Away Down South
A Tour of Some of the Historic Sites of Cork and Kerry
The monastery at Grangefertagh (or just Fertagh), Co Kilkenny (S308698) was probably founded by St Ciaran of Seir in the 6th century. The site was raided by Vikings in 861 and in 1156 the high king, Murtagh MacNeale burned the Round Tower with the lector inside it.
This Round Tower is the only remnant of the early monastery. It stands about 30m high and retains some of its conical top. The doorway retained its rounded top until the early 19th century when a farmer named Switzer removed the stones. He thought that the stones were fireproof and fitted them, unsuccessfully, as firebricks in his kitchen. The doorway is now blocked up. In the 13th century the Blanchevilles founded a monastery close by for the Canons Regular of St Augustine. The church of this monastery was in use until 1780 and now forms part of a handball alley. The MacGillpatrick Chapel was attached to the church and contains the tomb of John MacGillpatrick and his wife.
It dates from the early 16th century and was carved by Rory O Tunney. The tomb supports the double effigy of MacGillpatrick and his wife and the chest is decorated with images of window tracery and lierne vaulting in low relief.
Cahir Castle (S050247), Co Tipperary was probably built in the late 14th century by James Butler, Earl of Ormond. It was taken by the Earl of Essex in 1599 after a ten-day siege.
However it was then restored to the Butlers. It was surrendered to Cromwell in 1650 but again returned to the Butlers in 1662. However they lost it again during the Williamite Wars. It is a large castle built on a rock in the river. It has a large keep with a bawn with three corner towers. One of these is small and round. The other two are rectangular. One of them has three storeys and is almost as big as a tower-house. A flight of steps close to the other leads to the well which is below a circular tower which may be the postern gate. There is another rectangular building close to the opposite corner. The main gate has a machicolation and a portcullis. The room above, which houses the portcullis machinery, may be inspected. Attached to the south wall of the bawn is a larger and later bawn with buildings, now inhabited, which may have been stables.
The Market House in Cahir stands at the north side of the market square. It is a two-storey building topped by a clock.
The upper storey is five bays long, with the two outer bays appearing as semicircular alcoves. The lower storey now has large square modern shop fronts and its original appearance can not now be determined.
Burncourt Castle (R953181) Co Tipperary, is a large gabled mansion, with a central block four bays long and four storeys high including the basement and attic. It has four large square flanking towers each five storeys high including the basement and gabled attic.
Along the front are the corbels for a machicolation which runs the full length of the central block. There is a fine central doorway with a hood mould and decorated label stops. The castle has many mullioned and transomed windows with good square hood moulds. There are fireplaces in the east wall, the north wall and within the flanking towers. There is no indication of a stairway. There would have been twenty six gables in the house. The castle was built in 1641 by Sir Richard Everard and burned by Cromwell in 1650.
Mitchelstown Market House was built by George, Earl of Kingston in 1823. It is a 3 bay 2 storey building. The middle bay breaks forward and has a pediment.
Labbacallee is a huge wedge tomb (R 772025). It has a double burial chamber covered by three large capstones. The side stones and the outer walling are almost complete.
The space between is filled by cairn material. Five flat stones project from the rear of the tomb and form 4- niches. There are some traces of a kerb on the south side but all traces have been removed from the north.
Glanworth Mill is six bays long and two bays deep with a double gable. It has a very fine stream wheel and is now a restaurant. Glanworth Castle (R75804-0) has an outer wall with three round flanking towers and one square flanker. Within the wall is a large rectangular building which had a good base batter.
