Galway and Clare
Saturday 9 July
A small rath-like structure (N212486) was investigated. It consists of a very good circular bank with a gap in the SE. The interior is not much higher than the exterior and the internal diameter is about 30m. Inside is a rectangular barn-like structure, now roofless.
Clontuskert Priory (M857258) was founded in the 12th century. It has a very fine pointed west doorway surmounted by four figures. Beneath the figure of St Catherine is depicted a corpse. St Michael is shown holding scales and beneath the figure is a very fine devil. The doorway is flanked by carved panels which depict among other things beasts with entwined necks, a mermaid, a star, a face with flames coming out of the mouth and a pelican giving blood. The holy water stoup to the left of the entrance is on a corner and is surmounted by two figures, one of which is St Catherine. The other is a cleric holding a crozier with a hand raised in benediction. The rectangular church is divided by a magnificent vaulted rood-screen. The round-headed doorway through the screen is dated 1637. There is some decoration on the columns of the screen and at least one carved mask on the vault and a boss at the centre of the vault.
There is a very fine five-light east window flanked by aumbries. The east gable is surmounted by a small cross. There is a double piscina in the south wall and a possible fragment of a sedilia is encroached on by a tomb niche which has two fine masks at the base of the hood and some of the hood tracery remaining. There are some lancet windows in the south wall. A north chapel or transept leads from the nave. It has a small traceried north window and is divided by a central wall. There are some foundations of building to the north of the church. To the south of the chancel is the ruin of a two-storey building with fireplaces. The lower fireplace has a very fine oven. This building had four rooms at ground floor level. Some traces of the cloister may be seen to the south of the church. There are good fragments of the north arcade and fine masks on both sides of one of the pillars. One of the cloister arches has four small masks. The east window appears to be a later insertion. There are traces of blocked lancets on either side. The outside of the window has a fine mould and is surmounted by a small mask.
The small castle to the south of Clonfert was re-examined (M951190). It is a rectangular tower standing to full height with corner bartizans at the SW and NE. The square-headed doorway in the south wall has been rebuilt. It is protected by a small machicolation at about second floor level and there are remains of a possible murder-hole. There is a guard chamber to the left of the doorway and a spiral stairway rises to the right. This is fragmentary above first floor level but can be seen to rise to roof level. There is a small rectangular room at the ground floor and at the upper levels there may be small rooms in the southern portion of the castle with larger rooms in the other section. The windows are set within deep recesses. The castle is four storeys high. There are fireplaces in the north wall at the first and third floors and another in the south wall at the second floor. The chimney pots are square.
Clonfert Cathedral (M960210) has a magnificent Romanesque doorway of seven orders with an eighth order inserted. The original doorway is richly carved with the usual motifs but especially masks, both human and animal. The inner, most recent, arch also has some fine decoration, including some full length figures. The doorway is surmounted by a fine triangular hood within which is a blind arcade of five arches with masks. The triangle above this has ten masks set within small inverted triangles. Above the hood are two more small masks. The church is now a rectangular building with a tower at the west end but there are traces of a south transept and some indications of a north transept. Although the church is locked, through the window it can be seen that there is some good carving at the chancel arch. This includes a mermaid.
In Meelick Franciscan Church (M943132) there is a fine collection of 17th and 18th century gravestones with good writing, both incised and in relief. Two blocked arches may indicate the former presence of a south transept or a short aisle. Here there is a good holy water stoup with a star-shaped depression and a carved panel depicting St Francis. There is a good north aisle and a small south chapel leads from the chancel. There is a very fine stone font in the porch and the cross outside seems to be the finial from an earlier church. To the north of the church are two buildings. One of them seems to have been another church since it has a holy water stoup and a place for an altar. It has some brick-lined round-headed east windows. The other building may have been a large house.
Derryhivenny Castle (M872084) has substantial remains of a bawn, including a portion of a round flanking tower at the NE corner and another flanker at the SE. There are also parts of the wall walk and crenellations. The tower house has good bartizans at the NE and SW corners. There are some two- and three-light mullioned windows and some fine defensive slits and a small round musket loop in the south wall. The larger windows have good hood moulds. The pointed doorway is in the east wall. To the right is a small guard room and directly ahead is a quatrefoil ventilator or spyhole. The entrance continues to the left to a broad spiral stairway which rises in the SE corner. There are very good slopstones at the windows of the stairway which rises to roof level. The allure is intact but there are no crenellations. The area above the doorway is now broken and there is no murder hole to be seen. This side of the castle has a series of small rooms two of which have fireplaces. There are two good chimney pots. The west end of the castle has three large fireplaces and two small ones in the attics. There are four good chimney pots. There is a small chamber at the ground floor under the stairs and a number of small chambers in the north wall which are not now accessible. The castle is not vaulted. There are no floors to the main rooms and only a fragment of a wooden beam at the second floor.
