Gorteen, Cairn, Co. Offaly.

Location – In the foothills of the Slieve Bloom Mountains.
OS: S 172 957 (map 54)
Longitude: 7° 44' 37.37" W
Latitude: 53° 0' 42.37" N
See map at the bottom of the page.

Description and History
– Rather unremarkable cairn in a large field used as pasture land and is roughly 18m in diameter.  The S and E sides are highly damaged through the mound being quarried away and are not as steep as the N and W sides.  The mound is roughly 3.5m high.  There are also some other mounds and barrows nearby and I want to go back here to try to find some of these.

Difficulty – The site is easily visible from the road and easily accessed.  There were no cattle in the field on the day I was there but it looks like it is regularly used as pasture land.  Take your OS map with you...it is not exactly where the OS map says it is but still easy to find.

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Rathurles, Rath and Church, Co. Tipperary

Location – Near Nenagh along the R491. 
OS: R 907 805 (map 59)
Longitude: 8° 8' 17.3" W
Latitude: 52° 52' 31.33" N
See map at the bottom of the page.

Description and History – This was a truly great find and I was glad I decided to go there because it was not on my agenda on the day I saw this place. This site is lost in time and unless you set out to find it you could easily walk by without ever knowing that it was there.  What is fantastic about this site is that it shows the reusing of a site from an earlier period and had a medieval church within an Iron Age/early Christian ringfort.

Ringfort – The ringfort is in excellent condition but is somewhat overgrown.  It is roughly 55m in diameter with an inner and outer bank and fosse and a walkway leading to the interior.  The NE portion of the rath has been levelled somewhat but still visible. This would have been an easily defendable rath as it is located on the summit of hill and would have commanded good views of the surrounding country side before becoming overgrown with trees.

Church – The church is located in the interior of the ringfort and has a small private burial plot attached to it.  The church is in a poor state of repair but retains all of it walls to full height but has many trees growing inside.  Built in the 15th century beams are still visible that would have supported attic accommodation space.  Window spaces still survive in the E and W gables

Difficulty – Access from the R491 is through a farmyard which is extremely muddy.  When I arrived at the farmyard there was nobody there and there were many electric fences crossing the pathway.  I decided to approach the site from the other side of the hill which proved much easier.  There was still some electric fence negotiating however when I arrived at the site.  The interior of the rath is a little marshy, especially around the small graveyard and many of the graves are collapsing in on themselves so I would recommend staying outside of the plot.  The church is closed but the gate can easily be climbed over.  The interior is hard to navigate because of the trees and undergrowth.  I didn’t get as good of a look as I would have liked inside as I unusually came across a badger so I had to make a quick exit.

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The overgrown rath from the bottom of the hill.

The first glimpse of the church through the trees.

As you can see, vegetation has taken this church over.

Inside the church.

In places it is hard to know that you are actually inside a building.

The small graveyard.

This large stone was outside the rath. I wonder if it is a fallen standing stone associated with the rath.

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Ballymooney Castle, Oakleypark, Co. Offaly.

Location – Just off the R421 North of Roscrea.
OS: N 128 019
Longitude: 7° 48' 32.5" W
Latitude: 53° 4' 3.4" N
See map at the bottom of the page.

Description and History – This fortified house is somewhat unusual in its design.  In some regards it is just a standard U shaped house but the presence of so many towers makes it odd. Three of the four towers of the house survive in a ruined state.  The fourth was nowhere to be seen. One stands isolated from the main house while another is attached but in bad repair.  The other remaining tower is disguised and not at first visible.  The exterior of the tower is rectangular in plan but circular on its interior and stands its full four storeys high.  The main house is all but gone which is a shame as this would have been a fine fortified house in its day.  Certainly a lot of imagination is now required to imagine it in its former glory.  The outer bawn is still visible but which walls belong to the house and those to the nearby farms can be hard to distinguish.

The castle was built in c1622 and was the property of one Daniel O’Carroll.  He was dispossessed after aiding Irish rebels in 1641.  He ended up in Mayo with an 1100 acre estate.  The castle appears to have fallen into ruin not long after – only having been occupied for less than 20 years.

Difficulty – Access is only through a farmyard so permission is a must.  I was kindly shown the way by the owner who seemed more than happy to accept visitors and is use to people coming to see the ruins.  You may have to traverse a couple of electric fences but these are all low enough to step over.  Beware of cattle.

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Monaincha Abbey and High Cross, Co. Tipperary.

Location – About 2 miles from Roscrea, just off the N7. It is signposted.
OS:  S 169 884 (map 60)
Longitude: 7° 44' 54.83" W
Latitude: 52° 56' 46.24" N 
See map at the bottom of the page.

