ByRoute 11.1 Co. Kildare // Co. Laois (NW)

Donadea // Timahoe (Co. Kildare / North)

Donadea Forest Park

 

Donadea Forest Park, run by Coillte, is the former Donadea Castle demesne, walled and redeveloped with thousands of new trees and an artificial lake in the mid-C19th to provide relief work during the Great Famine. (Photo by Scrawb)

 

Donadea, part of the ancient barony of Oughterany, belonged to John De Birmingham in the mid-C14th until his son was accused of treason. The lands were confiscated by King Richard II and granted to the Earl of Ormond, who in turn granted Donadea to the Aylmers of Lyons. In 1597 the Manor came into the possession of Gerald Aylmer, created 1st Baronet of Donadea in 1621. 

 

Sir Fenton Aylmer of Donadea and his cousin Michael Aylmer from Courtown House jointly commanded the yeomen who failed to prevent insurgents led by their distant relative William Aylmer from taking nearby Kilcock during the 1798 Rebellion.

 

The original Tower House, built by Sir Gerald c.1624, was extensively damaged during the 1641 Rebellion, rebuilt in 1773, and Gothicised by the architect Sir Richard Morrison in 1827. The last member of the family to live there was Miss Caroline Aylmer (d.1935), who left the estate to the Church of Ireland.

 

De-roofed in 1958, the castle is now an atmospheric ruin; there is a four-storey C19th tower beside it, with some fine outbuildings to the rear.

 

The Irish Land Commission acquired the property in 1936, and opened the grounds to the public in 1981. The mixed woodland habitat includes a dramatic lime avenue and a magnificent beech grove, while the lake is famous for its spectacular summer lilies.

 

Donadea Waterlillies and heron (Photo by liffeybelle)

 

Walks and trails lead to the castle ruins, an old icehouse, a lakeside boathouse, and the remains of a walled garden. Both red and grey squirrels are common, as are mallard ducks and waterhens. A café is open all year round.

 

A Memorial to victims of the New York World Trade Centre atrocity of 11th September 2001, comprising a limestone replica of the Twin Towers inscribed with the names of all the firefighters and other officers who died, includes that of Sean Tallon, whose family was from Donadea.

 

St Peters church (1813) contains a fine sepulchral monument with the effigies of Sir Gerald Aylmer and his wife Dame Julia Nugent. Attached to the church is the Aylmer family mausoleum.

Roches Bar, aka Roches of Derry, built close to Derryvarogue Bog in the late C19th, has been affectionally called the Sinking Pub and Ireland’s Leaning Tower of Pisa due to its unstable floors and surfaces, with a tilting bar guaranteed to disconcert the most sober customer;  it is the venue for the annual Turf Cutters Ball every June.

Knockanally House, an impressive Palladian pile, was built in 1843 by William Coates to replace an early C18th residence erected by his ancestor Matthew Coates, and remained in the family until 1942. It is now a golf club.

Staplestown (Baile an Stáibléaraigh / tSeimple) is a historic hamlet.

The parish church of St Benignus (RC) is said to have been founded c.1750 and to have been badly damaged in 1798. The current edifice, dating from c.1840, has handsome timber sash windows with fanlight heads. The full-height interior is notable for its Hindu Gothic style plasterwork reredos.

Timahoe, an isolated hamlet surrounded by woodland and bog, was the location of a Quaker meetinghouse in the mid-C18th. The Quaker burial ground at Timahoe, restored in 2000, has a plaque commemorating the 1970 visit of US President Richard Milhouse Nixon to pay his respects to his maternal ancestors who are interred at that site.

Coolcarrigan House & Gardens

  

 Coolcarrigan House & Gardens, a gem on the edge of the Bog of Allen, form part of a 1,200-acre farm, originally a shooting estate, occupied by the Wright family for 6 generations.

 

The elegant Georgian-style house was designed by Robert Mackay Wilson c.1830. 

 

The pretty moated church (CoI) in the grounds, featuring a “round tower” belfry, was designed by the same architect c.1880. There are some interesting stained glass windows, and Gaelic scripts chosen by Douglas Hyde on the walls.

 

The Victorian gardens and arboretum are a joy. Avenues of overhanging beech and chestnut trees command pleasing vistas of small lakes and parkland, while meandering woodland paths provide opportunities to observe the estate’s abundant wildlife. 

 

Largely replanted after a 1972 storm with the assistance of eminent English plantsman Sir Harold Hillier, Coolcarrigan’s shrubs and trees comprise one of the best and most unusual plant collections  in Ireland.

The national turf company Bord na Mona established camps here in the mid-C20th to house migrant workers from Counties Kerry, Galway and Mayo. 

 Timahoe is

Coill Dubh & Allenwood (Co. Kildare / Northwest)

Coill Dubh / Blackwood (pop. 700) was founded in 1956 to accommodate workers on the Bord na Mona works supplying a peat fired power station in Allenwood. It replaced earlier temporary workers camps such as those at at Timahoe.
 
The Blackwood Feeder supplies bog spring water to the Grand Canal.
 
Allenwood (Fiodh Alúine) (pop. 1000) is a crossroads village situated on the Main / Shannon Line of the Grand Canal, here spanned by the eccentic Shee Bridge, known locally as the Skew Bridge.

The Allenwood Power Station, built in 1952, was fuelled by peat from the surrounding bog lands.  The station was retired in 1994, and its cooling tower, visible from over 30km / 19mi away, was demolished shortly afterwards.

  Allenwood is

The Grand Canal west of Allenwood; nearby there is a derelict Bord na Mona lifting bridge. (Photo – www.tuesdaynightclub.co.uk)

 

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