Clonmel (Co. Tipperary) & Environs

East of Clonmel

The River Suir near Clonmel (Photo by Clive Barry)

Bulmers cider, known as Magners outside of Ireland, is brewed in a complex 3km east of the town, and the extensive orchards serving the brewery can be seen when approaching from that direction.

The Wilderness Gorge is an area of great natural beauty and considerable interest to botanists, ornithologists and lepidopterists as it contains rare plants and over 32 species of birds, while approx. sixty percent of the species of butterflies in Ireland have been recorded here.

The Clonmel Show, an annual agricultural event tracing its origins to 1865, incorporating equestrian, horticulural, social and festive elements, is nowadays held at Clonmel Racecourse on an August Sunday.

Clonmel Racecourse at Powerstown Park, a popular racing venue for over 150 years, holds regular meetings all year round.

St Joseph’s Industrial School, generally referred to as Ferryhouse, was founded  as a boys’ reformatory in 1884 by the wealthy Home Rule politician Count Arthur Moore MP. The Rosminian Order ran the school for over a century, with inmate numbers varying from 150 to over 200 boys. With the publication of the 2009 Ryan Report, Ferryhouse was finally recognised as a place of systematic physical and sexual abuse of children over a period of many years. Michael O’Brien, a former pupil of the school, spoke out about his horrendous experiences at the hands of the priests.

Kilsheelan (Co. Tipperary / South)

Kilsheelan / Kilsheelin (Cill Sioláin) (pop. 500), a village that has twice won the Irish Tidy Towns competition, has an elegantly curved historic three-arched bridge spanning the River Suir, on both sides of which almost equally scenic routes link Carrick-on-Suir and Clonmel.

The church of St Siolán is a picturesque early medieval ruin.

An impressive Norman Motte near the village incorporates a landscaped Marian grotto.

Kilsheelan / Poulakerry Castle is one of several rectangular C15th Tower Houses in the area.

Gurteen Le Paor


 

Gurteen Le Paor, a large Baronial house built in 1866 by Samuel Roberts for Edmund, 18th Baron le Poer and Curaghmore on the site of a Georgian mansion which itself replaced an even earlier building, is set on 16 acres overlooking the River Suir.

 

Restored by Austrian artist Gottfried Heinwein, it was the scene in 2004 of the spectacular wedding between rock star Marilyn Manson and stripper Dita von Teese, attended by international celebrities such as Keanu Reeves, Lisa Marie Presley, David Lynch and Ozzy Osbourne. The happy couple have since divorced.

Seskin Farm is a working  farm, owned by the O’Donnell family for over 150 years, based around a beautiful Victorian house with a pretty garden and a lovely treelined driveway. Marianne O’Donnell provides good B&B facilities.

Glencomeragh House is a spiritual retreat centre run by the Rosminian Order.

Anner Castle, a towered, turreted and crennelated country house set in attractive parkland next to a ford on the River Anner, is owned by descendants of the Mandeville family, who in 1845 commissioned a Cork architect called Anderson to  design the elaborate mansion (incorporating part of their 1684 residence, Ballyna Castle); construction took 12 years, with Anderson fleeing to America when one of the towers collapsed.  Completed by William Atkins, it was damaged by fire (probably arson) in 1926, allegedly inspiring the famous scene of Manderley House burning in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. It is currently available for self-catering holiday rental.

Piccadilly is the name given to a small boreen linking two minor roads and crossing a disused railway line in the townland of Priorstown.

Kilsheelan is within easy reach of Rathgormuck (Co. Waterford) on ByRoute 3 and is linked by the R706 to Fethard on ByRoute 4.

Ballypatrick & Kilcash (Co. Tipperary / South)


Ballypatrick is the location of Killurney Garden, imaginatively designed by Mildred Stokes around the ruins of a 16th church adjacent to a pretty Victorian farmhouse. A stream has been diverted to create a pool, and paths wind through a colourful collection of unusual ferns, shrubs and trees, with lovely vistas of nearby Slievenamon and the Comeragh Mountains. By appointment only. (Photo – www.gardenlovers.ie)

Kilcash (Cíll Chaise), just south of the legendary hill Slievenamon, is thought to have originated as a monastic foundation in the mid-C6th.