The walls of this building are up to 1.5m thick. The interior is gutted but there are traces of an internal dividing wall. The building is about three storeys high. There is no vault and no trace of a stairway. Close by is a tall slim tower about five storeys high with one wall missing. There are vaults above the first and second floors. The upper storeys are lit with small single light windows. with ogee heads. At the base of the wall are the exits for two latrine chutes. Attached to this tall building is a long low building which is vaulted above the ground floor. It appears to be some form of gatehouse. The stonework in this building and in parts of the outer wall, including the square flanking tower, is different to the stonework in the rest of the castle. This seems to indicate extensive modifications were carried out in the past. The round flanking towers are two storeys high and show traces of a circular vault above the ground floor. The ground floor rooms of these towers are lit by narrow defensive loops including cross-shaped loops. To the north of the castle, on the Mitchelstown Road, is a long rectangular church with a central tower. This is part of the Dominican Priory founded in 1475 by the Roches, who also built the castle. It has a five-light traceried east window and three two-light windows with ogee heads in the south wall. They are set within pointed recesses. There is a credence table and piscina in the south wall and a small doorway in the north wall. There are three small windows in the south wall at the west end and a large gap marks the position of the west window. There are good roof weepers along the top of the north and south walls at the east end of the church.
Castlelyons Dominican Friary (W840930) was founded in 1307 by John de Barry for the Carmelite Friars and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The present ruins probably date from the 15th century.
The very fine west doorway is surmounted by a two-light window with ogee heads and a good square hood mould. Only the western portion of the church, apart from the tower, stands to any height. There appears to have been a very large east window but only one edge of it remains. The east wall of the tower is missing. A spiral stairway rises at the NW corner of the tower. Within the eastern section of the church are several trapezoidal coffin lids.
Some of them have floreated crosses and raised inscriptions. The cloister lies to the south of the church and is bounded by buildings along the east and west sides. After the Reformation the friary was granted to the Earl of Cork who gave it to his daughter Alice. The friars remained associated with the site during Penal times and the last titular Carmelite Prior, John O Neile, died in 1760.
Castlemartyr Market House (W962732) is a two-storey three-bay building now used as a car showroom.
There is a rectangular plaque above the central window at roof level and a chimney on the east gable. The single storey extension to the rear is now ruinous.
Cloyne Round Tower (W917677), in Townparks (Cloyne) townland, has a square-headed doorway and a castellated top. The top was modified in 1748 after the tower was damaged by a lightning strike.
It stands 30m high and has seven storeys with basement. There is a single square-headed window at each level except at the fifth floor which has an angle-headed window and the top floor which has four windows. The doorway is about 3.5m above ground level and is now reachable by an iron stair. The tower was used in the 19th century to hang the Cathedral bell. The Cathedral, on the opposite side of the road, appears to date from the late 13th century, but has been extensively repaired and restored on at least four occasions. An early monastery was founded here by St Colman Mac Lenen, who died around 600, but all its buildings were burned in 1137.
Midleton Market House (W887735), in Town parks (Midleton) townland, is a five-bay two-storey building topped by a cupola with a clock. It has a hipped roof with finials behind a parapet with cornice.
Barryscourt (W823725) was the chief seat of the Barrymore family from about 1170 although the present buildings date from the 16th century.
It is a large tower-house with corner towers projecting beyond the main walls on two sides. At a third corner is a tower which is almost completely detached. There is a squinch between this tower and the main building. Two of the corner towers project beyond the wall with the entrance. They provided flanking cover to protect the doorway, which also had a musket loop to the left and a murder-hole just inside. There are some good windows at the upper levels with defensive loops lower down. The ceiling of the first floor room is vaulted. The upper floors are reached by a straight mural stairway. All three of the corner towers have spiral stairways. In two of these the stairways rise to roof level and go down to smaller rooms. Some of these rooms are L-shaped and some are rectangular. The large room above the vault has a fine fireplace dated 1588. Higher chambers may be reached by the stairs in the corner towers. The roof walk is intact but interrupted by a chimney and the corner towers. At roof level on the opposite side of the building is a room with a fine fireplace. This was the Earls bedroom. Beneath it is a chapel, which has a fine east window, a small south window and a piscina. Surrounding the castle is a bawn with the remains of three round corner towers.
Charles Fort, Kinsale (W654494), in Forthill town land, was built about 1680 on the site of Ringcurran Castle. It was designed by William Robinson. However, because it was overlooked on the landward side, it was surrendered to the Williamite forces in 1690 after a siege of 13 days.
