ByRoute 1.2 Co. Wexford (S) // Co. Cork (E)

Carnsore Point

 

Carnsore Point is Ireland’s most southeasterly mainland extremity, and commands great views of the Tuskar Rock. (Photo by stendec)

 

Saint Margaret’s beach is a fine sandy strand, unsuitable for swimming due to strong curents, but popular with  birdwatchers, shore anglers and walkers, especially on breezy autumn days. The headland at the end of the peninsula is quite difficult to reach, but the steep shingle beach offers good rough ground shore fishing to keen anglers.

 

Called Hieron Akron – “the Sacred Cape” – on the earliest map of Ireland, made c.150 AD by the Helleno-Egyptian cartographer Ptolemy, the location may have had Druidic associations. A Penal Laws era Mass Rock is thought to have had much earlier ceremonial uses.

 

St Vogue’s Oratory, a stone edifice apparently constructed in the C14th, is now an atmospheric ruin. Archaeologists have established that it stands on the site of a C6th / C7th wooden structure, possibly the tomb / shrine of Saint Vogue / Beac, said to have founded a monastic community  here c.585 AD, attracting pilgrims from as far away as Wales, Cornwall and Brittany. St Vogue’s stone, possibly taken from an ancient portal tomb, is inscribed with a Tau cross.

 

During WWII Carnsore Point had “EIRE” written in large letters made of whitewashed stones prominent displayed in order to warn pilots they were flying over neutral territory. A German Heinkel bomber crashed at Nethertown after aerial combat with British planes, killing all five crew members on board. One night no fewer than 29 sea mines were washed ashore.

 

Carnsore Point was the proposed location for Ireland’s first nuclear energy plant(s), but massive protests in the late 1970s, including two free rock festivals on the site, combined with government cutbacks to put an end to the plan. The peninsula now features the east coast’s first wind farm with 14 powerfule turbines and an Environmental Protection Agency air monitoring station.

 

Carne is an attractive hamlet, most famous for its Lobster Pot pub & seafood restaurant, reputed to serve the best chowder on this planet. The Lighthouse Bar is a pleasant local pub with regular live music sessions.

 

The principal accommodation option is the local Camping & Caravan site, but B&Bs and self-catering holiday cottages are also available.

Lady’s Island & Tacumshane Lakes (Co. Wexford / Southeast)

Lady’s Island Lake and Tacumshane / Tacumshin Lake are shallow coastal lagoons, separated over time from the sea by tide-borne gravels and wind-blown sand.

The waterfowl population of the lagoons is exceptionally diverse and, unusually among Irish wetlands, there are large numbers of birds through the whole year. The area is home to Irelands largest mixed tern colony, including the rare Roseate Tern, and breeding gulls are also to be found. During spring and autumn large numbers of waders use the lagoon as a resting and feeding area before continuing on to breeding / wintering grounds. The lagoons are a notable site for wintering ducks and swans.The presence of a number of rare or scarce plant species adds additional interest.

Lady’s Island, effectively a peninsula jutting into the “lake” named in its honour, is believed to have once been inhabited by female druids, and features several raths found to contain human bones and ashes.

The island has been a site of Christian pilgrimage since ancient times. The season extends over the three weeks following August 15th; some modern pilgrims still crawl around the island on their hands and knees.

The island was acquired shortly after the Norman Invasion by Milo de Lamporte, a Crusader killed by Saladin’s Ayyubid warriors at the decisive Battle of the Horns of Hattin in Galilee on 4th July 1187. His son Rudolph established the spectacularly tilting tower and Augustinian priory before his departure in 1237 for the Holy Land, where he was also killed in battle by the Saracens.

The Abbey church of Saint Ibar was the scene of a massacre of monks and layfolk by Cromwellian soldiers in October 1649.

The Victorian church of the Assumption (RC) was designed by AW Pugin‘s son and son-in-law, EW Pugin and his partner George Ashlin.