The remains of a mill were investigated from the roadside (M800119). There is a good mill race and a weir and the ventilator for a corn kiln.
Thoor Ballylee (M481061) is about five storeys high and has a machicolation protecting the roadside wall. At the first floor on the adjacent wall there is a fine mask, and attached to this wall, possibly at the original doorway, is a thatched house.
Sunday 10 July
Lydacan Castle (M438080) stands to full height minus crenellations. There are corbels of a machicolation on the east and south walls and a small turret rises above the general roof level at the SW corner. There is a good base batter. There are some traces of a machicolation at the west wall and evidence of a building erected against the north wall. The castle is lit by many good defensive slits as well as some good two-light windows at the upper levels. The doorway is round-headed on the outside and pointed on the inside. It has a murder hole and also a small machicolation within the thickness of the wall. The tower is vaulted above the ground floor and again above the second floor. There is a guard chamber to the left of the doorway and a short passage to the right leads to a spiral stairway. At the ground floor one small window has good window seats and a similar window has been converted to a fireplace. The large room at the first floor has a simple fireplace in the north wall. There is a garderobe near the top in the north wall and a series of small chambers along the west wall. The large room above the second vault is not now accessible. There is some decoration on the outside of one of the two-light windows at the first floor.
A large rath was investigated (M422071). It is about 50m diameter with a well defined entrance in the east. The bank incorporates a large amount of stone and there are several small gaps. There is the suggestion of a ditch but much of this area is encroached on by surrounding fields. A damaged souterrain can be seen at the base of a thorn bush. At the west end is a large chamber with good lintels. After a gap, where the thorn bush is, a low two metre section may be seen before a blockage. A depression in the ground runs about 8m east of this to a small mound which may be a hut site.
Nastig Fort (M420060) has a very fine souterrain. It is more than 1m wide by about 1m high. The lower half is flooded and appears to have been used as a well. Across the water the souterrain is partly blocked but beyond this the lintels of a side passage may be seen. In the north wall of the fort there is a small chamber. The diameter of the fort is about 38m.
Ballynastig Wedge Tomb (M419055) runs approximately NE-SW and has two large sidestones and a good capstone. There is some drystone walling and a considerable amount of cairn material. Much of this may be recent field clearance. The tomb is about 3m long by 1.5m wide and 1m high. In the field to the south is a standing stone as well as some other large stones. This area is greatly overgrown and may be the remains of a ruined megalithic tomb.
Crannagh Dolmen (M426059) has two fine sidestones which form a portal, a good backstone and a magnificently tilted capstone. It is about 2.3m high at the front and 1.9m high at the back. The capstone is about 3.6m long and a maximum of 3m wide.
A castle was inspected (M414063). It stands to full height with the entrance in the east wall. The outer section of the doorway is now removed and the inner doorway is pointed. There is a large murder hole and the stairway rises to the right. The large room straight ahead has two windows set within deep recesses. The castle is vaulted above the first floor where there is a fireplace in the south wall and windows in the other walls. The entrance to this room is only from the spiral stairway which rises in the NE corner. The stairway is fragmentary above first floor level. It is lit by some very fine slits and there are some good corner slits. There is a two-light window at the second floor. A latrine chute exits at the base of the north wall near the west corner. A short distance to the north (M415064) is a very fine rath about 30m diameter. There is a lot of stone in the bank which is very high and complete. The gap in the east may be the original entrance. The rath platform has been greatly disturbed.
At Kilmacduagh (M405000) all the lockable buildings were inaccessible. The Glebe House is a large two-storey building which has been re-roofed and has a crenellated top. The Round Tower stands to full height and has a round-headed doorway. At the top are six early pointed windows with inclined jambs. There are some small windows lower down and the tower leans noticeably from the vertical. The Cathedral is a large cruciform building with a pointed south doorway near the west end. Above this is a fine mitred head. There are traces of a blocked west doorway with a large lintel and inclined jambs. There was originally a high-pitched roof but the walls have been rebuilt and are now higher than the original roof. There are some good windows particularly in the east and south walls. In the field to the north is the ruin of a small nave and chancel church and there is another small church ruin across the road. O'Heyne's Church, some distance to the north-west was not examined on this occasion.
