross has mainly interlacing and geometrical patterns. The west face has Daniel in the Lions' Den, The Temptation of St Anthony, Adam & Eve and two figures holding a round object between them. On the south arm is Abraham & Isaac and on the north arm is David with his harp. In the middle is a crucifixion and below this possibly the Three Hebrews in the Fiery Furnace. The south side of the base shows the Loaves & Fishes. The base of the north cross has curvilinear ornamentation on the west face, the Loaves & Fishes on the south face, more ornamentation on the east face and a crouched figure on the north face. On the west face of the cross on the north arm is David with his harp, with Abraham and Isaac on the south arm. Between these is Adam & Eve, below which is Daniel in the Lions' Den and possibly the Temptation of St Anthony. The Crucifixion is central to the east face and it is possible surrounded by the Twelve Apostles in four groups of three. Lower down are two figures holding a round object between them. The north and south edges have curvilinear ornamentation. In the churchyard is a portion of a Round Tower with a castellated top. A reconstructed two-order Romanesque arch spans the pathway to the church doorway which is a replica of this arch. Nearby are two perforated stones, one round with a large hole and the other rectangular with a small hole. This also has a ring-headed cross on the east side and a ridge running full length on the west side. There are a number of cross-inscribed stones.
Sunday 15 February
A visit was made to the ruined house at Duckett's Grove (S802793). It is a two- part structure. To the north is a castellated house with square windows and a projecting turret at the north-east corner. There is a good oriel window over the north doorway and many gargoyles around the string course below the castellations. This appears to be the older section of the building and is of stone and brick with plaster covering. The other section is in better condition and is stone faced. It has a fine round turret in the west. This is topped by a smaller turret. To the south of this is a gateway. There are at least 16 chimneys in the older section and 6 in the newer. A wing runs to the east at the south end of the building and this has a fine square gatehouse.
At Rathvilly (S878824) there is a mill with a very fine wood and iron stream wheel in need of a little repair. All the waterworks seem to be in good condition and the building is still inhabited. There are some traces of the railway at this point.
At Oughterard (N957264) there are the remains of a nave-and-chancel church. The chancel is intact with a good vaulted roof. There is a fine three-light square-headed east window and small windows inthe north and south walls. A doorway in the south wall leads to a spiral stairway which ascends a small tower projecting from the south wall and now almost detached. The nave is fragmentary. A short distance to the south-west is the stump of a Round Tower featuring a very fine doorway in the east about 3m from the ground. The tower is about 10m high and there is a small window in the south.
At Straffan (N925299) there are the remains of a church with a tower at the wes end surmounted by a double bell-cote. The tower is about four storeys high and there is a squinch between it and the south wall of the church. Little remains of the church which appears to have been a simple rectangular structure.
Taghadoe Round Tower (N924347) stands to about 30m. The doorway is built mainly of granite and has some moulding. Just above it is a stone with a raised portion which may be a weathered mask. There is a small square-headed window high above the doorway which is in the south. There is a second window at the west and another higher up at the north. There are some small openings near the top. The church nearby is a large rectangular structure with four corner turrets. There are large east and west windows and a south doorway. Parts of the building have been reconstructed recently.
Maynooth Castle (N935376) is entered through a magnificent square gatehouse to the south. To the east of this is a square tower forming part of the boundary wall and to the north and west is a huge rectangular keep. There are fragments of the curtain wall in the east. The keep is entered by a modern stairway at first floor level. This leads to a large vaulted room beyond which is a similar room. Directly opposite the doorway a spiral stairway rises to above the vault. Here there were possibly two large rooms but the dividing wall is fragmentary. There is at least one more storey above this. This upper storey is lit by large two-light windows. They are set within deep recesses and there are good window seats. There may be several mural chambers. The keep originally had four corner turrets of which fragments remain. There are no visible fireplaces. The tower at the south-east corner of the castle has three storeys plus attic. A spiral stairway in the north- west rises to first floor level. A murder-hole protects the doorway in the north wall. There are mural chambers at the two floors above this. There is another doorway in the south wall. An exit low down in the east wall may be for a latrine chute possibly leading from one of the mural chambers.
The remains of Moygaddy Castle (N945390) consist of a small square tower and a fragment of a bawn wall. The tower is two storeys high and lit by small slits. The entrance is in the south-west wall and there is a second doorway (now blocked) in the north-east wall. This has a wooden lintel. The ground floor room has a fine vaulted ceiling. A spiral stairway rises to first floor level where there is a magnificent corbelled roof. The stairway continues to roof level where there are some traces of crenellations. To the east of the tower is a fine stone-lined well. This has a pipe which probably leads to the large house across the road.
The castle ruin at N927397 is two walls of a rectangular tower with a portion of connecting wall. This forms a crude arch. It is ivy-covered and any details are hidden.
Skreen Church is prominently sited on top of a hill (N952605). The east gable is missing and there is a tower at the west end. There is a large window in the south wall and a small doorway in the north wall leads to a flight of steps. There are doorways in the north and south walls. On the outside above the south doorway is a carved panel featuring a cleric in full robes with staff and book. There is some decoration at the north doorway. The estimated height of the tower is 16m. There is a two-light window on the west side. The tower is locked but there is possibly a stairway in the south-east corner where there is a squinch. At the base is a collection of carved fragments and a reconstructed font. Near the church is a short-armed cross with a crude Crucifixion. It is about 1.5m high by 40cm wide and 20cm thick.