Labbacallee (Leaba Caillighe – “the Hag’s Grave”), the largest megalithic wedge-shaped tomb in Ireland, is associated in mythology with the Celtic hag goddess Caillech Bhearra, the Hag of Beara. The tomb is covered with three massive capstones, the largest weighing about 10 tonnes. A 1934 archaeological excavation found a woman’s skeleton positioned within the gallery, although her skill was found outside it. The site is well signposted and easily accessible. (Photo – www.megalithicireland.com)
Glanworth (Co. Cork / Northeast)
Glanworth (Gleann Iubhair – “Valley of the Yew Trees”)(pop. 1300) is a historic community based on a strategic river crossing; for many years it was also a staging post on the old Butter Route to Cork.
Glanworth Castle, a C13th stronghold built by the Condon family and later held by the Roche dynasty, remains as an impressive shell overlooking the River Funsheon. (Photo by Cuchuaillan)
Glanworth Abbey comprises the atmospheric ruins of a late medieval Dominican Priory, destroyed in the C16th. An impressive gable tracery window has been restored by the OPW. The cemetery contains several intriguing graves dating back to 1720. The waters of nearby St Dominic’s Well were long attributed with miraculous curative powers.
The village is also notable for its 12 arch stone bridge, built c.1600, said to be the oldest in the country and possibly the narrowest in Europe.
Glanworth Mill, erected in the late C18th to grind corn and later used to process woollen textiles, was restored in 1997 and converted by Lynne Glasscoe and Emelyn Heaps into a very pleasant Country Inn with good restaurant and accomodation facilities. This excellent amenity (Ireland’s first winner of the “Hidden Gem” award from Les Routiers) has, sadly, closed its doors, but may reopen in more favourable economic conditions.
Glanworth is connected by the R512 to Kildorrery on ByRoute 4.
Annesgrove / Annes Grove, formerly known as Ballyhimock, was founded as an estate by the Grove family, and as a consequence of the marriage of Mary Grove to the 1st Earl Annesley was inherited by the latter’s nephew, the Hon. Arthur Grove Annesley. His descendants have lived here ever since in the elegant early C18th house overlooking the River Awbeg,
The world famous Gardens are set on a 30 acres sloping down to the river, and feature a parkland with some fine trees; a walled garden with herbaceous borders, a yew walk, a rock garden, an extensive woodland garden electrified by candy-pink and lipstick-red rhododendrons in spring, a wooded limestone gorge, a lovely river garden filled with bamboo, gunnera and skunk cabbage and an island, stony rapids and rustic bridges.
The gardens retain elements of the early formal C18th layout, but are charecterised by their naturalistic harmony. William Robinson, the eminent Irish gardener and writer who advocated suiting the garden to the terrain, devoted a chapter in his publication The English Flower Garden to Annesgrove, in particular the unique water garden.
Many of the rarest specimens were planted by Richard Grove Annesley (1879-1966), who sponsored exotic plant hunters such as Frank Kingdon Ward in Burma, the Yunan, Tibet, Nepal and elsewhere. His grandson, Patrick Grove Annesley, has continued the family tradition of maintaining Robinson’s ‘wild’ style with unusual trees and shrubs amongst the thousands of thriving plants in a layout that merges unobtrusively into the landscape.
The main Gate Lodge was designed in 1853 by Benjamin Woodward in the style of a miniature medieval castle.
Castletownroche (Co. Cork / North)
Castletownroche (Baile Chaisleán an Róistigh – “the town of the Castle on the Rock”; known in ancient times as Dún Chruadha – “Cruadha’s Fort”) is a beautifully situated village just north of the confluence of the Rivers Awbeg and Blackwater.
Blackwater Castle, aka Castlewiddenham, dramatically built on a towering outcrop of rock overlooking the River Awbeg, was for centuries the seat of the powerful Roche clan, descendants of Strongbow‘s companion Richard FitzGodebert de la Roch, whose Norman family castle in Pembrokeshire was built upon a similar site.
Lord Maurice “the Mad” remained loyal to the Crown during the Desmond Rebellions, but was arrested by Captain Walter Raleigh and taken to Cork for questioning before being released without charge (having relinquished much of his land to the government); he and his wife both died in 1583, having lost their four sons in the service of the Queen.
In 1649 the castle was successfully defended against Cromwellian troops by the Lady Roche of the time, whose husband was on the run as a Royalist outlaw; in revenge, and despite having an alibi, she was hanged for murder of “an unknown man” on the insubstantial evidence of a “strumpet“.
A dubious grant of 1666 left the castle in the hands of Lieut Col John Widdenham; whose descendants rebuilt and extended the castle complex and remained in mainly peaceful possession for over 300 years.
The property is currently owned by a trust belonging to the Nordstrom family, who while restoring the castle itself (notably the impressive Library and Music Room, Tea Room, Breakfast Room and Terrace) have also planted thousands of trees on the 50-acre grounds, renovated the walled garden and woodland maze and declared a nature reserve for the abundant resident wildlife, with meandering paths and riverside walks. The Coach House has become an art gallery with regular exhibitions, and the estate hosts concerts and festivals. The castle now has nine splendid guesthouse suites and the courtyard is equipped with self-catering garden apartments.
Knockanare Well, in the castle grounds, is an important mystical site where a sheela-na-gig was located for many centuries. Folklore attributes various special powers and several interesting tales to this well.
