Heritage sites
The Ahenny High Crosses, near Carrick-On-Suir, Co. Tipperary

View of the North Cross at Ahenny, Co. Tipperary.

Ahenny is 8km north-north-east of Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary. Travelling along the R697 road from Carrick on Suir, Co. Tipperary to Kilmaganny, Co. Kilkenny a minor road takes you west across the Lingaun river, through the small hamlet of Ahenny and at a T-junction south to the site of the monastic site of Kilclispeen. All that remains of the monastery are two ringed High Crosses in the cemetery of Ahenny which is in a field to the east of the road and some ruins of a church in a field to the north. The Ahenny Crosses are part of the Ossory Group which are believed to be the earliest crosses and date from the eigth to ninth centuries AD. The two stone crosses actually imitate wooden crosses that were encased in metal plates and are decorated with the type of geometric designs, interlacing and spirals found on contemporary metalwork. Both crosses have unusual bee-hive shaped hats that are only found on a few other crosses.

The north cross is of sandstone and 3.65m high. It is ornamented all over except for four figure scenes on the base. On the north side is a procession with chariot. On the south side is a funeral procession which has been identified as the funeral of Cormac Mac Cuilennain, Bishop-King of Munster, killed at the battle of Beach Mughma (Bellaghmoon), Co. Kildare in 908 AD. On the east side is Adam naming the animals. On the west side is the Mission of the Apostles and Seven Bishops.

View of the South Cross at Ahenny, Co. Tipperary.

The south cross is of sandstone and 3.35m high. It is ornamented all over except for four figured scenes on the base. The north side has hunting scenes, the east side includes Daniel in the Lion’s den. The south side has the fall of Man.

Further reading
Richardson, H. And Scarry, J. 1990. An Introduction to High Crosses. Dublin.

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GPS coordinates 52.412263,-7.394142

Mallow Castle: The Sixteenth Century Fortified House at Mallow, Co. Cork

View of the south-facing side of Mallow Castle showing one of the projecting wings.

When passing through the town of Mallow, Co. Cork, Mallow castle, which is situated just off the N72 on Bridewell Lane, is well worth a visit. It is picturesquely situated in its own grounds overlooking the River Blackwater and is a haven from the bustle of the town. The sixteenth century fortified house is one of three buildings on the site, there is a mainly nineteenth century mansion to the north and remains of an earlier thirteenth century castle to the east.

The sixteenth fortified house may have been built by Sir Thomas Norreys, Lord President of Munster, before his death in 1599. After his death the house passed to his niece Elizabeth and her husband Sir John Jephson in 1607 and their descendants lived at Mallow Castle for almost 400 years. The house is a long rectangular three-storey building. It has two polygonal towers on the north-west and south-west corners and wings project from the centre of the north and south walls. The entrance is in the northern wing. The towers and wings would have provided a field of fire around the entire house. The prominent windows are square-headed, mullioned and there are musket loops in the walls.

The House was besieged by Richard Butler, Lord Mountgarret, a Confederate Commander in 1642 during the Eleven Years War but was not taken. James Tuchet, Lord Castlehaven, another Confederate Commander captured it in 1645. During the Williamite War 1689-91 the House was badly damaged and it was abandoned by the Jephsons. The castle and grounds were acquired by Cork Co. Council in 2011.

For more information click here.

Further reading
Sweetman, D. 1999. The Medeival Castle of Ireland. Cork, 180.

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GPS coordinates 52.13391,-8.63903

Manorhamilton Castle, Co. Leitrim

View of the north-facing side of Manorhamilton castle.

Situated on the northern side of the town of Manorhamilton on the R280 road, just to the north of the main Sligo to Enniskillen road, is a seventeenth century plantation castle. The castle is situated on a local high point and enclosed on the eastern side by a tributary of the Owenmore River. The castle was built by Sir Frederick Hamilton between 1634-8. Hamilton was a large-scale planter who had been granted a large area of County Leitrim in 1621. The castle is a rectangular structure, open to the north, with four corner towers set within a rectangular area enclosed by a bawn wall with 2 lookout towers. The castle withstood attacks in 1641 during the Irish rebellion but was taken and burned by the Earl of Clanrickard in 1652 during the War of the Three Kingdoms. The castle is in private ownership and is the subject of a restoration project.

Hamilton's march from Sligo in 1642 during the Irish Rebellion also features in a short story by W. B. Yeats, entitled The curse Of The Fires And Of The Shadows.

Manorhamilton Castle and Heritage Centre is open throughout the year to the general public and organised tours.

On display is a permanent exhibition including artefacts from the 17th century, replica period costumes & furniture, a Castle model and other interesting items & information.

