South Tipperary landscape (Photo by the Bookkook)
Newcastle (Co. Tippperary / South)
Newcastle (Caisleán Nua) (pop. 200) is an attractive village on the River Suir; it forms part of the Munster Way, a long-distance walking route.
Eskertenan was recorded as the name of the castle and lordship acquired c.1230 from Jeffrey de Marisco in exchange for other land by Sir William de Prendergast, second son of Philip de Prendergast of Enniscorthy. The castle, later burned and rebuilt, came to be known as New Castle / Prendergast Castle. It is also said to have been owned by the de Birmingham family,and eventually passed to the Perry family. Destroyed by Cromwell‘s troops in 1649, the ruin still forms a picturesque feature of the local landscape.
The old church lying in ruins beside the castle is said to have been burned with people inside it by Cromwellian soldiers.
Mollough Abbey, long in ruins, occupies the crest of a hill with a beautiful, peaceful outlook. Founded as a nunnery dedicated to Saint Brigid in the C5th by Saint Declan and the daughters of Cinaed, Chieftain of the Deise, it was the first religious house in his realm. It stood on the Rian Bó Phadraigh (“the path of Patrick’s cow”) linking Ardfert and Cashel. The convent was revived in the C14th by the Butlers of Cahir, and probably served as the manor church for the nearby castle. Many graves are located in the Abbey ruins, including some dating from around 1800 bearing the name Prendergast, presumably containing the remains of later occupants of the restored Ardfinnan Castle.
The church of Our Lady of the Assumption (RC) was erected in the early C19th and remodelled in 1879. Newcastle is a half-parish, joined with neighbouring Fourmilewater in County Waterford.
Newcastle is within easy reach of Mount Melleray Abbey near Cappoquin on ByRoute 2.
Frehan Castle and Curraghcloney Castle were two Prendergast strongholds in the vicinity, both dismantled by Cromwellian forces after weak resistance.
Kilmaneen Farmhouse is a 200-year-old working dairy farm that has won accolades for its B&B accommodation, highly recommended for walking and fishing holidays. The grounds contain beautiful gardens. Self-catering facilities are also available in a separate cottage (with option of dinner at the farmhouse).
Kevin and BerO’Donnell are genuinely hospitable hosts: he is trained in mountain skills and leads walking groups, while she provides top quality home cooking (guests are welcome to bring their own wine).
Anglers can cast for trout into either the Suir or the Tar without a permit, and a hut is available for tying flies, storing waders and gear etc.
Goatenbridge is a tiny riverside village. A viewpoint presents a beautiful vista of the photogenic Goatsbridge, an old five-arch stone structure spanning the River Tar.
Ardfinnan (Co. Tippperary / South)
Ardfinnan (Ard Fhionan – “the height of Fionan / Finnan”) (pop. 1000) is one of the main crossing points on the River Suir, and has an attractive village Green.
The toponym derives from Saint Fionan Lobhar, who founded a leper colony here in the C7th.
Ardfinnan Castle was originally built c.1186 by the Earl of Morton on the orders of Prince John to guard the river crossing, and occupied initially by Sir Maurice de Prendergast. Although his descendants claimed ownership over many years, the castle had a long and varied history of occupants until finally “repossessed” in the late C18th, and indeed is inhabited to this day, but it is not open to the public.
The adjacent bridge was started soon after the castle was completed.
Ardfinnan is linked by the R665 to Clonmel.
Castle Grace, a late C13th De Birmingham stronghold, featured in Stanley Kubrick‘s 1975 film Barry Lindon. (Photo by Mike Searle)
Castlegrace is home to the Limousin Society of Ireland. If you have an interest in livestock in general, Limousin cattle in particular or genetics, a visit to the Castle Herd is a must.
Clogheen & Shanrahan (Co. Tipperary / South)
Clogheen (An Chloichín) (pop. 420), a small town on the banks of two crystal clear rivers, the Tar and the Duag, is graced with attractive sandstone houses, a couple of decent pubs and a rather good Indian take-away restaurant. Clogheen marks the beginning / end of the Blackwater Way Walking Trail.
Clogheen / Shanrahan History
Clogheen’s location, directly beneath the pass across the Knockmealdown Mountains between County Tipperary to western County Waterford, has always been strategically significant.
Shanrahan (Sean Rahan) was founded as a monastic community in the C7th AD by Saint Cathaldus (Cathal), who went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and was shipwrecked on the coast of Taranto, where he was made Bishop and stayed until he died. The popularity of San Cataldo in Southern Italy is equal to, if not greater than, that of St. Patrick in Ireland. Over 150 churches are dedicated to him, including Taranto`s Cathedral-Basilica, and a town in Sicily is named in his honour. His remains were disinterred in 1071, and he was found to be bearing a gold cross inscribed with his name and the word Rathcau.
Dating from the late medieval period, Clogheen became an important market and milling town under the Everard family, who owned castles at Burncourt and Ballyboy,
The War of the Three Kingdoms saw Clogheen plundered and burnt in 1643 by Francis Boyle, the future Earl of Shannon, in revenge for which locals attacked Lismore. The town surrendered in 1650 to Oliver Cromwell (who described it as full of “pigs, peasants and papists“).
Father Nicholas Sheehy, the mid-C18th Roman Catholic parish priest of Shanrahanm an outspoken defender of peasants rights and campaigner against the payment of tithes, was suspected of being a leader of the White Boys, and brought to trial in Dublin on a charge of High Treason in February 1766. He was found not guilty, but was immediately re-arrested, charged with being concerned in the murder of a Crown witness in his parish, and sent for trial at Clonmel Assizes. To nobody’s surprise, Sheehy and four other men were found Guilty and subsequently hanged, drawn and quartered. His head, impaled on a spike over Clonmel Gaol for several years, was recovered by his sister, who buried it with his body beside the ruined old church in Shanrahan Cemetery.