St Mary’s church (CoI), designed by the Pain brothers in 1825, is striking for its setting, its tall slender spire and some interesting windows. Inside, there are plaques to many local families who served in the administration and the armies of the British Empire all over the world. The churchyard contains the grave of TP Keenan, author of the once popular ballad The Old Rustic Bridge by the Mill referring to the bridge crossing the River Awbeg at the mill, formerly the mainstay of the local economy and currently under restoration.
Dino Café is a themed restaurant with Ireland’s only permanent exhibition of dinosaur models.
A German spy mysteriously committed suicide in the Castletownroche Garda station in 1943.
Bridgetown Abbey, a ruined C13th Augustinian Priory dedicated to Saint Victor, is scenically located on a nearby ford. This is the largest National Monument in Ireland not in State ownership. (Photo by kuhnbob)
Killavullen & Annakissa (Co. Cork / North)
Killavullen (“The Church of the Mill”) and Annakissa (“The Ford of the Wickerwork Causeway”) are in a particularly beautiful part of the Blackwater Valley dominated by the Nagles Mountains.
There are a number of castles in the area erected by the Nagle family. King James II is reputed to have stayed on his way north from Kinsale at Carrigacunna (“The Rabbit’s Rock”), home of Sir Richard Nagle of Clogher, one of the foremost members of the Patriot Parliament of 1689.
Kilavullen, aka / pron. Killawillin, is associated with Edmund Burke, known to have lived from ages five to ten with his maternal uncle Garreth Nagle, whose house was burnt down by Whiteboys in 1832. Burke received his early education from a master called O’Halloran in the ruins of Monanimy Castle, once a Preceptory of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem.
Ballymacmoy House, overlooking the River Blackwater, on a cliff honeycombed with caves, was built in 1818 to replace an earlier edifice a short distance upriver that collapsed. Ancestral home of the Hennessy family, this was the birthplace of Richard Hennessy, an officer in Dillon’s Irish Regiment in the French Army, who established the distillery that bears his name in Cognac in 1765.
During the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, the Kilkenny Confederates inflicted a rare defeat on Parliamentarian Roundheads in a battle commemorated by RD Joyce in a ballad called The Bridge of Glanwillan.
There are several Holy Wells in the neighbourhood; they are still resorted to, as evidenced by the Rag Bushes beside them. According to tradition, the Well of St. Nicholas was once situated near Killura House, and a poor man walking the road visited the house at the time of churning. As was custom, he gave the handle three turns to add his luck but the lady of the house did not reciprocate his kindness. Angered, he announced that he would give them a walk for their water, and took a capful from the Well, which then dried up, only to reappear where he set the cap down at Monanimy.
Other wells are dedicated to Saint Nicholas’s brother, Saint Branat / Brenet / Bernard, and their beautiful sister Saint Cranait; hers also travelled from Killura, where the landowner, being fed up with the pilgrims, built a wall surrounding it, on completion of which the saint gathered up the well in her apron and moved it to its present site. She once aroused the passions of an unprincipled Prince, and in order to quell his fire, plucked out her eye and cast it away. Where it landed, a tree grew, known as Crann na hUlla (“The Tree of the Eye”). A twig from this tree was reputed to be a charm against shipwreck, as a result of which the tree was stripped during the great C19th emigrations.
The Carrig Gantry Bridge, a gem of industrial archaeology, was erected in 1860 to carry the Mallow – Fermoy train across the gorge, and still bears the signs of attempted destruction during the 1918 – 1923 Troubles.
Wallstown Castle, the remains of which are still to be seens on a cliff overlooking the Awbeg River, was built by the Norman family of De Valle / Wall. In 1642 Sir William St. Leger wrote of “a small exploit performed by my Lord Inchiquin and Captain Jephson, two young men, as highly commendable for their courage and judgement as any under my command, with their troops and two foot company’s (sent to divert Lord Roche), they fell upon a castle belonging to one Wall, a freeholder of that county and a good estate, and with the loss of three men, albeit the place of good strength and much repaired, they used means to fire and force it, putting the defenders, who were about 70 in number either to the sword or halter, only the principal and one other who was found there of equal rank and quality they sent to me'” This ‘Principal’ was Richard Wall, who died in Cork prison not too long afterwards. His son William, then a minor, attempted to maintain possession, but it was granted to a Parliamentarian officer, Capt. Andrew Ruddock, whose family grave is still to be seen in the little church near the Castle.
Castle Curious, aka Johnny Roche’s Tower, was built single-handed by the eponymous local celebrity, a blacksmith and miller famous for his self-sufficiency. He made and repaired fiddles and musical pipes, and is credited as being ahead of his time as a dentist; he could prepare a false tooth from a cow’s hoof, and fit it in place of an extracted one. Many stories are told of him and his inventions. He died on the 10th February 1884, but was not buried in his self built tomb in the middle of the river, for which he had prepared his own epitaph:- ‘Here lies the body of poor John Roche, he had his faults but don’t reproach; For when alive his hearth was mellow, An artist, genius and comic fellow.’ The ‘Coroner’ Byrne, on hearing of the tomb; sent a note to Johnny: ‘Go, rest thy bones in Mother Earth and don’t pollute the river’.
Glenagear Wood has pleasant forest walks and a picnic site beside the River Ross, overlooked by the Nagles Mountains.