North Leinster

Saturday 29 June

At Monasterboice, Co Louth (O043821) are the remains of two churches, a Round Tower, a sundial and three High Crosses. The south cross, or Muiredach's Cross, is about 5.5m high and stands on a good pyramidal base and has a capstone carved as a small church with finials at either end of the roof. The cross is carved with figure subjects on the broad faces and mainly ornament on the narrow sides of the shaft. The centre of the east face shows the Last Judgement and the west face has a Crucifixion. The other figured panels show biblical and early Christian scenes including Adam & Eve, Cain & Abel, the Adoration of the Magi and the Resurrection. The west cross is about 7m high and its ornamentation is not as well preserved. However panels showing the Sacrifice of Isaac, the Three Hebrews in the Fiery Furnace and the Arrest of Christ can be clearly seen. The north cross is fragmentary with only the top portion complete. The west face shows a Crucifixion and the east face has a roundel with 16 spirals. Beside it is a portion of the shaft of another cross and a sundial. The two churches are simple rectangular structures of little interest. The Round Tower has a damaged top but is almost complete. It is about 25m high. The doorway is about 2m above ground level and is round-headed with some faint moulding. The graveyard has been in use since the 18th century and there are a number of good 19th century Celtic Revival ring-headed crosses with interlacing and entwined animals.

Mellifont Abbey, Co Louth (O013780) was viewed from the car park. The ruins are extensive but generally low. A large cruciform church is situated on the north side of the cloister garth. On the west side is the chapter house which is roofed and houses a collection of carved stones excavated at the site. At the south side is the Lavabo, a two-storey octagonal structure with round arches and some carvings. A small section of the cloister arcade has been reconstructed here. On the hill to the east of the abbey is a small L-shaped church. Inside is a coffin lid with a floreated cross. Across the road from the church is a small enclosure with a late 18th century stone with some decoration.

The entrance to the castle at Swords, Co Dublin (O182470) is through a large gatehouse which was originally vaulted. The two-storey building on the left has two stairways and some good vaulted rooms at the ground floor. There are remains of a large brick oven. To the right of the gatehouse is a large rectangular hall. The castle has a large polygonal bawn with rectangular corner towers and good sections of allure and crenellations. The large tower at the north corner is three storeys high. It is vaulted above the ground floor and in the east wall is a garderobe with latrine-chute. There is a spiral stairway in the south-west corner.

Swords Round Tower (O178468) stands to full height although the large windows beneath the conical roof indicate a reconstruction. The doorway in the east is less than lm above the present ground level. The Tower is about 25m high. A short distance to the southeast is a large square belfry known as St Columba's Norman Tower. It may be climbed by a spiral stairway. It houses a small exhibition at the lower levels and the clock and bells at the higher levels.
The passage grave at Fourknocks, Co Meath (O110620) has a very large chamber with three side niches. The lintels of two of the niches have chevron and lozenge decoration and the lintel at the inner end of the passage has chevron decoration. There are some other decorated stones. The tomb is covered by a modern roof which allows illumination of the decorated stones by natural light.

At Duleek, Co Meath, in Commons townland (O046684) are the remains of a large rectangular church with aisled nave. The west belfry has some crenellations and on the outer north face is the mark of a Round Tower. The Tower was at least 15m high. Within the church is a good box-tomb and the head of a High Cross, as well as a good effigy slab and some other fragments. Beside the disused Church of Ireland is a very fine High Cross with figure panels and some symbols of the Evangelists. There are a number of other ornamented panels. The tenon projecting from the top of the cross may have been used to secure a missing capstone.