A tour of the recently restored Castle ruins and grounds can be taken – conducted by an experienced guide. The colourful story of the Castle, it inhabitants and the local area will be recounted in the course of this informative and enjoyable tour.

Please Note: All visits must be arranged in advance.
To organise your visit please contact:
Mr. Tony Daly
Phone: +353 (0)86 2502 593
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

For more information click here

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GPS coordinates 54.306158,-8.177862

Cahir Castle, Co. Tipperary

The imposing Butler stronghold of Cahir Castle was built on a rock-island in the River Suir.

View of the curtain wall and great hall of Cahir Castle, Co. Tipperary.

Cahir Castle is built on a rock outcrop on an island in the River Suir at the point where the old road from Cork to Dublin crossed the river in what is now the town of Cahir, Co. Tipperary. The castle is a multi-period structure with most remains dating to after 1300. It has a large outer ward at the south with circular towers at the southern corners. There is an inner ward with a gatehouse in the middle of the south wall, which has square towers at the north and a small circular tower at the south-east. Between the two wards is a rectangular walled area, the middle ward. The three storey rectangular keep in the south-wall of the inner ward was opriginally a gatehouse. The inner ward also conatins a domestic tower and the great hall. The castle was rebuilt on a number of occasions and has remains of the thirteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as well as the nineteenth century restoration.

Cahir was granted to James Butler, Earl of Ormond, in 1375 and the construction of the castle commenced after this. The castle was held by a branch of the Butler family known as the Butler’s of Cahir until 1599 when it was besieged and taken by the Earl of Essex during the Nine Years War. Returned to the Butlers the castle was besieged and surrendered to Lord Inchiquin in 1647 and then to Oliver Cromwell in 1650. The Butlers finally lost it completely in 1693. In 1961 the Castle came to the Irish State and is now managed by the Office of Public Works.

Exhibitions, Toilets, Public Car/Coach park close to site.

Opening Hours
Open all year round:
Mid Oct - Mid March: Daily 09.30 - 16.30
Mid March - Mid June: Daily 09.30 - 17.30
Mid June - August; Daily 09.00 - 18.30 Sept - Mid Oct: Daily 09.30 - 17.30

Admission Fees 2011
E Adult: €3.00
Sen/Group: €2.00
Child/Student: €1.00 Family: €8.00

For more information click here

Further Reading
Sweetman, D. The Medeival castle of Ireland. Cork, 123-6.

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GPS coordinates 52.373713,-7.927494

Grangefertagh Abbey, near Johnstown, Co. Kilkenny
Driving along the M8 Motorway between Cullahill and Johnstown if you look to the west rising from the flat plain is an extraordinary fairytale tower. This is the Round Tower of the Early Medieval monastery of Fearta-Caerach or Grangefertagh.

View of the well-preserved Round Tower at Grangefertagh, Co. Kilkenny.

To visit the site you must exit the Motorway at Johnstown and follow the old N9 north to the point where it passes under the motorway and follow the narrow road to the site up a narrow lane to the left. There is room for just one car to park in the laneway.

The monastery was probably founded by St. Ciarán in the sixth century close to a crossing point on the River Goul. The site was called Fearta-Caerach in the Annals of the Four Masters. The Annals record that in 861 King Cearbhall of Ossory killed a host of Vikings at Fearta Na gCaireach, and took forty of their heads.

The killing of the foreigners at Fearta Na gCaireach, by Cearbhall, so that forty heads were left to him, and that he banished them from the territory.

Today the site is a sub-rectangular graveyard with a well-preserved Round Tower and remains of a church but the original site would have been a much larger, probably oval to circular area. The Round Tower, which acted as the bell tower of the monastery, is the only surviving part of the original monastery. The Tower has 8 floors and is 33m high. The other upstanding remains are of an Augustinian monastery church, west of the tower. The Abbey was founded by the Blanchfield family in the thirteenth century. The remains of the church have been converted to a handball alley. A better preserved side chapel contains the fine late gothic tomb of Brian Mac Giolla Phádraig, Lord of Ossory, who died about 1540. The tomb has effigies of Brian in armour and his wife with fine gothic carving.

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GPS coordinates 52.778574,-7.544174

The Motte and Bailey Castle at Ardscull, near Athy, Co. Kildare

The great earthwork of Ardscull, Co. Kildare is the remains of an Anglo-Norman Motte and Bailey timber castle.

Travelling between Kilcullen and Athy, about 5km from Athy, the straight R418 regional road suddenly turns in a broad semi-circle around a great earthwork built on a local high point known as the Moat of Ardscull. The townland Ardscull means Hill of the shouts. Ardscull is the surviving earthen component of a Medieval Anglo-Norman earth and timber castle known as a Motte and Bailey. The sites consists of a large earthen mound, enclosed by a wide ditch and external bank. The castle was probably built some time at the end of the twelfth century under the auspices of William Marshall, the Lord of Leinster. Originally the mound would have supported a high wooden tower, the bank would have been topped by a wooden stockade, the entrance causeway would have had a substantial wooden gate and an enclosed area, known as the Bailey would have, contained the house and outbuildings of the resident lord and his family and retainers.

