ByRoute 11.2 Co. Offaly (W) // Co. Clare

Lough Bridget and nearby Kilgory Lough are among the most popular coarse fishing lakes in East Clare. Anglers also come from far and wide to fish on the peaceful lakes of Clondanagh, Clondorney and Rosslara. (Photo – www.clarevillehouse.net)

Kilconnell is the name of a pretty oval hill located within the ancient boundaries of the Tuath O’Rongaile / Hy Rongaile, which featured prominently in the Wars of Turlough. According to the great C19th local historian Eugene Curry, the low circular entrenchment on the summit was long called Claidh n Gall (“ditch of the foreigner”), and was the burial place of an “English army” put to the sword nearby.

Bodyke & O’Callaghansmills (Co. Clare / East)

Bodyke (Lúbán Díge, probably a translation of an Anglicisation of Both-Teig – “Teig’s hut”) is a peaceful village and parish.

The church of Our Lady of the Assumption (RC)  was built in 1844 with funds from the Sampson family to replace an older thatched cabin (from which a Mr George Sampson‘s pew had been removed and burnt during Daniel O’Connell‘s 1828 election campaign because he was going to vote for the other candidate); it had a packed mud floor into the C20th, and was re-roofed c.1944 by a local emigré to the USA.

Bodyke received international cause célèbre press coverage during the Land War, when Col. John O’Callaghan‘s tenants, urged on by local clergy and nationalist politicians,  strongly opposed rent adjustments over several years, from the 1880 boycott of the landlord’s family and the 1881 Battle of Bodyke to the notoriously violent Bodyke Evictions of June 1887, pitting 8000 angry campaigners defending heavily barricaded houses against sherriff, bailiffs, RIC policemen and armed soldiers. An account of these events, which  played a significant part in the overthrow of the prevailing land holding system in Ireland, can be read here.

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O’Callaghansmills / (O’)Callaghan’s Mills / Callaghan’s-Mills (Muileann / Muillte Uí Cheallacháin) (pop. 600) is a village mentioned in Lloyd’s Tour of Clare (1780) as “a small, clean, Village and Fair-Place; it’s situation open and agreeable; it takes it’s Name from Daniel O’Callaghan Esq; who was (agreeable to the Laws of the Lord Protector) Transplanted from his Original and Extensive Estate in DUHALLOW, in the County of CORK, to this Country; He was, in a Paternal Line, descended from the renown’d CALLAGHAN CASHILL—and Lineal Predecessor to the present EDMOND O’CALLAGHAN Esq; a respectable Young Gentleman, Senior and Chief of that Heroic, Eugenian Sept“. The O’Callaghans became major local landlords, intermarrying with the Westropp family of Mary Fort / Lismeehan House.

The eponymous mill, built by John Coonan on the lands of Cornelius O’Callaghan in 1772 to grind corn and grist, remained in operation until shortly after WWII; the mill wheel (with rare oak cogs) is still visible, although restoration attempts appear to have been abandoned.

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Lismeehan / Lismehane is the location of a megalithic tomb and an ancient Ring Fort.

Mary Fort / Lismeehan House

 

Mary Fort House, aka Lismeehan House, was built in the early C18th by a branch of the powerful Westropp family. By 1878 it belonged to Colonel John O’Callaghan, who owned 4,842 acres in County Clare. The grounds of the house included ornamental gardens, a deer park and an artificial lake.

 

Lismeehan House (Photo by Huibert Jan van Ingen, 1958)

 

The Pall Mall Gazette‘s correspondent, Henry Norman, gave this description of the family residence in 1887: “Mary Fort is a splendid modern residence, which might have been transplanted straight from the most aristocratic West-end square of London. A square flight of stone steps, seven yards wide, leads up to the door under its four handsome columns, and the visitor finds himself in a large and magnificently furnished hall, typical of the lavishness with which the whole mansion has been constructed and furnished.”

Norman also wrote that  “Colonel O’Callaghan is a soldierly-looking man of sixty, with iron grey hair and moustache exhibiting, and to such an extent as to provoke immediate sympathy, in the deep lines of his face and his haggard and worn look, the strain which his truly unenviable position has imposed upon him.”

 

Col. George O’Callaghan-Westropp (1864 – 1944), aide-de-camp to three kings, was president of the Irish Farmers Union and a member of the first  Senate. His daughter Rosemary (d. 1982) was a  painter whose works include a portrait of the famous racehorse Arkle ridden by champion jockey Pat Taaffe.

 

Mary Fort was demolished in 1967 by the last member of the family to live there, Colonel Conor J O’Callaghan Westropp (d.1986). The walled gardens have been partially restored.