Ballytrent House & the Mulgrave Rath


 

Ballytrent House, an impressive C18th mansion set in extensive partially landscaped grounds, was the home of William Archer Redmond, MP, and the birthplace of his eldest son John Redmond, MP.

 

The Mulgrave Rath is a famous prehistoric double Ring Fort named after the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (and former Governor of Jamaica) Constantine Henry Phipps, 2nd Earl of Mulgrave and later 1st Marquess of Normamby, who was responsible for building the stone wall around it c.1837.

 

The 116ft flagpole at the end of the rath was once the tallest mast in the British Isles.

 

To one side of the Rath are the remains of a Victorian glasshouse, shattered when a WWII bomb exploded on the beach nearby.

 

Ballytrent House nowadays provides self-catering accommodation facilities.

Tacumshane`s windmill is one of only two intact windmills in Ireland. Built in 1846 by the millwright Nicholas Moran, it is three storeys high with a thatched roof. It was re-thatched in 1908 and in use until 1936, then restored in 1952 as a National Monument. The key can be obtained from the nearby Meylers pub.

Tacumshane is one of the few sites in Ireland where Garganey occurs regularly, and nesting probably occurs most years. In summer the restricted area of water remaining in the lagoon supports one of the largest concentrations of Mute Swans in Ireland. The Marsh Harrier is a regular summer visitor, and nesting by this very scarce bird of prey is a possibility.  The lagoon is particularly attractive to vagrant North American and Eurasian waterfowl.

In recent years parts of the lagoon and sand dune system have been badly damaged by recreational activities, including horse racing, dog exercising, bird watching and driving of cars.

Tomhaggard & Kilmore (Co. Wexford / South)

Tomhaggard (Teach Moshagard) derives its odd English name from an old Irish phrase that in its uncorrupted form meant “Tomb of Saint Mosacer”, although there is no extant tradition relating to the exact position of the burial-place of this saint in the area.

St Anne’s church, now a hilltop ruin surrounded by graves, was built in the C13th and belonged to the monks of nearby Tintern Abbey on the Hook Peninsula.  This was one of the 46 churches in the Baronies of firth and Bargy destroyed by Cromwellian troops in 1649. An adjacent Holy Well is also dedicated to the virgin Mary’s mother.

The church of St Anne and St James (RC), located in the middle of the small village, was built in 1813 and is striking in its simplicity, with attractive stained glass windows and statues of the patron saints.

Bargy Castle

 

Bargy Castle is has  a long and interesting history. (Photo by David Hawgood)

 

Founded in the late C12th, it resisted many sieges, but eventually fell in 1649 to Cromwellian troops, who according to legend were driven out within 48 hours by unfriendly bees.

 

In the late C18th the castle belonged to Bagenal Harvey of United Irishmen fame, and the 1798 Rebellion was plotted in the Banqueting Hall, scene of many a convivial dinner.

Not long before the uprising, one such gathering of the wealthiest and most respectable county families, Protestant and Catholic, was attended by High Court judge Sir Jonah Barrington, who later wrote: “Bagenal Harvey, who had been my school-fellow and constant circuit-companion for many years, insisted on my going to … his residence, to meet some old (legal) friends of ours. I accordingly went there for dinner . (…) The entertainment was good, and the party cheerful. (…) I had no idea that matters wherein they were concerned had proceeded to the lengths developed on that night. (…) Every member of the jovial dinner party (with the exception of myself, another barrister, and Mr. Hatton), was executed within three months, and on my next visit to Wexford I saw the heads of Captain Keogh, Mr. Harvey and Mr. Colclough on spikes over the courthouse door (…) Secretary Cooke handed me a dispatch from General Lake, who stated that he had thought it necessary, on recapturing Wexford, to lose no time in ‘making examples’ of the rebel chiefs; and that, accordingly, Mr. Grogan, of Johnstown; Mr- Bagenal Harvey, of Bargy Castle; Captain Keogh, Mr. Colclough, and some other gentlemen, had been hanged on the bridge and beheaded the previous morning.