Description and History
– This site has been described by local people as ‘Tipperary’s best kept secret’ and it is hard not to see why.  This site seems to have been forgotten by the modern world and exists in pure solitude in an idyllic setting.  Following an old track you turn a corner and are presented with the abbey raised on its own little island in a sizable field.  The abbey was originally located in the now drained Lough Cre which must have made it even more of an impressive sight as you approached it by boat.  The island is called ‘Inis na mBeo’ which is translated as the ‘island of the living’.  Legends surround the former Lough, including one which says that no women could ever set foot in the water or cross it without dying instantly – this was apparently put to the test with cats and dogs.  Another legend surrounds the name of the island and says that it is impossible to die while on this island – when there you are immortal.  There was more than one island in the Lough and a second island had a smaller church on it which is now, unfortunately, destroyed.  The Augustinians founded the present abbey in 1140 but there was another monastery at the site which was associated with Aghaboe abbey in the 6th century and later with St Cronan in the 7th century which is located in Roscrea town.  Before the Augustinians arrived the site was dedicated to St Hilary but they changed this to its present dedication of St Mary.  The Augustinians left the site in 1485 and little alterations to the site have been made leaving it in its current state.  Some reconstruction has been done to the site in the 19th century which was carried out improperly.  For example, the windows of the church have not been replace correctly, leaving them misaligned. 

Church - As with all pre-modern churches the church is orientated E-W and consists of a small nave (approximately 12 metres in length and 7 metres wide) with a chancel (approx 3.5m square) and priests quarters (approx 8.5m x 6.5m).  The entrance to the nave is through a decorated Romanesque doorway with chevron designs and scrollwork and roll-mouldings with decorated capitals.  Many later, 17th, 18th, and 19th century graves are located in and around the church including a tomb in the priest’s chambers.  The priest’s chambers are well preserved on the ground level with an impressive barrel vault ceiling. 

High Cross – Located 7m from the church on its E face.  The original location of the cross at the site is unknown and was placed here in modern times.  The shaft of the cross is missing and has been replaced with concrete.  The head of the cross depicts Jesus being crucified on its W face – Jesus wears a long robe but his head and hands are missing.

This is a truly beautiful site and has been visited for centuries as the graffiti on the trees (which must rival the church in age) shows.  I will always have a soft spot for this place as this is where I asked my girlfriend to marry me...she said yes of course.

– This site is very easy to get to and is signposted from the N7.  I would recommend walking down the track that leads to the site rather that driving.  A 4x4 would easily make the trip but there is little room to turn around at the end.  Plus walking to the site is a nice experience.

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Srahanboy, Tower House, Co. Laois.

Location – In the foothills of the Slieve Blooms, not far from Camross village.
OS: S 247 966 (map 54)
GPS: S 24698 96638 (Accuracy – 2m)
Longitude: 7° 37' 54.82" W
Latitude: 53° 1' 10.43" N

See map at the bottom of the page.

Description and History – Little remains of this tower house now and it is barely more than a small section of wall.  Upon my first visit to the site I passed by it without realising that it was there even though it is on the side of the road.  Opposite the tower house are many small outhouses and barns belonging to a nearby farm and my immediate instinct was that these were built out of stone from the castle which has been removed.  The castle was occupied by the O’Connors in 1641 and later by the Calcutt family in 1775.  After this it fell into ruin. I have visited this site twice, first in 2009 and again in late 2014. In the space of those five years the site has deteriorated significantly, becoming increasingly overgrown and a large portion of the remaining Southern wall has collapsed inwards. The site is increasingly unstable.

Difficulty – This site is not difficult to get to as it is on the side of the road.

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This is the only picture I took during the 2009 visit. It was overgrown then but fairly neat around the remaining structure. 

This picture and all of the following are from 2014. 

Note how the wall on the right is in poor repair compared to the left. 

The site is now overrun with weeds. The portion of wall on the left of this picture has partially collapsed in recent year. The damage looks to be fairly recent so I would hazard a guess that this happened during the storms of early 2014.

You can clearly see here how the mortar has all but gone and there is nothing holding the stones together. It is no wonder that a storm would severely damage such a wall, plus the weight of the foliage would add extra strain.

I would hazard a guess that most of the stone from the castle found its way across the road to make these farm buildings.

Note the quoin stones.

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Srahanboy, Cillin and Ecclesiastical Remains, Co. Laois.

Location – Approximately 210m high on Arderin mountain in the Slieve Blooms. From the roadway to the N, head down the bank to the S until you reach the fence at the bottom and then follow this to the left. The site is located at the point where the fence meets another.
OS: S 245 972 (map 54)
Longitude: 7° 38' 5.38" W
Latitude: 53° 1' 29.88" N 
See map at the bottom of the page.

Description and History – Srahanboy appears to have been a thriving community at one time with census results from the 17th century giving a population of about 100 people which, at the time, was larger than the nearby villages of Camross and Coolrain combined. The cillin is one of the more upsetting sites in county Laois and is near destruction because of cattle.  No effort has been made by the state, council or owner to preserve this graveyard for un-baptised children.  All that remains are upright and fallen stones that are un-inscribed under a clump of hawthorn threes.  The area is used as pasture land and cattle have knocked over many of the stones...only the more sturdy stones and those in the trees remain upright.  Around the site is a low ridge which is the remains of an ecclesiastical enclosure.  Fenced off is a pile of rubble which may have been the church that was located at the site.  This site appears to be destined to become part of vanishing Ireland and shows a clear lack of respect for the dead.

Also located nearby are a lime-kiln, motte and bailey and the poorly preserved remains of a tower house.

Difficulty – This site is one of the hardest to get to that I have listed so far.  It is located in marshy pasture land that is hugely overgrown with brambles.  Be prepared to get wet and muddy and dress appropriately.  There is no signage to the site. 

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Believe it or not this is a burial ground.

Rough unmarked grave markers.

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