Clogheen was further developed in the late C18th and early C19th by Cornelius O’Callaghan (1741 – 1797), MP for Fethard, made Baron Lismore of Shanbally in 1885, his namesake son (1775–1857), created Viscount Lismore in 1806, whose successor, George Ponsonby O’Callaghan (1815–1898), 2nd Viscount Lismore, died without male heir.
The Clogheen Poor Law Union, established in 1840, took in the entire area between the Galtee and Knockmealdown Mountains. The Union Workhouse opened in 1842 was intended for 500 people, but housed over 1500 at times during the Great Famine, while many more were accommodated in auxiliary buildings in the village. A children’s workhouse was inaugurated at Tincurry at the foot of the Galtee Mountains in 1849.
The Civil War saw Free State troops take over the Borstal Institution in nearby Clonmel, and the inmates were transferred to Clogheen Workhouse, while the resident paupers were in turn transferred to other Unions. One week later, 17 of the boys escaped and on the night of 4th November, the town was suddenly abandoned by the Free State forces and occupied the following day by Republicans. Four days later, the Republicans gave notice that the facility was to be vacated immediately as they intended to set it on fire. The 81 inmates and the staff were hurriedly moved to the sanctuary of the nearby Fever Hospital. Petrol was used to ensure that the main buildings were totally destroyed despite the torrential rain. The remaining Borstal boys were marched to the nearby town of Cahir, where they were accommodated for a few days before removal to Kilkenny.
The former Vee Valley Hotel, where the Government planned to accommodate asylum seekers, was attacked by arsonists in April 2000. Nobody was convicted. This was the inspiration for Gerard Stembridge‘s satirical 2001 TV film Black Day at Black Rock.
Shanrahan cemetery, a fascinating old graveyard in a wonderful setting at the foot of Knockshanahullion in the Knockmealdown Mountains and beside the River Duag, surrounds an old church ruin; there is a fine Sheela-na-Gig on the outside of the tower, and another on the opposite east wall.
Shanrahan church (CoI) was built with a grant from the Board of First Fruits in 1819.
St Mary’s church (RC), designed by JJ McCarthy and completed in 1864, has a splendid stained glass window honouring Saint Cataldus; a Celtic Cross erected in the grounds in 1870 to commemorate Fr Nicholas Sheehy bears depictions of scenes from Irish history, including Saint Patrick impaling the king of Cashel’s foot with his crozier at his baptism.
Halla Colmáin, An Sean Phobal is a venue for drama, music and dance events.
The Hermitage Restaurant / B&B has received excellent reviews for both food and accommodation facilities.
Shanbally Castle, built c.1810 for Cornelius O’Callaghan, 1st Viscount Lismore, was the largest house built in Ireland by the famous English architect, John Nash. Few acts of official vandalism rival the decision by the Government to demolish it in 1960.
Ballyboy House, the elegant Georgian residence of five generations of the Moran family, has beautiful gardens open to the public, and provides good B&B / Guesthouse accommodation and fly fishing facilities..
Cooleville House, an elegant Georgian house in the foothills of the Knockmealdown Mountains, was home to many generations of the locally powerful Grubb family (who still own extensive property in the area, some available for self-catering holidays). In recent years the grounds were adapted for a stud farm with excellent equestrian facilities.
Parsons Green Park & Pet Farm, set in the beautiful open valley between the Knockmealdown and Galtee Mountains, caters for campers, backpackers, caravanners, campervanners, school tours and scout / guide jamborees. The park also has self-catering apartments and mobile homes available all year round.
Clogheen is connected by the R665 to Mitchelstown (Co. Cork) on ByRoute 4.
The Vee Road
The Vee Road through the Knockmealdown Mountains was built to provide employment at the time of the Great Famine. It commands magnificent views of the mountains and plains of the Galtee, Vee and Blackwater Valleys; the area is at its best in the month of June when the rhododendrons are in bloom.
Glenleigh Gardens (formerly aka Collenleigh Gardens) just over the bridge, is an informal 12-acre garden of exotic plants, meandering streams and sweeping lawns heltered by stands of mature pine and oak, with the Knockmealdown Mountains as a spectacular scenic backdrop.
Mount Anglesby is the place where Baylough Cheese is made.
The Old Convent, home to the Sisters of Mercy for over 100 years, has beautiful gardens. Opened as The Gourmet Hideaway in 2006, it is now a highly recommended Guesthouse with a strong emphasis on good food. Chef Dermot Gannon serves an innovative eight-course tasting menu five evenings a week in the chapel restaurant.
Killballyboy / Killballaboy / Killaboy Wood is an attractive Coillte forest stretching uphill from the river. It is a habitat for deer, badger, fox, stoat, mink, squirrel, rabbit hare and shrew.
Sugarloaf Hill (662m) has a distinctive summit with great views. The triffid-like rhododendrons on the lower slopes are totally out of control.
The Vee itself is a notorious hairpin bend. A viewing point commands wonderful vistas of County Tipperary.
The Cyclopean tomb just above the viewing point marks the grave of Samuel Richard Grubb, High Sheriff of County Tipperary, who, it is said, wished to be buried in a standing position to gaze on the Vee for all eternity.
The Vee is on the East Munster Way, which links up with the Tipperary Heritage Trail and the Blackwater Way.
Bay Lough / Baylough / Beal Loch is an outstandingly beautiful spot (Photo by Pat Nolan). A classic corrie lake, one of the few large bodies of water in the Knockmealdown Mountains, it is traditionally bottomless, and associated with the legend of “Petticoat Loose”.
The Vee Road forks south of the mountain pass, with the eastern branch descending to Cappoquin on ByRoute 2.