Ardamullivan Castle (R444952) has traces of bartizans on the NE and SW corners and there is a machicolation along the south wall. There are corbels of a machicolation above the doorway in the east wall. There is a murder hole and, in the wall above the doorway, at first floor level, there is a long narrow horizontal slit which looks like a large slopstone but is probably a defensive device similar to a machicolation. There is a fine guard chamber to the right of the doorway and the stairway rises on the left. Straight ahead is a large vaulted room. There is a small fireplace on the right and two small windows set within deep recesses. There is a series of small chambers in the eastern section of the castle. There is a large room at the second floor with a corner fireplace. The castle is vaulted again above the fourth floor. There appears to be a small chamber in the east wall just under the vault but this is not accessible. The machicolation in the south wall is at third floor level. It has a cross-shaped defensive loop. The large room above the second vault has a fireplace and three good windows. The window in the north wall has a round-headed recess with three decorated panels. Some of the small windows have decoration on the outside. There are many slopstones throughout the castle and a latrine chute exit near the base of the north wall. Traces of walls around the castle may be part of the original bawn.
Fiddaun Castle (R410959) was viewed from a distance. It has a good bawn with at least one corner bartizan. There are wall bartizans at two of the corners of the castle and one gable with a chimney as well as a free standing chimney.
Derryowen Castle (R392952) was also viewed from a distance. One wall stands to full height with a chimney. There are portions of another wall and indications of a bartizan at one corner.
Rockvale Castle (R381981) has a north wall standing to full height with traces of roof weepers. There are single- and double-light windows and portions of other walls.
Monday 11 July
A short distance to the west of Kilfenora Cathedral (R182939) there is a High Cross featuring a crucifixion. Close to the west of the church is another cross with, on the west side, a crucifixion and animals, and, on the east side, a cleric on the top standing on two pairs of figures. Part of the church is still in use. There is a fine mask outside the south door. The east end of the church is ruinous but there is a good east window of three round-headed lights. The tops of two of the columns of the window are decorated; one has foliage and the other has faces. Flanking the window are two effigy slabs. One has a cleric with mitre, crozier and raised hand; the other figure holds a book. Along the north wall is a triple sedilia with a fine hood and a good mitred head above it. Close to this is the figure of another cleric incised on a slab. In the south wall is a good double piscina. There is a small north transept with a double piscina in the east wall and a fine round- headed east window.
The wedge tomb in Caherminnaun West (R195949) was investigated. It consists of two long side slabs with a backstone at the east end. Another large stone lies near the west end. This may have been a capstone. The tomb is about 3.5m long by 3m wide.
Caherballykinvarga (R199948) is a massive stone fort with large lintels and a well defined entrance in the south. It is surrounded by extensive chevaux-de-frise, which is particularly good on the northern side. Inside the cashel there is a large number of stones which may be the remains of huts. The wall is about 4m thick and possibly 4m high on the northern side. The internal diameter is about 42m. A short distance to the NE is a small ruined cashel and a further distance to the west is another. Neither of these were closely inspected.
Leamaneh Castle (R235935) consists of a 15th century tower house with a 17th century mansion attached to the west. The doorway to the tower is in the east wall and was protected by a machicolation, remains of which can be seen at roof level. It is lit throughout by small slits many of which have slopstones. Some of the windows in the north wall have ogee heads and decoration. There is a very good murder hole. To the right of the doorway is a large chamber and the stairway rises on the left. Straight ahead is the mansion which has many mullioned and transomed windows. It is three storeys high with a gabled attic. There is a projection at the NW corner and a fine doorway in the middle of the south wall. At the SW corner, at first floor level, there is a good wall bartizan. There is little evidence of fireplaces except possible in the west wall. There are no indications of stairs within the mansion. A spiral stairway rises within the SE corner of the tower which is vaulted above the fourth floor. This is a very tall, thin tower, totally unlike other tower houses.
Templeline (R257960) is a simple rectangular church with very low ruined walls. There is a very fine lintelled doorway. Nearby is a good hut site.
Temple Cronan (N289000) is a small rectangular church. The original west doorway is now blocked. It has a good lintel and inclined jambs. The small east window also has inclined jambs. It is round-headed on the outside and square-headed on the inside. There is some moulding on the inside. The present doorway is in the north wall and features a good hinge stone. It is surmounted by a weathered mask. There are good corbel stones on the gables and one of them is decorated. One of the corners of the church has some moulding. There are two masks on the west gable and the west doorway is flanked by two masks. One of these appears to be a death's head. The south wall also has a mask. Outside the church, near the SE corner, is a triangular tomb i.e. with triangular ends and two sloping side panels. A similar tomb lies just outside the churchyard wall to the NE.
The wedge tomb in Creevagh (R273957) is a very fine structure. It consists of two long side stones, a capstone and a backstone. At the front, separated from the burial chamber, are two large slabs, one upright, one recumbent, and another large upright on the west side. The tomb is about 3m long by 1.5m wide and over 1m high. A short distance to the SW is a hut circle. The tomb is inside a small circular structure which may be a cashel.
