ByRoute 15.2 Co. Longford (W) // Co. Mayo (N)

Fuerty & Castlecoote (Co. Roscommon / South)

Fuerty (Fiodharta – “high wood”) historically aka Fewerty, is a hamlet.

River Suck beside Fuerty National School.

Saint Patrick is said to have visited Fuerty and left the establishment of a monastery in the hands of a deacon, Justus, who baptised Saint Ciarán, the founder of Clonmacnoise. The original foundation at Fuerty became an Abbey that survived until Elizabethan soldiers razed the complex and slaughtered all the monks.

The existing ruins are of a C17th Church of Ireland edifice. The tower was added in 1790 but the church was destroyed by fire in 1870. The ancient graveyard contains several interesting memorials, notably two C8th granite grave slabs bearing still legible inscriptions, one being the name of Ardeachan, Abbot of Clonmacnoise.

Castlecoote is a picturesque community with a classic village green and a bridge over the River Suck, where an island has been landscaped by the local Tidy Towns committee.

Castlecoote House

 


Castlecoote House was built in the second half of the C17th within the ruins of a medieval castle, thought to have been erected in the late C16th as a stronghold for the Chieftains of Fuerty, the MacGeraghty clan. (Photo – www.tripadvisor.ie)

 

In 1616 the castle had been acquired by Sir Charles Coote, a leading Elizabethan army officer renowned for his ruthlessness, who later became Lord President of Connaught and died defending Trim against rebels in 1642 during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, which saw the castle attacked three times by Kilkenny Confederacy forces. Musket chambers still overlook the entrance steps from the basement tower rooms.

 

In the C18th the property passed into the ownership of John Gunning, who was rumoured to have won it in a poker game. His daughters Elizabeth, who became Duchess of Hamilton and then Duchess of Argyll, and Maria, who became the Countess of Coventry, were legendary beauties at the Court of King George II and had their portraits painted by Joshua Reynolds.

 

In the C20th the house was owned by noted equestrian Henry D Strevens, but was severely damaged by fire 1989. It was bought in 1997 by Kevin Finnerty, who spent five years restoring it to its former glory and now provides luxurious accommodation facilities.

 

The gardens, which may be toured by appointment, run down to the beautiful River Suck and include the towers of the ruined castle, a medieval bridge, a stone ice house, a restored Ha Ha, and a walled orchard of rare apple trees with examples of all the Crofton family of apples, not forgetting the White Crofton (George Bernard Shaw’s favourite apple), plus Leixlip, Bloody Butcher etc.

 

Visitors are invited to partake of afternoon teas in the wonderfully restored old ballroom, with homemade scones, jams, apple pie, apple juice, apple sponge and delicious Castlecoote House apple butter.

 

Castlecoote House has hosted the annual Percy French Summer School since 2009.

The River Suck,  running through the village and partially encircling Castlecoote House, is renowned for its coarse and trout fishing.

Dunamon Castle

 

Donamon Castle, standing on raised ground on the south bank of the River Suck, is an exceptional example of a castle that has evolved throughout its lifetime. Undoubtedly one of the longest inhabited buildings in Ireland, it claims to be the oldest.

 

The Annals of the Four Masters record that in 1154 it was the seat of the O’Finaghty chiefs of Clan Conway, who held the land for miles around. In 1232 Sir Adam de Staunton improved the buildings, but they were demolished by the O’Connors the following year. The rebuilt Castle was occupied in 1294 by Sir William de Oddingseles, Justiciar of Ireland, who died in his native Warwickshire the following year. The de Birminghams then took over but it was again destroyed by the O’Connors. 1307 saw the last of the O’Finaghys and the first of the McDavid Burkes, who occupied it for the next 300 years.

 

The current edifice was commenced c.1400, incorporating  the remains of the original tower house. In 1656 it was bought for £133 by one of Oliver Cromwell‘s henchmen, Robert King of Rickingham, whose son Robert, 1st Baron Kingston, leased the castle in 1668 to Thomas Caulfield; among the most colourful of his descendants thes was St. George Caulfield (1697-1778), Member of Parliament, judge, miser and cattle-fancier. The building was extended c.1670, improved and castellated in the C18th and considerablyextended to the west in 1855.

 

In late 1932, an IRA unit under the command of Seán McCool and Mick Price took over Donamon Castle to set up a training camp for volunteers.

 

In 1939 the castle, which was in a ruinous condition, was bought by the Divine Word Missionaries from Germany, who suffered much privation during WW II, being cut off from their sister houses,  but have since thoroughly restored the castle, adding a modern chapel and a retreat and respite centre in 1963. The setting of the castle is enhanced by  a ruined church with an ancient graveyard, an old walled garden, and a curiously constructed disused icehouse.

Castle Strange / Castlestrange was named after the l’Estrange family who owned the property in the C16th. A house built by the Mitchell family in the C18th, passed to the Gunnings and later occupied by James and Thomas Mulry, is in ruins along with its coach house and stables, but other outbuildings have been converted into a modern residence.

The Castlestrange Stone, located beside the  entrance to Castlestrange Demesne, is a  pink granite Cult stone dating to around incised with a Celtic La Tene style design comparable to the relief carving on the Turoe stone in County Galway. (Photo by William Finnerty)

Athleague (Co. Roscommon / South)

Athleague (Áth Liag (na Sioca)) – “ford of the flagstones”), (pop. 850) is a village situated at a historically important crossing point on a gentle curve of theRiver Suck, the border between the ancient tuatha of the Uí Maine and Uí Briúin.

A church founded c. 500 AD by Maenucan Atha Liacc (‘Maonagán of Athleague’) is mentioned in the Annals of Connacht, the Annals of Lough Cé and the Annals of the Four Masters.

Athleague Mill, an impressive edifice built c.1800 on the River Suck, was extended in 1900 and had its wooden stam wheel restored in 2002. (Photo – Comhaltas)

St Patrick’s church (RC), built in 1842 by Rev BH Kehir and enlarged / reconstructed 1942-1943 by Very Rev Bernard A Keane, features impressive stained glass windows and has decorative grave markers in the grounds.

The former Church of Ireland edifice now houses Athleague Angling & Visitors Centre.

Athleague is

 

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