Tulla (Co. Clare / East)

Tulla (An Tullach – “The hill”, from Tullach na nAspal / nEaspag – “Hill of the apostles / bishops”) (pop. 700), long a regional commercial hub, is nowadays probably best known for its strong musical tradition and facilities for angling on the nearby lakes.

Tulla was the location of a monastery founded c.620 AD by Saint Mochuille / Mochulla, who reputedly lived to a great age. His foundation survived attack as late as 1314 by Murchad O’Brien and the Clan Thoirdhealbhaig, only to belatedly fall to the Reformation when seized  by Crown authorities in 1611. An old Anglican church, built on the site in 1702, was abandoned in 1812, and now makes a picturesque ruin surrounded by graves. It was partially renovated in 2005. The ruins of Tulla Castle are located within the area.

A 1731 report stated of Tulla: “In this parish there are two Mass Houses, one a very old one, and another a new one. There are two Popish priests, William and Andrew Connellan, there are, likewise, two Popish schoolmasters.”

The Loughaun Mass Rock, located far from the road to avoid detection, was attended secretly by local people who made their way through fields and and forests, often by streams (where footprints could not be seen). The priest would arrive (disguised) and say the Mass, called at very short notice and held infrequently so as not to draw attention. Communication of a Mass was always done verbally and brought from house to house so that the authorities were unaware.  Today the annual Mass Rock commemoration, held during June, attracts many visitors. Recently, a road was built to the Rock itself and it can now be reached by car.

Tulla was a thriving market town in the C18th and early C19th, with fine cut stone buildings, many of which are still in use.

Lewis (1837) described Tulla thus:  “This place appears to have some claims to antiquity; there are numerous remains of ancient castles, formerly the residences of its landed proprietors. The town is pleasantly situated on a hill, and is surrounded with highly interesting scenery, enlivened with numerous elegant seats and pleasing villas. The principal trade is derived from its situation on a public thoroughfare, and is chiefly confined to the supply of the surrounding neighbourhood.

Tulla parish had a population of over 9,000 in 1845, reduced by the Great Famine and its sequelae to 6,700 by 1851 and by subsequent migrations to less than 1000.

Tulla Stables & Courtyard (1820) was originally used as stabling for the Protestant gentry who attended services at the local church across the road. It has been refurbished and is now used for local artists who produce their work in the six individual galleries.

Tulla Courthouse (1838) was still in use as such until 2008; it now contains  Community Development offices, and is used as a venue for the Tulla Country Market, concerts and other special events.

Tulla Market House, erected in 1843 to replace an earlier structure (described as “useless” in 1808), has recently been transformed into a Public Library.

The former Sisters of Mercy Convent, constructed in 1883, remained in use  until very recently. It is presently being renovated by Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann for use as a music centre showcasing the East Clare musical tradition, and will be known as Cnoc na Geithe.

St Stephen’s church (RC) at Maghera, erected in 1932, is a pretty edifice set in landscaped grounds, and the oldest of the churches in the parish.

Tulla’s community spirit is reflected in the success of the local GAA club and the strong local branch of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, organizers of an annual Fleadh Cheoil for the whole of County Clare, held every September.

The Tulla Pipe Band and the Tulla Ceili Band enjoy high reputations throughout Ireland.

Clondanagh Cottage Angling Centre, overlooking Clondanagh Lake, not only caters for fishing enthusiasts, but also runs a 40-acre donkey refuge and provides complete B&B and self-catering facilities for cyclists, walkers etc.

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Hell Bridge is a tiny community named for a structure spanning the River Hell (Abhainn Ifrinn), an innocent looking stream which has been known to freeze over on occasion, and sometimes bursts its banks, causing extensive flooding.

Hell Bridge is close to Quin on ByRoute 10.

Magh Adhair

 

Magh Adhair, a 20ft high mound, was from the C9th onwards an assembly place of the ancient Dal gCais to choose and crown their king in an elaborate ceremony. There are records of gatherings or aenaghs being held here even from  earlier period. A long succession of Kings of Thomond, including Brian Boru, were inaugurated here down to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and ‘Iraghts’ of considerable local importance were held down to the Great Famine.

 

The flat-topped mound stands in a small plain, in a natural amphitheatre, formed by a low crag called Cragnakeeroge – ‘the Beetle’s Crag’, beside Hell Bridge. The smaller mound close to the west side of the main platform is said to be the grave of a chieftain who sought burial in this venerated place.

 

Near the mound lies a large block of sandstone conglomerate of dull purple, with red and pink pebbles of porphyry and quartz; two oval basins are ground into its surface. Across the nearby stream there is a 6 ft high pillar / Standing Stone. It is assumed that these objects played a part in the crowning ceremony.

