Castlequarter Abbey, Toomyvara, Co. Tipperary.

Location – In Toomyvara, just off the N7 next to a modern church and S of the nearby ruined church.
OS: R 977 776 (map 59)
Longitude: 8° 2' 2.91" W
Latitude: 52° 50' 57.78" N
See map at the bottom of the page.

Description and History – Although little remains of this Augustinian Abbey it appears as if it was once a large foundation which included many buildings and cloisters, although none of these remain.  The original foundation, which no longer remains, was built possibly in the 6th or 7th century and dedicated to St. Donan.  It was later rebuilt and rededicated to St. Mary sometime around 1140 when it became a daughter-house to Monaincha Abbey.  It was also strongly associated with the local ruling O’Meara clan. However, by 1450 the site was in bad repair and was never restored to its former glory.  The site was eventually granted to Miler MacGrath in 1597 and dissolved.  It was later re-opened as a small parish church and these are the present remains.

What remains is a small church roughly 21m in length and 6.4m wide.  The E end of the church has been completely destroyed and much of the remaining walls are covered in ivy. The entrance is original and dates to the 16th century and a bellcote survives with modern bell. There are the remains of a blocked up doorway in the S wall. This site is not as well maintained as its neighbour and it is sad to see such a substantial foundation in such a poor state.  History was not kind to this place.

Difficulty – East to get to and there is plenty of parking.

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The main entrance.

Main entrance from the inside.

This may be part of an old doorway that has been blocked up.

The bellcote.

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Askeaton Friary, Co. Limerick.

Location – In Askeaton town on the River Deel and just S of the N69. As you head into the town from Limerick turn right just before the bridge and the friary is along that road on the left hand side.
OS: R 339 507 (map 64)
Longitude: 8° 58' 28.1" W
Latitude: 52° 36' 12.38" N
GPS: R 33986 50679 (Accuracy: 5m)
See map at the bottom of the page.  

Description and History – I saw some pictures of this friary online and made my way there the following weekend but pictures cannot do full justice to this is absolutely fantastic.  It has rocketed up my list of favourite places and sits near the top.  There is so much to see here and it is all fantastic. A fresco was recently discovered on the upper floor of the cloisters and a wooden structure now protects it until it can be properly conserved.  The upper floors are not accessible and neither is the refectory. These are awaiting conservation and will be open to the public following this.  Even with the two sections closed there is still plenty to see and it's all very accessible.
It was built between 1389 and 1420 and founded by Gerald, the Fourth Earl of Desmond. In 1579 the nearby castle was under siege from the English commander Sir Nicholas Malby and when he failed to take the castle he attacked the town and burned the friary killing the majority of the friars.  The friary would lay dormant for fifty years and friars returned in 1627 but the community did not reach its former numbers until 1642.  This was a short lived community as the friars once again abandoned the site in 1648 when Cromwell’s forces neared Askeaton. The friars returned in the 1650’s with the help of Richard Stephenson who was a leading member of the Confederate Irish Forces.  As a reward for helping the friars he and his family were granted a tomb within the church grounds. This tomb is located near the altar but part of the Latin inscription is now missing. The friary finally closed its doors in 1740 in the same year that the Hellfire club opened in the grounds of the nearby castle. Mass is still occasionally celebrated in the church.  The site is centred on the wonderful cloisters which have 12 arches on each side.  Two of the pillars were stolen in the 19th century and have been replaced albeit in a different style.  Apart from this they are complete and a fantastic sight.  On the NE corner of the cloisters is a small medieval carving of St. Francis of Assisi complete with stigmata (the wounds that Jesus received on the cross).  The face is rather worn because it was believed that kissing the statue would cure toothache.  Also on the N side of the cloister is an interesting carved sun-dial and an inscription that reads "Beneath lies The Pilgrim's body, who died January 17th, 1784".  The story attached to it is the stuff of fairytales and revolves around an Italian vendetta. It is a quite a long story and can be read by clicking here.
The church attached to the cloisters is particularly large and about 50m in length and 15m wide. A small carving of St Patrick is located high up on the Eastern end of the N wall.  A small sacristy sits behind the Northern wall along the fallen remains of the bell tower. The transept contains many modern burials.  The kitchens, complete with stone oven, can still be accessed to the E of the cloisters. This really is one of Ireland’s most impressive ecclesiastical sites and I cannot believe that it is not crawling with people but every time I have been there it has been empty and yet it is so easy to access. Fantastic site.
Difficulty – There’s no difficulty at all in visiting this site.  It has parking and is open from 9am until 6:30pm every day.  A very family friendly site.

