Find yourself right in the heart of Ireland’s Ancient East when staying in Dollardstown. The area is steeped in history.
Athy Heritage Town
Athy is a designated heritage town of Ireland and a fine example of an Anglo Norman linear settlement. Founded in the 12th century on a river crossing, Athy takes its name from a 2nd century battle fought there which resulted in the death of Ae, son of a Munster Chieftain. Thereafter the river crossing was known in Gaelic as Ath Ae (meaning the Ford of Ae), a name subsequently anglicised as Athy. The Fitzgeralds, Earls of Kildare, were landlords of the town for centuries and most of the street names commemorate their family members, for example “Emily Square”.
Today, Athy is a busy town with character. Narrow streets crowded with busy shops make this a typical country market town. It is dominated by the well preserved 16th century White’s Castle, a rectangular turreted tower that sits imposingly by the bridge over the river Barrow in the heart of the town, built to protect the inhabitants.
More info: www.athyheritagecentre-museum.ie/athy/
Moone High Cross
In Moone, Co. Kildare, 10 minutes drive from Dollardstown House, stands the second tallest high cross in Ireland. Its shape is quite unique and consists of three parts. The upper part and base were discovered in the graveyard of the abbey in 1835 and re-erected as a complete cross, but in 1893 the middle section of the shaft was discovered and the cross was finally reconstructed to its original size. Now standing at 17.5 feet (5.2 m) the cross has been erected inside the ruins of the medieval church.
The theme of the cross is the help of God, how God came to their assistance in their hour of need, Daniel in the lions pit, the three children in the fiery furnace and the miracle of the loaves and fishes amongst the scenes depicted.
The monastery is believed to have been founded by St Palladius in the 5th century and dedicated to St Columcille in the 6th century, and the cross was constructed from granite during the 8th century.
More info: www.megalithicireland.com
Castledermot is a small town in south Kildare, a 10 minute drive from Dollardstown House. The name of Castledermot (Diseart Diarmada) originated in an early Christian monastic settlement of about 500 A.D. This magnificent town with its round towers and castles is situated on the River Lerr. It was originally called Diseart Diarmada and later Tristle-Dermot. A must for historians, this town contains St James’s Church, a Hibernian-Romanesque arch, a round tower, two high crosses and a number of ancient stones and grave slabs.
Kildare Town / St Brigid’s Well / Fr Moore’s Well / St Brigid’s Cathedral and Round Tower
St Brigid’s Well and Fr Moore’s Well both hold reputations as curing wells. St Brigid’s well is located close to the Black Abbey. Father Moore’s well is on the Milltown road. It is reputed to have a cure for headaches. Both wells are sites of religious devotion and there is an annual torchlight procession to St Brigid’s Well on 1st February.
St Brigid’s Cathedral, most recently rebuilt in the 19th century, stands on the original site of the nunnery founded by St Brigid in the 5th century. Today it houses numerous religious artefacts including a 16th century vault, religious seals and a medieval water font, later used for christening.
Situated in the cathedral grounds is an oak sapling. In pre-Christian times a sacred oak around which Druids gathered to pray grew in the grounds behind the present cathedral. In the 5th century St Brigid built her church near this oak. Hence Kildare – Cill Dara – the Church of the Oak.
Also in the Cathedral grounds and at 108 feet in height, Kildare’s Round Tower is open to the public during the season or on request. The tower is built atop Kildare Hill, the highest point in town. Its parapet affords panoramic views for miles, including the Curragh races.
More info: www.kildare.ie
Glendalough hardly needs any introduction. For thousands of years people have been drawn to ‘the valley of the two lakes’ for its spectacular scenery, rich history, archaeology and wildlife. Glendalough is a remarkable place that will still your mind, inspire your heart and fill your soul. It has long been an area renowned for its natural beauty and history and it is one of the most visited places in Ireland.
The Glendalough Valley is located in the Wicklow Mountains National Park and has many attractions to entice, entertain and enthral visitors, from its world famous Monastic Site with Round Tower to its scenic lakes and valleys, as well as a selection of walks and trails in the area including The Wicklow Way.
Today, Glendalough and the surrounding area has everything to offer the modern visitor from a wide selection of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets, to great places to eat as well as a host of other activities to suit both the independent traveller and the whole family.
Glendalough is home to one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland. This early Christian settlement was founded by St Kevin in the 6th century and from this developed the ‘Monastic City’. The ‘City’ consists of a number of monastic remains, the most impressive being the Round Tower which stands 30m high. The main group of monastic buildings lies downstream near the Round Tower. The grounds were entered through the Gateway, which has two round headed granite arches.
Beyond St Mary’s Church is the Priest’s House, a 12th century building in Romanesque style, with an interesting carving of a much earlier date on the lintel of the doorway. Just beyond the Priest’s House is a large granite cross (6th or 7th century) and the “Cathedral”, the largest church on the site, with a nave, chancel and sacristy (11th and 12th century) and St Kevin’s Church. St Kevin’s Church is commonly known as St Kevin’s Kitchen. This is a barrel-vaulted oratory of hard mica schist with a steeply pitched roof and a round tower belfry (12th century). Approximately 200m east of the Church of the Rock is a cavity in the cliff which is known as St Kevin’s Bed or Hermitage.
More info: www.glendalough.ie
Rathgall Ring Fort
Only 20 minutes dfrom Dollardstown and claimed by some to be better preserved than New Grange, Rathgall Stone Fort in Tullow, Co. Carlow is a hillside fortification with 8th century outer walls and later medieval inner walls.
Evidence from excavations carried out at Rathgall suggests that hill forts were constructed from the late Bronze Age (800 BC) into the Iron Age and continued to be used into post medieval times. On excavation in 1969 Rathgall turned out to be the first Later Bronze Age Workshop located in Ireland and more than 400 clay moulds were also found there. Evidence of a house was discovered in the inner stone circle with the second and third ramparts forming the main defensive walls. Rathgall was a huge workshop where spears, swords and shields were fashioned. During the excavations in 1969 more than four hundred fragments of clay moulds were found. A further two or three hundred were discovered away from the main workshop, showing the considerable extent of the bronze-working area. Excavations revealed that an important wealthy family or small community lived on the hilltop.
More info: www.voicesfromthedawn.com/rathgall-hillfort/
Rock of Dunamase
Stunning views of the surrounding countryside make the towering Rock of Dunamase a strategic place to build a fortress. Through the centuries, warriors have fought to control this limestone outcrop, known as a “hum”. The first known settlement on the rock was Dun Masc, an early Christian settlement that was pillaged by the Vikings.
When the Normans arrived in Ireland in the late 1100s, Dunamase became the most important Anglo-Norman fortification in Laois. It was part of the dowry of Aoife, the daughter of Diarmuid Mac Murrough, King of Leinster, when she was given in marriage to the Norman conqueror Strongbow.
When Isabel, the daughter of Strongbow and Aoife, wed William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, Dunamase was part of her marriage portion. It is likely that Marshall carried out some building on the rock when he lived there between 1208 and 1213.
The castle was successively held by Marshal’s five sons before passing to the Mortimer family through Marshal’s daughter, Eva de Braoise, who passed the castle to her daughter Maud on her marriage to Roger Mortimer. All the Mortimer’s lands, including Dunamase, were forfeited to the Crown in 1330. Shortly afterwards, the castle appears to have passed into the hands of the O’Moores and been abandoned.
More info: www.laois.ie