There is a fine 18th century gateway which replaced the original gateway which was destroyed in the 1690 siege. It is a massive artillery fort with five bastions. These are (clockwise from the gatehouse) Flagstaff Bastion, East or Cockpit Bastion, Charles' Bastion, Devil's Bastion and North Bastion. The walls of the bastions are at least 6m thick at the top. Opposite the sally port near Devil's Bastion is a gunpowder store. This a small rectangular room, with a double brick cavity wall, set within the stone wall. In the event of an explosion the blast would pulverise the inner brick wall and much of the force would be dissipated. The remaining force would then pulverise the outer brick wall. By the time the force reached the outer rigid stone wall it was so small that no damage would be caused. Inside the fort, to the right of the gate, are three octagonal brick-built structures. These were constructed to support water tanks. Further along on the right is a very fine two-storey building with a good doorway. This was the barrack stores and originally the residence of the Commander. It is now an exhibition centre. The series of rootless buildings along the southerly wall were the married soldiers' quarters. A strong, high wall divides the interior of the fort. This is a blast wall and the magazine beside it is a small rectangular building surrounded by a wall in which there are a number of brick-lined defensive loops. The floor of this building was covered by wooden planks pinned down by wooden pegs. Any soldiers due to work in the building had first to removed metal buckles and such, and dress in linen suits. This was to avoid the possibility of sparks from static electricity. The Governor's residence is near the end of the blast wall. The hospital wards are along the east wall and the soldiers' quarters form a large open rectangle near the east side. Charles Bastion has two very fine circular gun pits. At the angle of some of the wall are small brick turrets. These are called guerites and are sentry boxes which give a good field of view along the outside of the wall. Outside the walls of the fort there is a deep stone-lined moat and a massive bank.
The market house in Innishannon (W551572), in Farnahoe townland, is a single-storey sandstone structure. It has cut limestone quoins and cornice. There is a three-bay arcaded front with cut limestone keystones.
The stone circle at Ahagilla (W332438) is very ruinous. Only three stones remain upright, the highest being less than 1m. The circle is about 7m diameter and the nature of the monument is hidden by a large amount of dumped field clearance material. This includes several large recumbent stones which may have been part of the original circle.
In Knocks (W353491) there is a small rath about 25m diameter. Part of the perimeter bank and some of the platform is covered with thorn. In the middle is a pit, now covered by a slab. It may be a souterrain. Beside the rath three boulder burials, 1.5m apart, form a triangle. The boulders are about 2m square and less than lm thick.
The stone circle in Templebryan North (W389437) originally had nine stones. Five orthostats and one fallen stone remain.
The orthostats are up to 1.5m long, less than 1m thick and about 1.5m to 2m high. The circle is about 10m diameter. In the centre is a quartz stone less than 1m high. On the nearby hill (W387439) is an enclosure within which is the low ruin of a rectangular church. There are also two souterrains reported but these could not be located at this time. Beside the church is a tall pillar about 3.3m high and 30cm thick.
This pillar has an Ogham inscription and a faint incised cross, but these could not be seen. At the base of the pillar is a very fine bullaun stone.
At Barryshall (W46Z427) two stones stand about 2m apart. They are about 1m and 2.5m high and they stand about 50m SW of another pair of stones. These are about 2m apart and about 1.6m high.
Timoleague Franciscan Friary (W472436) is an extensive ruin. There is a long church with a south transept. The nave has a south aisle of five bays and the transept has a west aisle of three bays. The columns dividing the bays show a great variety. There are plain masonry divisions, round columns and elongated octagonal columns.
The transept has a small east chapel and a fine three-light south window. The west doorway of the nave is surmounted by a small recess and a large two-light window. There is a tomb niche in the north wall of the nave and another in the north wall of the chancel has fragments of a traceried hood. Mural passages in the east wall lead from the east window to a stairway in the north wall and to a room above the sacristy. There is a tall thin central tower. It has no vault. The sacristy to the north of the church contains a fine bullaun stone. A long two-storey building with a basement runs north from the sacristy. The cloister lies to the north of the church. The cloister arcade is divided into three-light groups with possibly three groups along each side. Only one corner has been reconstructed. The friary was founded in the early 14th century by Donal Glas MacCarthy or William de Barry. The tower was built about 1500 by the Bishop of Ross.
Timoleague Market House (W471437) has a five bay lower storey.