The Butler dynasty has important links to the area. The third son of James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond (b.1496, poisoned in London 1546) was John Butler of Kilcash (d. 1570), whose son Walter (1569 – 1633) became the 11th Earl when his uncle Thomas (“Black Tom”) failed to have legitimate male issue.

Kilcash Castle

 

Kilcash Castle is is a fortified C16th tower built by the Wall family with an adjoining hall added by the Butlers of Ormond at a later date, when the need for defence gave way to the large windows associated with settled times. (Photo by Mike Searle)

 

James Tuchet, 3rd Earl of Castlehaven, a noted Confederate Catholic commander in the 1641-52 war, wrote his memoirs at Kilcash where his sister, Lady Frances, was married to another Confederate commander, Richard Butler of Kilcash (d. 1701).

 

The castle is best known for the song Caoine Cill Chaise (“A Lament for Kilcash”)  mourning the death of Margaret Butler, Viscountess Iveagh (d. 1744), who, after her first husband, the attainted Jacobite Brian Maginnis, died in the service of Austria, married Colonel Thomas Butler of Kilcash (d. 1738), a nominal Protestant who connived at her sheltering of Roman Catholic priests evading persecution. The song was traditionally ascribed to Fr John Lane (d. 1776) but the woods lamented in its first verse were not sold until 1801. Thomas Kinsella‘s English version of the first stanza reads:

Now what will we do for timber,
With the last of the woods laid low?
There’s no talk of Cill Chais or its household
And its bell will be struck no more.
That dwelling where lived the good lady
Most honoured and joyous of women
Earls made their way over wave there
And the sweet Mass once was said.
 

 

During the Civil War, the castle was occupied by anti-Treaty forces in an attempt to slow the approach towards Clonmel of Free State forces under the command of General Prout. The Republicans were dislodged by artillery fire, further damaging the already dilapidated structure.

 

In 1997 the Butlers sold the ruin to the Irish State for £500, and some restoration work has taken place.

The nearby medieval church ruin features a splendid Romanesque doorway. In the graveyard, a mausoleum (nearly as big as the church!) contains the tombs of Archbishop Christopher Butler (1673–1757), Margaret, Viscountess Iveagh (“Lady Veagh”), Walter Butler, 16th de jure Earl of Ormond (d. 1773) and John Butler, the 17th Earl (d. 1795). Some of the C18th headstones are carved with elaborate crucifixion scenes.

Kilcash is due south of Mullinahone on ByRoute 4 and almost due west of Ahenny on ByRoute 3.

Slievenamon / Sliabh na mBán

 

Slievenamon / Sliabh na mBán (“The women’s mountain”) (721m / 2365ft), standing at the western end of a range of low hills,  is a significant landmark, visible for many miles around and commanding fine views from the summit. (Photo by Trounce)

 

The Slievenamon Bog is a Natural Heritage Area, presenting “a mosaic of vegetation types, including mountain blanket bog, headwater bogs, wet saddle bogs, dry heath, wet heath, flushes, acid grassland and vegetated, river gorges“, and notable for its wide variety of birds and butterflies. The slopes, largely covered with Coillte forestry, are criss-crossed by numerous paths and tracks, popular with mountain bike and scrambler enthusiasts. A cairn at the top of the hill, thought to be a prehistoric passage grave, and reputed to be an entrance to the Celtic Underworld, has yet to be excavated.

 

Sliabh na mBán is said to have got its name from the legendary Feimhin (fairy women, perhaps the same as those later identified as Horned Witches), who enchanted Fionn mac Cumhaill and his followers. Another tale tells how Fionn decided to sit at the top and choose his bride from a group of women racing to meet him. The first to reach the summit was Gráinne, who went on to become notorious for her adventures with the hero Diarmuid.

 

The hill inspired County Tipperary’s unofficial anthem, Slievenamon, a romantic song penned in the mid C19th by the local Fenian poet Charles Kickham and regularly sung by crowds at sporting events.