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View as you enter the surrounding graveyard.
Inside the kitchen.
The stone oven.
The beautiful cloisters.
The worn figure of St Francis.
In the church looking into the chancel.
Looking into the nave.
Beautiful window in the main church.
The figure of St. Patrick.
There are many beautiful medieval grave markers throughout the site.
The sacristy.
Wall walk above the chancel wall.
The fallen bell tower.
Steps to nowhere.
The transept.

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Bunacum/Castlequarter Church, Toomyvara, Co. Tipperary.

Location – Right in the centre of Toomyvara, just off the N7. The ruin is located on a triangular island in the road with a grotto directly in front of it.
OS: R 977 776 (map 59)
Longitude: 8° 2' 2.91" W
Latitude: 52° 50' 57.78" N
See map at the bottom of the page.

Description and History – I’ve listed this as a church but there is actually some doubt as if that is correct.  It is aligned E-W which indicates that it is actually a church.  It has been suggested that it is a building associated with the nearby abbey and that they were both connected in a large graveyard that is now under the modern road.  Nevertheless, there was a church on this site possibly going back to the 9th century and associated with St. Donan.  There was a 9th/10th century graveslab located at this site but it is now lost unfortunately.  A church is also mentioned in 1302 in the ecclesiastical taxation of the Diocese of Killaloe.  The present remains however date to the late medieval period.  The site has been somewhat of a guinea pig for cleanup projects so the site has been altered somewhat making it impossible to identify any genuine original architectural features.  All the remains is an ivy covered wall approximately 25m in length and 4m high. There is a much modified arched doorway in the wall and a possible priest’s quarters at the rear of the site.  The site is well maintained but feels like more of a garden ornament than a historical monument.  

Difficulty – Really easy to get to and there is plenty of parking.

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As you can see, it is well maintained.
The remaining window.
The much modified entrance.
The arch over the doorway, although nice, was added during one of the clean-up projects at the site.

The entrance to the possible priest's quarters.

Considering how well the rest of the site is kept the priest's quarters could do with a real clean up.

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Little Curragh, Cross Base, Co. Kildare.

Location – On the Little Curragh N of the barrows.
OS: N 747 149 (map 55)
Longitude: 6° 52' 57.32" W
Latitude: 53° 10' 45.65" N
GPS: N 74705 14987 (Accuracy: 7m)
See map at the bottom of the page.

Description and History – There really is little to say about this cross base if that is what it is.  I saw it marked on the map and decided to walk across to it.  It is a square boulder about 1.5m x 1.5m and 0.5m tall.  There is no hole for the cross so I’m guessing it must be upside down.  Like the cross base at Crossmorris it is a little sad to see it so abandoned and un-cared for.  It seems to be a popular site for late night drinking as it was covered with and surrounded by broken glass.

Difficulty – Easy to get to.  It’s out in the open and visible from the road.

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Dunleckny, Churches, Co. Carlow.

Location – About one mile N of Bagenalstown.
OS: S 721 629 (map 61)
Longitude: 6° 55' 58.92" W
Latitude: 52° 42' 44.92" N
GPS: S 72041 62933 (Accuracy: 5m)
See map at the bottom of the page.  

Description and History – This site is quite odd and I only came here by chance.  I had not set out to see these ruins and was just passing by but after catching a glimpse through the trees I had to go and explore them. The archaeological inventory only lists one church here but there are clearly two at the site.  One appears to be medieval in date while the other is newer and possible 18th or 19th century in date which may explain why it is not listed in the inventory. The older of the two churches is nearly 30m in length and 9m wide.  The N and S walls are largely ruined and the whole structure is covered in ivy.  The two gable ends stand to full height which is about 6m.  The newer church is roughly the same dimensions as the older structure but in much better condition. It is largely covered in ivy which makes finding architectural features difficult.  A large window is in the E wall and the entrance is in the W wall and is beginning to crumble.  Beyond that it is just a standard church.  There are also plenty of interesting graves in this place and you really get the impression of its age.  

Difficulty – Pretty easy to get around but watch your step as there is a lot of ivy covered rubble around the churches. For more ecclesiastical sites, click here. For more sites in Co. Carlow, click here.
View of both churches with the older of the two in the foreground.
The newer of the two churches.
The walls of the older church are severely damaged.
There is a large private burial plot next to the newer church.
There are some really old and beautiful head stones here.
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