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.
It is likely that this site is associated with St Colman, Abbot of Lindisfarne in 662 during the Synod of Whitby where it was decided that Northumbria would follow the Roman timing of Easter. He resigned and, with most of his monks ,returned to Iona. Between 665 and 667 he is understood to have founded several Scottish churches, probably including this one, afterwards sailing to Ireland with his disciples. Two small cross-slabs in the graveyard have been highlighted by some as suggesting that this was a church of some importance in the Early Christian period but there is little in the written record. This cross dates from the 14th or 15th century. It has an inscription in Latin which states:
HEC EST C/RVX PER T/AVEISUM (fJ/ATRICII ME/DICLIM
PRO A/NIMABUfsJ PAT/RIS ET MATR/IS ET UXORI/S SUE
AC OMN/IUM FIDELIUM/DEFUNCTOR/fuJM ET DICTI . . .
'This is the cross by Thomas, son of Patrick, doctor, for the souls of his father, mother and wife, and of all the faithful departed, and of the said...' A preceding church was demolished in 1827 to be replaced with a hall and tower church with buttresses against the tower giving it a spiky Gothick appearance . This hasn't been used since 1977 and is now sliding into ruin. It is an atmospheric place.
Marks of Time
Sketches of buildings in the North West of Ireland and further afield with a little information about their history.