ByRoute 8.1 Co. Kildare & Co. Laois

Killashee // Ballyshannon (C. Kildare / Central)

Killashee / Killosy / Kilussy derives its name from a monastery founded by Saint Auxilius (d.458 AD), a nephew of Saint Patrick. Both attended an episcopal Synod held here c. 45o AD. The names of two further Abbots are known from the Annals. The monastery was pillaged by Vikings in 824 AD and destroyed in 1035.

Killashee church (CoI), closed in 1965 and now a derelict shell, stands on the site of the ancient monastery, and may contain some elements of an earlier medieval building. It has a curious ‘Round Tower’ attached to its west end, an ancient graveyard and a nearby Holy Well dedicated to St Patrick, visited every 17th March by local parishioners within living memory.

Killashee House (1861), a mock-Jacobean pile, was run as a convent / boarding school before its Celtic Tiger incarnation as a 4-star hotel / wedding venue. The formal gardens feature impressive topiary, the main building has an elegant reception area,  and there is also an 007-style Spa & Leisure Centre (paw-print tiling to go with leopardskin bras).

Killashee is not far from Punchestown on ByRoute 7.

Corbally Harbour is the southern end of the Naas branch of the Grand Canal. Nearby, archaeological excavations in 1998 uncovered three Neolithic dwellings.

Corbally is within easy reach of Kilcullen on ByRoute 7.

Athgarvan (Áth Garbháin) (pop. 1500), formerly a quaint village between the west bank of the River Liffey and the eastern edge of the Curragh, has expanded enormously in recent years to become a suburb of Newbridge / commuter satellite of DUBLIN.

Whelan’s Athgarvan Inn is a very highly rated pub that serves good bar food. (Photo – www.ratemypub.ie)

Athgarvan is very close to Newbridge on ByRoute 9.

Ballysax is the location of Ballyfair House, used by the Lord Lieutenant when attending race meetings at the Curragh and residence of the General Commanding Officer of the Curragh Camp.

Ballysax is not far from the Curragh Camp on ByRoute 9.

Ballyshannon is mentioned in Rev. Comerford‘s interesting Collections relating to the Dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin (1883), where he reproduces the polite correspondence leading to the surrender of Pierce FitzGerald‘s “strong fort at Ballysonan” (of which nothing remains). to Colonel Hewson‘s Parliamentarian troops in 1647. The Castle Governor responded to initial demands thus: “SIR, – I am now in possession in this place by Authority from my King, how you may demand it by authority of the Parliament of England, I know not; England denying their king, therefore your power I disobey. And for God, my King and Country, will defend this place to the uttermost of my power. Your Servant, Dunno Kelly“. However, it was soon agreed “That the said governour, officers, and souldiers, shall continue in the castle until to-morrow morning at ten of the clocke if they please, and then they are to march out of the said castle and forte with a trumpeter for convoy tenne miles if they desire it, or to any of the next Irish garrisons within ten miles as aforesaid, the trumpeter remaining without any prejudice.”

Ballyshannon is close to Suncroft on ByRoute 9.

Kilmead & Ardscull (Co. Kildare / South)

Kilmead / Kilmeade (Cill Mo Idhe – “Saint Ita’s church” / Cill Mhide “the middle church”) is a long-established village with a distinctive identity.

Kilmead Castle was a Fitzgerald stronghold until Silken Thomas‘s rebellion in 1534.

St Ita’s church (RC) was built in 1798 – an unusual year for such a construction, when nearby chapels (in Athy and Castledermot) were burned to the ground in the course of events surrounding the 1798 Rebellion. (Photo – Aurelius G)

The almost disused old graveyard a quarter of a mile to the northeast contains six inscribed tombstones, four belonging to the Fitzgerald family.

Ardscull / Ardsaill is the site of a very impressive Norman motte, probably erected at the end of the C12th, but first mentioned in the historical sources when it was burned in 1286. It was here that Edward Bruce defeated Sir Edmund Butler at the head of a strong force of mainly English soldiers in 1315.

Ardscull Motte / Moate / Moat. Standing at a height of almost 18m / 55ft, the motte is surrounded by a ditch and bank. There are traces of a bailey on the north side, and  ramparts surrounding the summit, together with vestigial works of mid-C17th origin. In local folklore it is strongly associated with “the little people”. (Photo – www.kildare.ie)

Beside the road is a plaque commemorating the 4th Gordon Bennett Memorial Race of 1903 – the first motor race to be run over a closed circuit.

Ardscull church (CoI) was first mentioned in a late C13th list of the deaneries belonging to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

“Ardscull” was also a term coined by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd in The Deeper Meaning of Liff, defined as an “excuse made by rural Welsh hairdressers for deep wounds inflicted on your scalp in an attempt to rectify whatever it was that induced the ardscalpsie (q.v.).”

Kilmead is south of Nurney on ByRoute 9.