The three central bays are flanked by two shorter bays. The upper storey has three bays. There is a keystone labelled 1700.
Ballycatteen Rath (W583460) has three banks enclosing two ditches.
It is very overgrown. The large central platform is about 60m diameter and the total diameter is about 110m. Excavations in the 1940s revealed three souterrains, and finds included 12 bronze objects, 23 iron objects, two glass beads and an amber bead.
In Castlenalact (W486607) there is a row of four standing stones. It is 13.4m long and aligned NE-SW. The tallest stone is 3.4m high, the next is 2.5m high and the remaining stones 1.9m high. A fifth stone lies beside the stone but it is of different material. It is probably part of field clearance. About 300m to the north is another stone. It is a red sandstone slab 1.6m high and 1.8m wide.
Cahervagliar Fort, in Cappeen West town land (W313605) is a large fort about 35m diameter with a good bank and two outer banks and ditches. The inner bank is of earth and stone and features a well-defined gateway of stone in the north-east. This is about 7m deep and 2m high and wide. A number of large stones just outside may be lintels. Just inside to the left is a horseshoe-shaped cairn which may be a ruined clochan.
Kinneigh Round Tower (W327573), in Sleenoge town land, is unusual in that it has a hexagonal base about 6m high and above that it is round. The tower is about 20m high and has five storeys plus basement.
The top storey has a modern cover and there is no evidence that the tower was any higher than it is now. Little is known of the history of the monastery but the tower may have been erected at the beginning of the 11th century by St Mocholomog. The square-headed doorway is in the east and is about 4m above ground level. There are a number of small square-headed windows at different levels.
Coppinger's Court, in Ballyvireen town land (W261359), is a rectangular building aligned approximately NW-SE with a projecting wing in the middle of the westerly wall and two projecting wings at the ends of the easterly wall. There are at least nine gables.
Below the gables, for most of the wall, is a bartizan carried on corbels. The windows are mostly three-light with mullions and square hood moulding but most of the worked stone at the doors and windows has been removed. There is a good stringcourse at the level of the first floor windows and two sets of triple chimney pots and one single. The main building is three storeys high plus attic. The kitchen appears to have been in an extension at the NE corner where there is an oven. A low walled enclosure runs SE from the building. The house was built by Sir Waiter Coppinger in the early 17th century and was burned in 1641.
Drombeg Stone Circle (W247352) is about 9m diameter. A line from the entrance to the axial stone runs approximately NE-SW and through a dip in the horizon in the southwest. This suggests that the circle may have some use in the observation of the setting sun. A flat stone lies just off the centre of the circle.
There are 17 stones.
The portal stones are the tallest being about 180cm high. The axial stone is about 90cm high by 2m long and 45cm thick. On its upper surface are two shallow cup-marks, one surrounded by an oval carving. About 45m SW is a circular enclosure within which is a circular well, a rectangular stone-lined cooking pit and a hearth. The enclosure is about 5m diameter and the pit is about 1.5m by 1m. A short distance to the west is a pair of conjoined hut circles. The smaller hut has a hearth and is about 3m diameter. The larger hut is about 5m diameter.
St Barrahane's Church, Castletownshend (W186312) has three windows by Harry Clarke. The east window is a Nativity of 1918 and the south window of the chancel depicts St Luke (1926). There is also a two-light window in the south wall of the nave (1920). In the graveyard are two box-shaped mausoleums with spiked finials at the corners. The graveyard also contains memorials to the authors Somerville and Ross.
Clonakilty Market House, in Townies Upper townland (W386414), is a two-storey four-bay building, with the central two bays breaking forward. The pediment, which was removed in 1953 when the building ceased to be used as the Town Hall, has been replaced.
The carved pillar at Kilnaruane (V985475), on the outskirts of Bantry, may be the shaft of an early High Cross. The carvings include St Paul and St Anthony, ribbon and spiral interlace, and other figures. The main panel on the SE face shows a boat with four oarsmen and a steersman, rowing through a sea of crosses. Two incisions on the top of the stone indicate a missing attachment.
Kenmare Market House, Co Kerry has a two-storey three-bay front with a clock. Stretching back from this is a long building with a nine-bay arcade. All the arches are now blocked.