 

Te castle was acquired in the C20th by General Sir Eric de Burgh, KCB, DSO, OBE, (1881-1973), a former Chief of the General staff, Indian Army, whose daughter and her husband ran it as a hotel. It was the childhood home of  singer Chris de Burgh, who still lives there with his wife and children.

 

Recently a dungeon, crypt, sepulchres, a secret passage and walled-up entrances, yielding weapons and gunpowder, were discovered. A bedroom partition has unique hand-carved panelling dated 1591, one of many pieces of fine old furniture in the Castle.

Several other historical sites are nearby, including the remains of an old Norman monastery, a Mass house, and various Holy Wells.

Tomhaggard is within easy reach of Taghmon on ByRoute 2.

Kilmore (Cill Mór – “big church”) is the name of village, district and parish.

St Mary’s church (RC), was built in 1802 on the site of a former mud chapel, and the distinctive belfry was added by Frank Cousins in 1889. The Kilmore Carols, sung every year over the 12 days of Christmas, were introduced c.1751 by the parish priest, the Very Rev. Peter Devereux, and the singers, six local men, have always included a member of the Devereux family.

Mulrankin & Rathronan Castles

 

Mulrankin Castle is in a fair state of preservation. Its architecture indicates that it was one of the earliest Norman castles in the country, part of a wide chain of such edifices constructed across Southern Wexford within a short time of the invasion, each built within sight of its nearest neighbours.

 

Mulrankin was erected by Sir William and Sir Nicholas Le Brun, among the first band of Normans to arrive, whose descendants anglicised their name as Browne. The names of these two knights are attached as witnesses to the 1175 foundation charter of Dunbrody Abbey. Sir Nicholas similarly witnessed King John`s Charter of 7th November 1200, concerning the bounds of the City of Dublin, and William Marshal‘s 1209 Charter to Tintern Abbey.

 

As the Browne family multiplied, they spread over the county, building more castles such as Rathronan, Browne’s Castle (Taghmon), Brownswood, Newbawn, Greyrobin and Ballyfistelane.

 

A very long 1537 Inquisition (Probate document) enumerates all the property of “Patrick Browne, late of Mulrankin“, and states that he held his Manor from Nicholas Browne of Rathronan, “by fealty and the payment of one red rose annually.”

 

In 1581, Mulrankin Castle became the hiding-place of Sir James Eustace, 3rd Viscount Baltinglass, who had fought Crown forces at the Battle of Glendalough, and of Fr. Rochfort SJ, who was implicated with him. They both escaped to France.

 

After the 1641 Irish Rebellion many thousands of Browne acres were distributed among the Parliamentarians, and the head of the family, Sir William Browne, was taken prisoner at the Battle of Dungan’s Hill (1647), where his brother Walter was killed. He escaped to France where, having served the English Crown faithfully, he was able to obtain an order from King Charles II that his estates would be returned to him upon Restoration of the Monarchy, but “the policy of the Possessors defeated the order of the King“.

 

General Ireton‘s secretary, John Cliffe, had acquired much of the Browne land, and his descendants held the property for 250 years.

 

Rathronan Castle, another Cliffe acquisition, was leased to Michael Browne in 1851 and bought by his son under the Wyndham Act 1903, thus restoring to the family part of the property granted to them 700 years previously.  Rathronan Castle remained as a residence until the early 1980s, when it became so unstable that it had to be taken down.

 

Disgracefully, the ráth / Ring Fort that gave the townland its name was removed during land reclamation in 1994.

Mulrankin is served by St David’s church (RC), erected in 1816.

Bastardstown, a Kilmore townland, is remarkable only for its name.

Grange is the location of St Patrick’s church, the area’s original Cill Mór, built in 1412 on land belonging to Tintern Abbey. In ruins since at least the C18th, the three remaining walls are surrounded by gravestones. A nearby Holy Well is also dedicated to Ireland’s patron saint.