Smithstown Castle (R147940) is severely damaged at one corner. It appears to be full height but there are no crenellations. The doorway in the east wall is pointed. There is a guard chamber to the right and a spiral stairway rises on the left. There is no murder hole. The castle is vaulted above the first floor and third floor. There are some fine lower hinge stones at the windows and a number of slopstones. Some of the small windows have decoration on the outside. There are some large windows at the second floor but most of the worked stone has been removed. A passage runs from the stairway, approximately N - S, near the east end, just below the level of the first vault. It leads to a small room with a fireplace. There is a very fine fireplace at the second floor. At the NW corner at this level there is a very fine corner slit flanked by two D-shaped loops. All building above the second vault is missing. A mark on the south wall indicates an attached building, now removed.
Tuesday 12 July
Corofin Heritage Centre (R285889) now occupies a CoI church. The annex houses files concerning Co Clare families, emigration etc. The exhibits in the main church include photographs and artifacts of bygone days, as well as a number of carved stones. The most famous of these is the Tau Cross. This has two carved masks near the ends of the upper surface of the arms of the T. There is also a good slab depicting the martyrdom of St Sebastian.
Ballyportry Castle (R298901) is a large rectangular tower aligned approximately E - W. The doorway in the east wall is protected by a machicolation at roof level. The castle was restored 1961-83 by Robert Owen Brown and is now private. It is approximately six storeys high with the western portion being higher than the rest. The very good crenellations appear to be relatively modern. There are many small window slits some of which have round heads and there are some two-light windows at the upper levels. Some slopstones are visible. The castle has a very good bawn with corner flankers at the SE and NW.
O'Dea's Castle (R282850) has been almost fully restored and is now a museum. There is a guard chamber to the right of the entrance and a very fine spiral stairway rises on the left. The entrance is protected by a murder hole leading from the first floor and a machicolation at roof level. The castle is vaulted above first floor and third floor. At the second floor there is a good collection of fashioned stones including quern stones and millstones. At the third floor there is a good AV display illustrating the history of Co Clare. The room above the second vault has a fine fireplace. There is a three-light window in the west wall and a two-light window in the south wall. Much of this appears to be a reconstruction. The room houses a fine collection of archaeological finds. The roof and crenellations are modern.
Wednesday 13 July
Kilmoon Church (M148000) was inspected briefly. It is a small, almost square building. There is a pointed south doorway and a square-headed east window with a square moulding. There is a small west window. The graveyard is very overgrown and there are some modern burials.
Poulnabone Dolmen (M236003) has a large capstone and four sidestones. There are two stones at the rear plus a backstone. A possible second capstone lies at the rear of the small mound. The capstone is about 4m long and the tomb is about 1.7m high at the front and 1.3m high at the back. The dolmen is aligned approximately NE - SW.
Little remains of Ardrahan Old Church (M461121), just one gable and some portions of the north and south walls. Across the road is a fragment of a castle. The market cross is a plain square pillar with a pyramidal top.
Doon Fort (M478128) has an L-shaped souterrain. The inner section is about 1.7m high by 2m wide and 7m long. The outer section is of similar length but becomes increasingly lower as the entrance is approached. It is aligned approximately N - S. A short distance away is a fragment of another souterrain about 1m long and 20cm high. A short distance to the north of this may be a further section but this is not clear. A deep depression near the southern edge of the rath platform may be a collapsed souterrain. The internal diameter of the rath is difficult to estimate because of the heavy undergrowth but it may be about 60m. There are three banks and three ditches and entrances in the north and south-west.
Creagh Castle (M531152) has traces of a bawn wall. The entrance to the tower in the east wall is greatly ruined and there is a large piece out of the NE corner where there had been a wall bartizan. Although the door area is severely damaged the murder hole is visible and there is a machicolation at roof level. The chamber to the right of the doorway is almost completely demolished. The stairway rises on the left but access is difficult. The castle is vaulted above the ground floor and half-vaulted above the second floor. A small passage runs along the south wall within the curve of the lower vault. There is another small passage in the north wall at the first floor. There are fireplaces at all the upper levels. The top floor (inaccessible) has two two-light windows set within pointed recesses.
The distillery at Kilbeggan (N331356) has a very fine water-wheel which has been fully restored. Inside the distillery there are some large fermentation vats as well as a fine collection of bygones. Some of these are for sale in the antiques shop.
The Round Tower at Donaghmore, Co Meath (N884697) has a fine doorway surmounted by a crucifixion panel and flanked by two weathered masks. There is also a trace of moulding. Nearby is the gable of a church with a double bell-cot, and, at the base of the wall, a number of fragments of worked stones. Many of the gravestones in the churchyard are 18th century with good clear writing. One of them features a skull and crossbones. Another stone has a fine piece of interlaced decoration.