Rothar Routes

Cycle routes & pilgrim journeys in Ireland and Europe …..

Posts tagged ‘St Mullins’

The Old Places

New Years Day and cabin fever at its highest! A day for fresh air and exploring the landscape of County Carlow. Maps intrique me. Old places, long forgotten, apart from some obscure marking on OS maps; like a treasure map, clues to our past.

The brilliant East West Map of the Blackstairs and the Barrow Valley feature a ‘Star Shaped Fort’ at Coolyhune. It has long haunted me. Perched on top of the small hill with great views of Counties Carlow, Kilkenny and Wexford, the site is overgrown and is adjacent to a house on private land. During the summer months when trees are in foliage it is virtually impenetrable but there is some possibilities of seeing the layout in mid winter. But still hard to visualise the fort at ground level.

I was delighted today to get permission to access the site and I got some good footage of the site with the star shape clearly visible. These are the only aerial photographs that I am aware of that exist of the Fort.

The following description is derived from the published ‘Archaeological Inventory of County Carlow’ (Dublin: Stationery Office, 1993):

Pentagonal fort with bastions enclosing summit of hill. Walls of drystone construction (ext. max. H 2.2m, int. H 0.6-2m; top Wth c. 1.2m, base Wth c. 1.5-1.8m), with slight external batter. Construction suggests fairly recent origin, possibly connected with events of 1798. (dims. of interior (excluding bastions) 60m x 60.5m; L of bastion 18m; max. Wth of bastion 20m; Wth of opening to bastions 17.6m). Rebuilding in some areas; entrance gap at S probably not original.

Star Shaped Fort
Star Shaped Fort at Coolyhune
Star Shaped Fort at Coolyhune

We are desensitised to our surroundings and to our environment. Urban landscapes. Asphalt roads. Concrete paths. Hard, unforgiving surfaces. Connecting with somewhere or somebody but not connecting with the land we inhabit. Unlike paths of our forefathers.

Since homo sapiens left Africa we have been crisscrossing continents and leaving tracks behind us. When we began herding livestock we created trails to and from pastures – sure isn’t that where the word ‘bóthar’ came from!

Many of our roads were originally animal tracks – no wonder Irish roads have traditionally been windy and twisty and unsuitable for modern traffic!

Pilgrim roads. Famine roads – built in the 1840s by starving peasants to receive a small return to alleviate hunger; the road to nowhere.

I’ve always been fascinated by Green Roads that cross the country – and can only now be seen on waste ground or mountain sides.

‘Green Road’ on the Blackstairs

There are at least three roads showing on ordnance survey maps along the Carlow flank of the Blackstairs. These are the ‘Wexford Road’, ‘The Tower Road’ and the ‘Gowlin Road’. All three meet up at some stage.

There were traditionally feast days where families of either side of the Blackstairs would meet on top of the Cooliagh Gap at The Meeting Point on the last Sunday in July.

Scots Pine Grove 1800s
‘Green Roads’ of the Blackstairs

Presumably the ‘Wexford Road’ was a short cut over the mountain to County Wexford, while the Gowlin Road finished in the town land of Goolin. The Tower Road was so named after the Tower House, now in ruins.

Further south the around Dranagh, the stone wall landscape is reminiscent of the west of Ireland.

Stone Walls of Drannagh
Stone Walls of Drannagh

A good day exploring the land of the 2019 Leinster Club hurling finalists, St Mullins and the 2013 Leinster Champions Mount Leinster Rangers!

The Pattern at St Mullins

Pilgrimage is back in fashion.Over 300,000 obtained the Credencial upon completion of the Camino Santiago in 2017, the ancient pilgrimage routes across Spain to the tomb of St James.

 

 

Old pilgrimage routes are being revived across Europe as people try to find a greater meaning in life or maybe just go for a long walk!

The Pattern at St Mullins is a 1300 hundred year old tradition linked to St Moling and St James. It is linked ot St James because the date is set on the Sunday before July 25th, the feast day of St James.I wonder was it ever a starting point for the Camino?

Each year thousands gather here to commemorate St Moling and to visit the graves of this picturesque graveyard and monastic site. The pilgrimage starts with the blessing of the water of the well with pilgrims drinking the water which reputedly has been responsible for many cures down the centuries. The water from the well flows through the mill race that Moling dug out over a period of 7 years Mass is then celebrated at the penal altar in the centre of the graveyard. During the time of the Penal Laws, celebration of mass was outlawed and had to be celebrated in secret and a lookout would have been placed on the nearby motte.

St Moling has attracted pilgrims here for hundreds of years to the monastery he founded in the 7th century; it is Carlow’s Clonmacnoise – the Book of Moling can be seen ion Trinity College, Dublin alongside the more famous Book of Kells.

