Goresbridge & Gowran (Co. Kilkenny / East)
Goresbridge (An Droichead Nua – “the new bridge”) is an attractive village with several old mill buildings and malt houses on the western bank of the River Barrow.
The graceful 9-arch bridge that gives the village its name was built in 1756, and was stormed during the 1798 Rebellion by insurgents under Fr John Murphy on 23rd June of that year. (Photo by Sarah777)
The bridge was constructed by Sir Ralph Gore (1725 – 1802), who had distinguished himself during the War of the Austrian Succession, and in 1788 served as Acting Commander of Chief of the army in Ireland, being promoted to full General in 1796. He was made Baron Gore in 1764, Viscount Beleisle in 1768, and Earl of Ross in 1772, but died without male heirs.
Barrowmount House was the seat of another branch of the Gore family; two brothers were asuccessively ennobled as Baron Annaly, but both died without heirs.
A nearby collapsed megalithic tomb is said to date back to around 2000 BC.
Emoclew Garden in nearby Ballyellen is a medium sized all-season garden with a gazebo. pergola arches, shrubs, perennials, old roses etc.
Goresbridge is quite close to Ullard church north of Graiguenamanagh on ByRoute 4.
Gowran, once the seat of the kings of Ossory, was acquired by one of the first Norman invaders, Theobald Fitzwalter, who was made Chief Butler of Ireland by King Henry II in 1177.
In 1328 James Butler was created Earl of Ormond, and in 1391 his grandson James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond, purchased the manor and castle of Kilkenny.
Gowran Castle was besieged by Cromwellian forces in 1650; following surrender, the castle was burnt and its entire garrison shot, with the exception of one officer.
St. Mary’s Collegiate Church (1275), in the heart of the village, was built on the site of an earlier monastery. It was served by a “college” – clerics who lived together in a community but did not submit to the rule of a monastery. Their residence, now destroyed, was beside the church. The ruin features high quality architectural sculpture and monuments of great beauty. The tower, a later addition, was incorporated in the C19th into St Mary’s church (CoI), which occupies about half the site.
Gowran Park, the former Gore family estate, is nowadays home to a popular and attractive racecourse that hosts regular meetings throughout the year, with both flat and National Hunt racing, and also has a golf course.
The Reptile Village, a specialised zoo run by James Hennessy and his wife Susan, has successfully bred Conehead Iguanas, White-lipped Pit Vipers, Day Geckos, Nile Monitors, Cuban Giant / Knight Anoles and Chameleons.
Gowran lies between Dungarvan on ByRoute 4 and Paulstown on ByRoute 6.
Blanchville Country House & Coachyard is an attractive Georgian manor house on beatifully landscaped grounds, all lovingly restored and maintained by Tim and Monica Phelan, who offer luxurious B&B accomodation, self-catering holiday homes and a holistic therapy centre.
Bennettsbridge (Co. Kilkenny / Central)
Bennettsbridge (Droichead Bineád) (pop. 850), situated on one of the most beautiful stretches of the River Nore, is an important craft and design centre, especially for ceramics.
The village derives its name from a bridge built in 1285 and dedicated to Saint Bennet.
The present bridge was completed towards the end of the C18th to replace a structure swept away by floods in 1783. Swans, geese, ducks and other river birds abound. (Photo by Sarah777).
The smaller of the two beautiful old mills downstream from the weir at the bridge still produces wholemeal, stone ground flour, one of the few in Ireland to do so; the other is a pottery.
Bennettsbridge has an unusual old fortified police station dating from the troubled times of the RIC.
Nore Valley Open Farm has a wide range of animals on display, a krazy golf course and a picnic and barbecue area.
Bennetsbridge is not far from Tullaherin on ByRoute 4 and is linked by the R700 to Kilkenny City.
Burnchurch Castle, built by the Burnchurch branch of the FitzGeralds in the early C16th and occupied until 1817, is a well-preserved Tower House, with an exceptional abundance of mural chambers and passages hidden within its walls. A curved outside staircase still provides access to the upper floors. It stands four storeys high, and the principal chamber, on the top floor, is noteworthy for its mullioned windows and finely carved chimneypiece. The roof’s gable walls have been extended so that both ends of the tower are carried up an extra stage to provide high battlemented fighting platforms. A great hall formerly attached to the tower’s outside wall has now vanished, as has most of the bawn.
Desart Court, a magnificent mansion designed by Edward Lovett Pierce, was built for John Cuffe, 1st Baron Desart, whose second son Otway Cuffe, was made Viscount Castlecuffe in 1781 and Viscount and Earl of Desart in 1793.
John Otway O’Connor Cuffe, 3rd Earl of Desart, was a prominent Tory politician, much hated in Ireland for his land agent’s evictions during the Great Famine and the Land War.
The Civil War saw Republican Irregulars torch Desart Court in February 1922 (on the same night as arsonists attacked Bessborugh House in nearby Piltown). This was a huge loss not just for Hamilton John Agmondesham Cuffe, 5th and last Earl of Desart and family (his brother Capt. Otway Cuffe was a leading Irish language champion, twice elected Mayor of Kilkenny, and President of the Gaelic League, as was his sister-in-law Ellen (née Bischoffsheim), Dowager Countess Desart, one of the first two female Senators of the Irish Free State and the first Jewish woman so honoured anywhere in the world, while his daughter Lady Sybil played an important role in the pre-WWII Florentine art mileau and was the mother of writer Iris Inigo), but for the entire nation of Ireland.
Desart was the birthplace of the architect of the White House in Washington DC, James Hoban, commemorated by a monument erected in 2008.
Kilmanagh (Co. Kilkenny / West)
Kilmanagh is a rural community in an area where good soil and conditions favour dairying, beef development, and tillage farming, close to the beautiful Slieveardagh Hills.
Ballykeeffe Quarry is the site of an open air auditorium called Ballykeeffe Amphitheatre, used for drama, music and lectures.
Hartford House is an attractive bungalow with a lovely garden and friendly, good value B&B facilities.
Kilmanagh lies between Callan on ByRoute 4 and Tullaroan on ByRoute 6.