ByRoute 6.1 Co. Kildare // Co. Tipperary (SW)

Holy Cross Abbey


Holy Cross Abbey is attractively set on the west bank of the River Suir.


Although all agree that it was built on an ancient monastic site, the origins of both the Abbey and its name are unclear. Most authorities say that it was founded in the latter part of the C12th by Donal Mór O’ Brien, possibly as a Benedictine house; in any event, it was soon “colonised” and later rebuilt by the Cistercian Order, who remained for centuries.


One version claims that the Abbey took its name from a fragment of the True Cross, aka Holy Rood presented in the year 1110 by Pope Pascal II to Murtagh, High King of Ireland, while another claims that the sacred relic was presented by the widow of King John, the Plantagenet Queen Isabella of Angouleme, around 1233.


Holy Cross Abbey became one of the most frequented places of pilgrimage in Ireland, enjoying peculiar privileges and extensive demesnes. The abbot sat as a baron in the Irish Parliament, styled Earl of Holy Cross.


In the second half of the C15th it was extensively rebuilt under the patronage of the Butlers of Ormond, whose protection enabled it to survive King Henry VIII’s 1540 Dissolution of the Monasteries. After the Reformation it came to be seen as rallying-point for the dispossessed and victims of religious persecution, to the chagrin of Sir Henry Sidney, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who wrote a complaint to Queen Elizabeth I in 1567.


The Holy Rood was last exposed for public veneration in 1632, and following the Cromwellian war, Holy Cross Abbey fell into decay, although monks still lived in the vicinity into the early C18th. Local people used the roofless ruins as a burial place after 1740.


Following the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, the picturesque remains of Holy Cross Abbey became a scheduled national monument in 1880, “to be preserved and not used as a place of worship”. However, the Oireachtas passed special legislation in 1969, enabling the Abbey to be restored as a place for Roman Catholic use.


The Vatican provided an “authenticated” relic of the Holy Cross, so that Abbey visitors can now adore no less than two real true genuine actual pieces of a 2000-year-old plank. The original relic is described as very thin, measuring only two inches in length, secured in the shaft of an episcopal cross, and enclosed in a gilt case adorned with precious stone.


The C15th cruciform church, restored in 1975, has a massive bell tower over the crossing. The huge window above the altar dramatically catches the morning sun. In the north transept, partly preserved, is a wall painting (rare in Ireland) depicting a stag-hunting scene in shades of brown, red and green. Between two chapel recesses in the south transept is a columned and arched structure, probably the shrine in which the relic of the True Cross was exhibited. From here a staircase leads to the upper floor with the monastic living quarters.


The fine C15th choir houses the 17ft high stone sedilia (canopied seats for Mass celebrants), well known throughout Europe and regarded by at least one expert as “the finest piece of church furnishing in medieval Ireland” features a set of five shields, including the royal arms of England in a form adopted after 1405, the arms of the Butlers of Ormond, and rather surprisingly those of the FitzGeralds of Desmond. Arising from an interesting local tradition, the structure has been popularly labelled “the Tomb of the Good Woman’s Son.”


The Chapter House is on the east side of the beautiful and well-preserved Cloister Garth; the Refectory on the south side has been destroyed.


Holy Cross Gardens are a garden memorial to Padre Pio, whose devotees gather here for an annual anniversary and weekly summer ceremonies. There is an identical set in the Papal gardens at the Vatican, presented to Pope John Paul II on his visit to Ireland in 1979.

Dundrum (Co. Tipperary / Central)

Dundrum Main St. (Photo by Sarah777)

Dundrum (Dún Droma – “fort of the ridge), is a picturesque tree lined village, largely designed by the  Maude family, who held various titles, culminating in Viscount Howarden and Earl of Montalt, and whose legacy is still apparent in local place names like Maudemount cross-roads and Hawarden Bridge.

Interesting old buildings include the former railway station, the very fine Tudor-style police station, now unmanned, and St. Mary’s church (CoI). Unusually for an Irish village of its size, Dundrum has no Roman Catholic church, the nearest one being in the neighbouring hamlet of Knockavilla.

Dundrum House



Dundrum House was built in 1730 on 2400 acres of wooded land as the Maude family residence.


Sir Robert Maude (d.1750) had inherited the Maude Baronetcy of Dundrumbeen in 1705; his son Sir Thomas Maude was made Baron de Montalt in 1776, only to die the following year, to be succeeded by Sir Cornwallis Maude, who became Viscount Howarden in 1793.


The 4th Viscount, (also the fourth Cornwallis), a Consevative politician, was created Earl de Montalt in the Peerage of the United Kingdom in 1886, but the title died with him in 1905, as his only surviving son (yet another Cornwallis) had been killed in 1881 at the Battle of Majuba Hill during the First Boer War. His wife Lady Clementina Hawarden (née Fleeming) (1822-1865) was a highly respected photographer; some of her early work taken on the Dundrum family estate can be found in the collections of the Victoria and Albert museum in London.


Dundrum House and demesne were acquired in 1909 by a religious order, who later established a Domestic Science College and used the main building as a noviciate and retreat house.


The property was purchased in 1978 by Austin and Mary Crowe,  who restored and converted the house, outbuildings and grounds and in 1981 opened the Dundrum House Hotel, Golf Club and Leisure Centre. It is linked to the village by an avenue of mature limes.

The Celtic Plantarum has two miles of pathways meandering through eight acres of plants, shrubs and trees, some quite rare, interspersed with streams, waterfalls and a lake and featuring a range of “conjectural reconstructions” of ancient edifices.

A Celtic Pagoda. (Photo by Irish Typepad).

The Annacarty-Dundrum area was O’ Dwyer territory before the Cromwellian confiscation; their old barony of Kilnamanagh features some exceptionally scenic landscapes such as the beauty spots of Glencarberry and Piperhill, home to a substantial number of megalithic monuments, while the local marshes/fens are rich in flora and fauna.

Marl Bog is a mixed woodland area featuring a man-made lake built by the Maude family to provide water to drive the mill wheels on their estate. It is now a wildlife reserve, home to fallow deer, fox, badger, red squirrel, Irish stoat, otter, mink and a diversity of bird life.

Cappamurra Bog is a good place in summer for both bird watching and butterfly spotting.

Bishop’s Wood, once a designated church property, is a habitat for a variety of bird and animal life including fox, fallow deer, red squirrel and pipistrelle, whiskered and long eared bats.  A gamekeeper’s lodge remains from when the Maude family shot game in the woods. There are extensive forest road walks.


Killenure Castle (C17th), located on private grounds at Knockavilla, is reputed to have been the last stronghold of the O’Dwyer clan, the pre-Cromwellian rulers of the area. Built in an ornate Tudor style, much of it is intact, and some rooms are still in use, connected to the adjoining house.

The Dundrum Meteorite, a rock that fell from the skies north of the village in 1865, and is now in London’s Natural History Museum, was the last such  celestial arrival in Ireland until the Leighlinbridge Meteorite of 1999.

Dundrum’s most famous resident was not a person but a horse. ‘Dundrum‘ was a Connemara gelding showjumper ridden by Tommy Wade to regular victories in Ireland and Britain, who set a world record by clearing a 7’2” / 2m puissance wall. The sturdy pony won puissance events at the Dublin Horse Show and the Wembley Horse of the Year Show to become Supreme Champion and International Jumping Champion from 1959 – 1963. In 1961 he was acclaimed as show jumper of the century when he won five major events, the first time in history that so many awards were won by the same rider on the same horse. Dundrum’s only rival as Ireland’s equine pride and joy was the racehorse of immortal memory, Arkle.

Dundrum is