The graveyard holds many famous remains, from St Moling himself, to Art Kavanagh, King of Leinster who was buried here in 1417 having been poisoned in New Ross. There are many graves associated with 1798 including General Thomas Cloney who died at the age of 24.

With the revival in pilgrimage across Europe, there is surely great scope to develop a Carlow pilgrimage route considering the number of really ancient and important ecclesiastical sites across the county associated with St Moling, Columbanus, St Fiacre, St Laserian and others.

Well worth a visit.

St Mullins, Ecclesiastical Village of south Carlow

Wedged in between counties Kilkenny and Wexford at the very southern tip of County Carlow and located between the Blackstairs and Mount Brandon on the banks of the River Barrow, St Mullins is a national treasure.

‘Tigh Moling’ as it is more properly called in Irish, was founded by the great Irish saint, Moling.

The monastery was founded in the 7th Century and thankfully substantial sections are still clearly evident today.Trinity College Library is home to the priceless ancient Book of Moling in which there is a plan of the monastery – the earliest known plan of an Irish Monastery. The ‘Gobán Saor’, a legendary Irish craftsman is said to have assisted in the building of the monastery which consisted of four churches, a round tower and numerous crosses. It was a very important early Christian site that was twice plundered by the Vikings travelling inland along the River Barrow in their long boats.

The graveyard contains the graves of many United Irishmen who died in the 1798 rebellion which are often marked with green shields.

Just below the Church on the eastern side is St Moling’s Well and people came here for a cure during the Great Plague.

St Mullins also has a most impressive Norman Motte and Bailey which would have used for protection of the village below.

St Mullins is traditionally on of the great pilgrimage sites in Ireland and people came here on the annual Patter Day which is the first Sunday before 25th July to take of the waters’. There used be two pattern days, 17th June and 25th July (feast of St James). The Pattern still attracts huge crowds and pilgrims drink the healing waters of the well after the blessing by the priest and then a procession to the cemetery for mass at the Penal Altar. It’s a great social occasion too and there are many stalls and amusements to entertain the visitors.

Leaving the village and heading in the direction of Carrigleade is another important site associated with St Mullins that celebrates one of his great achievements, Teampaill na Bo. It was a small church built in thanksgiving to Moling who freed the Leinster men from paying an unjust tax, The Borumean Tribute, to the High King of Ireland. This was an oppressive tax consisting of 5,000 cows, 5,000 hogs, 5,000 sheep, 5,000 vessels of bronze and to cap it off 5,000 ozs of silver! The site has a sad past too as it was used to bury unbaptised children. It is a very spiritual place to drop in to and say a prayer for those poor unfortunate children. 

St Mullins is  one of my favourite cycling destinations and I usually reach it by cycling along the Barrow Way. I have included a route from St Mullins in my book, ‘Cycling South Leinster’ called ‘On the Trail of the Saints’ which starts in St Mullins and visits Inistioge, Graiguenamanagh, Ullard and Borris. St Mullins is also on the longest route in the book, ‘Follow Me Up to Carlow’!

Here is a link to a great local history that i have just come upon: St Mullins a Local History

Route Map for the Carlow Way

//ridewithgps.com/routes/12045011/embed?privacy_code=bBjkLvrx6tVF4xID

I’ve mapped out a 176kms on road – off road route of County Carlow.
The route starts and finishes at Carlow Tourist Office and takes in a lot of sacred sites dotted around the County and just over the borders.
It includes 50kms of the Barrow Track, the only riverside track in the entire country, a small section of the South leister Way and the Wicklow Way.
For anyone interested in bike touring it’s a nice route to get started on and a great way to see the best of Carlow.

Saint Mullins revisited

The ruins of the Ecclesiastical city of St Mullins as night closes in

The ruins of the Ecclesiastical city of St Mullins as night closes in

The ancient monastic settlement of St Mullins is truly the jewel in the crown of County Carlow.

Stunning natural beauty combined with it’s rich history does indeed mark it as a special place.

Stretching back to the legend of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the Fianna and of course to the founding of the famed monastic site by St Mullins the area is of national significance and not appreciated enough by us Carlovians!

I called in today for a short visit just as light was fading; my words can never do it justice and it’s hard to truly capture the magic of the place with a few photos but here’s a few that record some of that important history!

The Cross of Moling

The Cross of Moling

 

Base of the Round Tower at St Mullins

Base of the Round Tower at St Mullins

 

 

Detail from the reverse side of the Cross of Moling

Detail from the reverse side of the Cross of Moling

 

St Mullins Monastic site

St Mullins Monastic site

Ballinalour Standing Stone

Ballinalour Standing Stone

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