The Blackstairs Mountains above Ballymurphy (Photo – Sarah777)
The Scullogue Gap
The Scullogue / Scullough / Sgollagh Gap is a dramatic pass across the Blackstairs Mountains.
The word sculloge or scoologe was originally applied to the younger monks who did most of the farm work on the land belonging to the religious community. These young men were students indoors as well as tillers outside, and hence the name, from scol, a school – scológ, a young scholar. The word gradually came to refer to a small farmer, especially one that does his own farm work: it is often used in a somewhat derogatory sense to denote a mere rustic.
The Scullogue Gap was of strategic importance in the 1798 Rebellion, when Fr John Murphy and his followers were harried by three armies as they retreated to Wexford.
Ballymurphy (Co. Carlow / East)
Ballymurphy (Baile Ui Murchu / Miseal), historically aka Ballymurchoe, is a small hillside community on the western slopes of the Blackstairs Mountains. The local GAA Club is widely respected.
St Patrick’s church (RC) was erected in 1846.
A roadside memorial commemorates seven individuals killed during the 1918 – 1923 Troubles, some of whom were civilians uninvolved in the fighting, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The Rathgeran Stone, a richly decorated coffin-shaped slab with five groups of concentric circles, part of an interesting pre-Christian burial ground thought to date from around 4,000 B.C, can be found (with luck and very good local directions) on Rathgeran Hill, 2km from the village.
Ballymurphy is within easy reach of Borris on ByRoute 5.
Old Gowlin is the start / end of a pleasant looped walking trail in the Blackstairs Mountains.
St Mullins (Co. Carlow / South)
St. Mullins, often described as a jewel, is a one-pub hamlet on a beautiful forested stretch of the River Barrow at its junction with the Aughavaud River. The attractive surrounding district is ideal for walking and cycling.
St. Mullins is best known as the location of a once great monastic community founded by Saint Moling (614 – 696 AD). The site is dominated by a former Church of Ireland edifice, converted in 1986 into an attractive Heritage Centre. (Photo – AJ Jones)
The layout of the settlement is depicted in an C7th “Pocket Gospel” known as The Book of Mulling, thought to be a copy of an autograph manuscript of Saint Moling. The drawing is the earliest known plan of an Irish monastery. Together with its jewelled shrine, the book is preserved in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin.
Saint Moling is said to have established a mill to grind corn for the poor, spending eight years on digging a millrace. He went on to become Bishop of Ferns and Glendalough. The settlement was plundered by the Vikings in 951 AD and was burned in 1138.
The C9th and later medieval ruins include a main church (Teampaill Mór) with a spiral staircase, an oratory (St James’s Chapel), the stump of a Round Tower and a granite High Cross. Many kings of south Leinster, including several of the McMurrough Kavanaghs, were buried here. The graveyard, still in use today, was also the burial place of several participants in the 1798 Rebellion.
The Norman motte overlooking the monastic precincts was used as a lookout point in the days of the Penal Laws, when Mass was celebrated illegally at a riverside rock that is still pointed out. The waters of the nearby Holy Well dedicated to Saint Moling have a great reputation for curing toothache.
St Molin’s church (CoI) was built in 1811. A popular local tale recounts that years ago the local Church of Ireland Bishop was thinking of closing down the church because there were only a handful of Protestants in the neighbourhood. The distraught vicar mentioned his worries to the Roman Catholic parish priest, who had a word with his flock, and on the day of the Bishop’s visit Catholic families filled the Protestant church, joining in the responses and lustily singing Protestant hymns. The Bishop went home delighted and the church remained open for a few more years, until the mid-1960s. (This story has also been told of other churches in Ireland, and was used in the film The Quiet Man)
Templenaboe church stands in ruins in a forest glade not far away; the site was long used as a graveyard for unbaptised children.
Mulvarra House B&B & Body Treatment Centre is a very well reviewed Guesthouse.
St. Mullins is close to Drummin Bog on ByRoute 3.
Graiguenamanagh – Tinnahinch
Graiguenamaragh -Tinnahinch (pop. 1500) straddles the Co. Kilkenny / Co. Carlow border, where the River Duiske (Bun Dubhisce – “Lower Blackwater”) flows into the River Barrow.
Tinnahinch (Tigh-na-hinse – “Island House”) is a very popular boating centre on the eastern bank of the River Barrow, spanned here by a beautiful bridge constructed in 1767 when a canal system was being built to improve navigation.
Tinnahinch Castle was originally built to control a crossing where a wooden bridge once spanned the River Barrow. The edifice visible today was constructed c.1615 by Walter Butler, 11th Earl of Ormonde, and was reputedly occupied by a mad relative. Burnt c.1700, it has stood in ruins ever since.
The Barrow Navigation Locks known as Upper and Lower Tinnahinch are currently under the care of Mr. James Butler, presumably a descendant of the once all-powerful family.
Graiguenamanagh / Graignamanagh (Gráig na Manach – “Village of the Monks”) popularly known as Craigue, was an important base for commercial barges operating between New Ross and Dublin, and is now popular for leisure boating, canoeing etc. on the Barrow Navigation System. Extensive facilities exist for the angler – bait, tackle and sound advice are all available locally.
The narrow winding streets of the town centre, their interconnection with the town’s famous Abbey and with the broad expanse of the river, and the contrast between the densely developed urban core and the dramatic natural surroundings give Graiguenamanagh a unique and distinctive character.
Duiske Abbey was founded in 1204 by the Seneschal of Leinster, William Marshal the elder, Earl of Pembroke, for Cistercian monks from Stanley in Wiltshire. Superbly restored, it is still in use as the local Roman Catholic parish church. (Photo by AineHayden)
Much of the abbey was constructed with yellow limestone brought across the Irish Sea from quarries at Dundry, outside Bristol. The monastery was planned on a vast scale, and the gothic or “Early English” church was the largest Cistercian building in Ireland in its time.
Within the grounds of the Abbey stand the High Crosses of Akythawn and Ballyogan, both bearing carved figures and Celtic ornamentation.
The impressive interior contains beautiful stained glass windows and interesting features such as the original medieval floortiles and an outstanding effigy of a knight seizing a sword. (Photo by AF Borchert)
In the nearby Abbey Centre there is an exhibition of contemporary Christian Art and local historic artefacts.
St Mary’s church (CoI) in the village square was built in 1722 on the site of the original chancel of the medieval Priory, and incorporates a C15th tower. It features some interesting tombstones and a statue of the poetess Mary Tighe.
Graiguenamanagh experienced the full impact of many events in Irish history, especially the 1798 Rebellion and the Tithe War. In 1831, a force of 120 armed policemen forcibly took possession of cattle belonging to the local Catholic priest in Graiguenamanagh, who had, with the approval of his bishop, organised people to resist Tithe collection. A similar incident led to serious violence in Bunclody, Co. Wexford, as a result of which people organised their resistance with agreed signals warning of the approach of police. Such a warning resulted in an ambush of a detachment of 40 police at Carrickshock on 14th December 1831; 19 policemen were killed, including their Chief Constable.
The beautiful hinterland around Brandon Hill is an exceptionally good area for wildlife, especially butterflies, and also contains many ancient sites.
Graiguenamanagh is within easy reach of Inistioge and Mountgarret on ByRoute 3.