 

Magh Adhair is widely considered of equal importance to other historic places of assembly such as Tara, An Gianain Aileach and Emain Macha.

Spancil Hill (Co. Clare / East)

Spancil Hill / Spancill Hill / Spancil-Hill / Spancelhill (Cnoc Fuar Choile – “hill of the cold wood”), officially “the Cross a Spancel Hill”, derives its name from  the practice of “spancelling”  –  hobbling an animal by  tying its left fore-leg to its right hind leg to prevent it from wandering too far.

The Spancilhill Horse Fair, held every Midsummer’s Eve on the local Fair Green, has a long tradition of attracting buyers from all over Europe, and at one time was the largest fair in the country. A great photo can be viewed here.

Spancil Hill, a sentimental folk song beloved of amateur guitarists regardless of talent, bemoans the plight of Irish emigrants longing for home. It was composed by Michael Considine, a local who died young in California in 1873. All the characters and places in the song are real. The Dubliners‘ version can be heard here.

Durra House was the birthplace of Catherine  Amelia O’Brien (1881 – 1963), aka Kathleen / “Kitty” O’Brien, internationally renowned stained glass and mosaic artist and ceramicist, director of An Túr  Gloinne (“The Tower of Glass”) studio in Dublin.

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Barefield is the location of St Joseph’s Well, constructed in the mid-C19th by a local man called “Holy Tom” Donoghue, who claimed to have returned to Clare from America for this purpose on the instructions of a visionary dream.

Barefield is on the northern outskirts of Ennis.

Ballyalla

 

Ballyalla Lake, on the northern outskirts of Ennis, gives its name to a wildlife preservation area and public amenity with picnic facilities, car park etc.  (Photo – www.clare.ie)

 

This fair-sized body of water, popularly used for dinghy sailing, is home to several interesting aquatic plant species, and together with the surrounding grassland is frequented by numerous wildfowl, particularly in winter.

 

Ballyalla Castle, now little more than a stump of masonry, was besieged in 1642. This may have been the origin of the otherwise historically inexplicable name of the famous set dance, The Siege of Ennis.

Drumcliffe is the location of an early monastic settlement that gave its name to the local Civil / CoI parish; the name of the founder has long been forgotten. The site, long the main burial ground of Ennis, features the remains of a medieval church and a 40ft high Round Tower, together with many impressive mausoleums, tombs and memorials to local families of note, plus the Republican plot for members of the IRA killed in the War of Independence and the Civil War, and a Monument marking the communal grave of the 30 victims of the Pan Am crash at Shannon Airport on 15th April 1948. (Photo by John du Heaume)

Drumcliffe Equestrian Centre, a well equipped modern facility on a farm that has been in the Tierney family for over 100 years, offers horse and pony treks through the scenic surrounding countryside

Templemaley is the site of an early medieval church ruin.

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Kilnamona (Co. Clare / West)

Kilnamona (Cill na Móna – “church of the bog / marshy field”) (pop. 750) is a district comprising 27 townlands in the historic barony of Inchiquin.

A monastic settlement was founded here c.600 AD by Saint Lachtain, best known for the church dedicated to his memory in Freshford (Co. Kilkenny). In 1603 a Franciscan took the C12th bronze  shrine containing the saint’s hand for safekeeping to a place in West Cork since known as Kilnamartyra. It is now preserved in the NMI.

The old burial ground, believed to be the site of the ancient monastery, features the ruin of a medieval church. There are also two Holy Wells, Tobar Lachtin and Tobar-na-Taise.

Shallee Castle, now in ruins, was erected and owned by the O’Brien family, but forfeited to Queen Elizabeth I in 1592.

The parish church (RC) was constructed in 1842.

The church porch and the Community Centre are both named in honour of local boxer Mike McTigue (1892 – 1966), the 1923 World Light Heavyweight Champion.

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Inagh (Co. Clare / West)

Inagh (Eidhneach – “ivy”), a hilly district northeast of Mount Callan / Slievecallan (1,282ft), is described by the 1845 Parliamentary Gazette as: “a series of moors, bogs, and poor uplands; and its aspect is almost everywhere bleak and repulsive. ……… The chief stream is the Brockagh“.

The crossroads village on the bank of the River Inagh that gives the area its name is the site of an ancient church known as teampul dubh na hEidhnighe –  ‘black church of the ivy’.

The Biddy Early Brewery & Restaurant is a family-run enterprise that claims to be Ireland’s first pub-brewery and produces draught lager (“Blonde Biddy”), stout (“Black Biddy”) and ale (“Red Biddy”) using extracts from local plants and seaweeds as flavouring and purifying agents.

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