Multyfarnham Abbey, is a Fifteenth Century Franciscan Church in Co Westmeath still used by the Franciscans. An impressive place, it was a romantic ruin when drawn by George Petrie in 1821 but reoccupied in 1827, two years before Catholic Emancipation, as the parish church. This reused the nave and south transept shown here. The opposite transept beyond the two round headed openings, is a small side chapel dating from 1912. The choir, directly ahead, beyond the crossing of the tower, was rebuilt from 1975-77. It is clear that the plasterwork of the emancipation church was removed at that time and the stonework exposed to match the choir. The only clearly Victorian remnant is the dark timber ceiling with its tongue and groove boarding. It makes for a startlingly dark interior of brooding intensity enlivened by colourful altar furniture and then a contrasting choir full of light. To me it says 1970's brutalisim at its best- a strongly spiritual place using elemental materials to deliver a powerful atmosphere - but here it is given more depth and meaning by the clear history of its fabric such as windows from different periods and memorials attesting to the history and continuity of this congregation - a rare thing to see in a catholic church in Ireland. In the porch is a panel reflecting the efforts of the builders in the 1970's renovation and the sense of community effort is palpable in this. It is a place not to be missed if you are ever in the vicinity. I dare you to walk in and not be moved.
Ballynacargy Harbour on the Royal Canal, Co Westmeath. Heading westwards from Dublin, the canal commenced in 1790 and this section between Mullingar and Ballymahon opened in 1818. It travels 146km from Dublin to the Shannon reaching its summit level near Mullingar and ending on the Shannon at Richmond Harbour. It officially closed in 1961 it was was restored by volunteers from the mid 1970's onwards and reopened in 2010. It now makes a fine greenway through some fascinating but less touristy parts of the country.
Abbeyview House, Abbeyshrule, Co Longford, an elegant early nineteenth century gentleman farmer's house. A classic of the type well proportioned and simply detailed on the exterior. Used for a time as a police Baracks, it has been sympathetically converted in recent years to a fine B&B.
Abbeyshrule, Co Longford. The ruins of a cistercian abbey and later tower house on the site of an earlier church. The ruins are located in a graveyard with surrounding wall, but there is evidence of other buildings between here and the nearby River Inny. The Cistercians are said to have founded this house from Melifont in 1200. The chancel was converted to a parish church after the dissolution of the monasteries in the sixteenth century and the distinctive double belcote dates from that time. The tower house dates from the late sixteenth century and is described as a medieval watch tower used by the ruling O'Farrell clan.
The Stone of the Divisions or Cat Stone on the Hill of Uisneach, Co Westmeath, is a very special place within a wider prehistoric complex. It is said that its parts represent the five historic provinces of Ireland and that it is located at their meeting place in centre of the island. This symbolic medial place has also been called Umbilicus Hiberniae -the navel of Ireland - and in mythology said to be a meeting point not just of the physical world but with the otherworld and and a source of all creation. The stone is also said to mark the resting place of the godess Eiru, after whom the island of Ireland, or Eire in Gaelic, was named. Not surprisingly, given its symbolism, the site was a focus for one of Daniel O'Connell's monster rallies in the nineteenth century and a speech by De Valera in the twentieth. Physically the structure is a glacial erratic boulder surrounded by a circular low earthwork. It is part of a nearby landscape of over twenty identified monuments ranging in age from the Neolithic to the Medieval period. This site appears to have functioned as a meeting place for kings from across the island and was associated with the lighting of the Beltaine Fire every May. It has been linked as a spiritual or symbolic place with the Hill of Tara functioning in a complementary fashion as a secular source of power. The 'Suidigud Tellaig Temra' (the settling of the manor of Tara) describes the link between the sites as 'two kidneys in a beast'.
It is a place well worth the visit, where there is a palpable sense of history.
Hawarden is a small estate village about twenty miles from Chester. The centre of the village is dominated by the grand castellated entrance to the Hawarden estate, once home to Gladstone. The village contains the only English equivalent of a presidential library with 20,000 books donated by the former Prime Minister and to which he left £40,000 in his will. The life of the village, however (on the day I visited), is reflected in its fine post office and general store. A focus for activity, it combines modern signage and graphics and a well considered interior with the historic features of the building to great effect. The building is dates 1907 and as its function is spelt out in tiles on the parapet, has clearly always been used for this purpose.
The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is a stunning place taking the Shropshire Union Canal canal across the Dee valley in North Wales. Water to one side and a vertiginous drop to the river below on the other, it is a place not to be missed. Now designated as a World Heritage Site, it was designed by Thomas Telford and William Jessop and opened in 1805
I've just finished reading a fantastic book- 'To the Lake' by Kapka Kassabova where the author visits Lake Ochrid which is bordered by North Macedonia, Albania and Greece. It sounds a fascinating place. This is one of the buildings she visits- St Atanasij cave church - which is built into the cliff on the north western side of the lake. Blindingly bright outside, inside dark and covered with ancient fresco's. The frescos are thought to date from the 1370's and the building a little earlier. The chuch is dedicated to an archbishop of Alexandria - Athanasius
Kilmacrenan Old Church: Built after 1622 opposite the friary of c.1537. The site of a castle is also recorded nearby. The church was restored in the eighteenth century and the tower is thought to date from then. The church was abandoned in the mid nineteenth century in favour of a new church in the village. This is a beautiful and atmospheric place.
Clogherny Wedge Tomb, on high ground between Plumbridge and Donemanagh. It's a wet climb through the boggy slopes but well worth it . The tomb is thought to date from around the Early Bronze Age of 2,500 years ago and is surrounded by a ring of probably later standing stones. These were shown in an excavation of 1937 to be linked to the monument by cobbles.
Marks of Time
Sketches of buildings in the North West of Ireland and further afield with a little information about their history.