On 26 Janaury 1316 one of the battles of the Scottish War of Independence was fought in the vicinity of Ardscull. The Scottish army, lead by Edward Bruce brother of Robert Bruce King of Scotland, was advancing from Castledermot when it encountered the English army, under the nominal command of John de Hotham, waiting near Ardscull. Although the English had the advantage of numbers their leaders disagreed about tactics and the Scots won a victory. The English were forced to retreat. The way was open for the Scots to occupy Laois and on 1 May Edward Bruce was crowned king of Ireland on the Hill of Faughart, Co. Louth.

Today the site supports an early nineteenth century plantation of deciduous trees and is a very pleasant place to visit and go for a walk. There is parking but no other facilities. In 1903 Ardscull was part of the circuit of one of the early car races, the Gordon Bennett 1903 race. The race was won by the famous driver Camille Jenatzy in a Mercedes 60Hp Simplex and there are plaques commemorating the race at the site.

Further Reading
Omurethi" (FitzGerald, Lord Walter) 1897. The Moat of Ardscull, 186-197. Journal of the County Kildare Archaeological Society, Vol. II, No. 3.

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GPS coordinates 53.02449,-6.914864

Mungret Abbey, near Limerick City, Co. Limerick

The Mungret Abbey dates back to 551 AD when a monastery was founded here by St. Nessan.

Just to the south of the road from Limerick to Askeaton on the R859 road close to Castlemungret are the Mungret churches. The site dates back to 551 when a monastery was founded here by St. Nessan. The site was given by Domhnall Mor O’Brien to Bishop Brictius of Limerick some time before 1200 and the site was downgraded to the status of a parish church. At one time the site had six churches, today only three churches and a graveyard survive.

Next to the road is a twelfth century church. This is a narrow structure with an east window and flat-headed west doorway. The largest church on the site, with the square tower on the western end, and surrounded by the graveyard is the parish church which dates from the first half of the thirteenth century with later additions. Although only a parish church the site has the feel of a Medieval cathedral. To the west of this is a small rectangular church which is probably the earliest church on the site.

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GPS coordinates 52.633792,-8.675594

The Franciscan Friary and College on the Hill of Slane, near Drogheda, Co. Meath

In the year 433 St. Patrick, during his mission to convert Ireland to Christianity, lit the first Paschal or Easter fire in Ireland on the summit of the Hill of Slane so that it could be seen at the seat of the High King at Tara 16km to the south-west. Following this an Early Medeival monastery was founded on the site by St. Erc who died in 514. That early monastery was replaced by another set of buildings in the Medeival period. In 1175 Richard le Fleming, first Baron of Slane, built a Motte and Bailey castle on the western side of the hill. The standing remains on the site are of the Franciscan Friary and College founded by Christopher Flemyng, Baron of Slane, in 1512. The Friary was dissolved in 1540 during the reformation but a monastery of Capuchin monks was briefly refounded by the Flemings on the site in 1631.

The surviving structures are an undivided nave and chancel church with a later side chapel and west tower situated within a walled graveyard. North of the church is the College for priests, lay-brothers and choristers, founded by Christopher Flemyng. It is a quadrangular structure surrounding a courtyard, with priest’s residence at north and a defended tower house and remains of the refrectory on the southern side. The Motte and Bailey castle is also visible on the western part of the hill. The Hill has good views over eastern and south-eastern Meath. The site is accessed by road from the town of Slane and there is parking available on the site.

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GPS coordinates 53.717384,-6.542959

For further information see the Hill of Slane Archaeological Project.

Old Kilcullen monastic site, near Newbridge, Co. Kildare

On the way from Dublin to Carlow, just south-west of the new town of Kilcullen are the remains of the monastery of Old Kilcullen. The monastery of Old Kilcullen, one of the oldest in Ireland, was founded by St. Patrick, first Bishop and patron saint of Ireland, in the fifth century. The remains on the site are a Round Tower with round-headed Romanesque doorway, the foundations only of a thirteenth century Romanesque church and the remains of three High crosses. The monastery stood at the centre of a fortified town, now deserted, but inhabited into the eighteenth century.

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GPS coordinates 53.10835,-6.76363

Further reading
G. Ó h-Iceadha 1941. Excavation of Church Site in Old Kilcullen Townland, Co. Kildare The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland Seventh Series, Vol. 11, No. 4 (Dec. 31, 1941), pp. 148-151.


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