Kenmare Stone Circle (V907707) is about 17m diameter. It has 15 stones, all fairly Iow. The tallest is a thin slab about 1m high and the others are rounded boulders. In the centre is a boulder burial. The boulder is about 1.5m wide and less than Im thick. It rests on at least three low stones.
Staigue Fort (V610632), Co Kerry is a large cashel about 30m internal diameter. It may be entered through a lintelled gateway. A series of X-shaped stairways lead to the top of the walls which is up to 5m high in places and about 4m thick.
The height of the wall varies and it is not clear if these variations are original. Just to the left of the entrance is a small mural chamber. This rises to about 1.8m high and is about 2.5m long. The short entrance passage is less than Im high. A second, smaller mural occurs a short distance further along the wall. The fort sits on a central mound and is surrounded by a ditch and an outer bank.
To the southwest of Staigue (V608620) an exposed expanse of bedrock bears at least 10 cup-and-ring marks, and several more cupmarks. The rings are quite deeply incised and broad and the marks appear like large donuts. However they are very difficult to see due to lichen cover and many more may exist.
There is a large ruined cashel to the west of Caherdaniel (V544592), Co Kerry. It sits on rocky outcrop, covering most of the summit. The wall on the west and north is almost intact and the combined heights of the wall and outcrop in that area is probably greater than 6m. The interior height of the wall is now probably no more than 1m.
The cashel is more ruinous in the south and east and the entrance is probably in that area. The internal diameter is about 20m. Although there are many stones scattered throughout the interior of the fort, some of the bedrock is exposed, showing that the original floor level is more or less as it is today. A short distance away is a smaller cashel. It is very ruinous and the walls are grass grown and scattered.
Loher Stone Fort (V506615), Co Kerry has recently been restored. It is a neat circular cashel about 20m internal diameter. It may be entered through a stone-lined passage similar to Staigue.
The walls are more than 2m high and may be climbed by a series of stone stairways. Within the fort were a large round house and a rectangular house. These occupied most of the interior of the fort. The walls of the houses have been rebuilt to about 1m high. A covered drain leads from the doorway of the rectangular house out through the entrance of the fort. During excavation and restoration the entrance to a souterrain was discovered within the round house but this is not now accessible.
Holycross Abbey (S088543), Co Tipperary was visited during the long journey back north. The abbey was founded by the Benedictines in 1169 but, in 1180 Cistercian monks were brought by Donal Mor O Brien from Monasteranenagh, Co Limerick to refound the abbey whose charter was confirmed in 1186.
Some parts of the building exist from the 12th and 13th centuries but the finest parts of the church were built during the great building boom of the mid-15th century when the abbey was a popular place of pilgrimage. The abbey was suppressed in 1563 but the dispossessed monks returned at intervals throughout the succeeding centuries until the Cromwellian and Williamite eras. The church has been fully restored and part of the cloister has been reconstructed. Some buildings to the east and west of the cloister are now in use as offices and shops. The church has a magnificent tower with good crenellations. There is a very fine reticulated east window and a good variety of traceried windows in the east wall of the transepts. Just under the eaves, particularly on the north side, is a fine stringcourse featuring masks, beasts and foliage. Inside are many features of note. On the west wall of the north transept are traces of a mural painting depicting a hunting scene. There are a number of fine piscinas in the church which have a credence shelf above the basin. To the right of the altar is a magnificent triple sedilia with a large carved canopy. To the right of the tower-crossing is a structure consisting of a decorated chest surmounted by a double row of columns supporting a vaulted roof. It is known as the Monks' Waking Place and may have been used to hold the coffin of a monk during the burial service. However it is thought that such an elaborate structure may be associated with the display of the fragment of the True Cross after which the abbey is named. There is a fine owl carved high on the wall at the junction of the nave and north transept. There are a number of carved masks. The most common carvings are masons' marks which are concentrated on the pillars supporting the tower.
Several different marks can be found:- a broad, shallowly carved L; a small knot like a figure-of-eight; a three-pronged device like a fleur-de-lys; a rosette. Some of these are highlighted by rubbing but many can only be found by careful searching.