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Boyle Abbey, Boyle, Co. Roscommon

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Whilst I was in Boyle, Boyle Abbey was on my must do list of places to go. The reason is quite simple. This time next year the full restoration of the abbey will have taken place and I don’t want to be looking at pictures of the great work the OPW did – past tense.

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More than that – it was free in. Eugene, the gentleman who works there was an absolute gentleman and gave me a lot of history on the place. Thanks Eugene. I went to the park as you recommended 😉

BTW when it re-opens the entry charge will return. I’m told it should be about 2 or 3 euro’s. I’ll gladly pay it based on what I saw existing, in progress and in drawings for the future.

View more images of Boyle Abbey

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Courtesy Wikipedia

The Cistercian abbey was founded in the 12th century under the patronage of the local ruling family, the MacDermotts and is one of the best preserved in Ireland. It was colonised from Mellifont in 1161. The building of the chancel and the transepts with their side-chapels probably began shortly after this date, though the lancet windows in the east gable were inserted in the 13th century. There is a combination of rounded and pointed arches in the transepts and crossing. The existing large square tower formed part of the church from the beginning, though it was raised in height at a later stage. The five eastern arches of the nave and their supporting pillars were built at the end of the 12th century, and have well-preserved capitals typical of the period. Although built at the same time, the arches of the northern side of the nave are different in type, and have differently shaped columns and capitals. The three westernmost arches in the south arcade which have leafed and figured capitals, were built after 1205, as was the west wall, before the church was finally consecrated in 1218. Nothing remains of the cloister, but on the eastern side there are two doorways of c.1200, now blocked up. On the west side there is a two-storey gatehouse, which acts as an interpretative centre. The rest of the buildings surrounding the cloister are largely 16th or 17th century. The Abbey was one of the most important in Connacht, and was invaded by Richard de Burgo, Maurice Fitzgerald, and Justiciar, in 1235. In 1659, the Cromwelliansoccupied the monastery and did a great deal of destruction. Though mutilated during the 17th and 18th centuries when it was used to accommodate a military garrison, Boyle Abbey is one of the best preserved structures of its type, and attracts many thousands of visitors per year. A restored gatehouse 16th/17th century vintage houses an exhibition. The Abbey is now a national monument in state care and admission is currently free while restoration work is being carried out. There is a Sile na Gig hidden above one of the central Romanesque arches in Boyle Abbey. It can be seen from ground level, just at the top of the column, where the arch begins.

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Trinity Island, Lough Key, Boyle, Co. Roscommon

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The image above is Trinity Island. Doesn’t seem like much and possibly because it’s a little more out of sight than Castle Island, also on Lough key, it maybe doesn’t get the same attention. I didn’t see it on too many of the tourist trails either….[?] I found out about it because I got talking to Oliver and Peter of Lough Key Boats. Nice guys.

This one, in my opinion is a bit too far for me to be rowing to. It’s a motor boat job for sure. Is it worth going out, absolutely.

While I was there I wondered how the monks fed themsleves…. never mind that…. how did they get the stone out there ? How did they build this thing?

Either or, it is one of Irelands hidden gems. I got to get out there because of 2 gentlemen from Boyle.

To you both – thank you. Sincerely.

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View more images of Trinity Island

Courtesy Of Lough Key Boats Website

Trinity Island is the site of one of two religious foundations on Lough Key.

The ranks of Canons were augmented in 1228 by the defection of monks from the Cistercian Abbey of Boyle, which was seen by the Cistercian Council of that year as having become too gaelicized. The monks brought with them their manuscripts and learning, which, under Clarus’ direction, developed eventually into the great manuscripts of the Annals of Lough Key and the Annals of Connacht.

A text in latin records a dispute between the Canons here, and the Monks of Boyle, over the burial of Dermot Mac Gilla Carraig, erenach of Tibohine, in 1229.

The monastery was granted protection by the Justiciar of Connacht, when he and other Anglo-Norman notables visited it to pray, prior to attacking MacDermot’s castle in 1235. After the general suppression of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1536-7, this monastery was granted to the Mac Dermots who allowed the Canons to remain in occupation, and it appears that they continued to occupy the House until it was confiscated by James I in 1608. The Island is the burial place of Sir Conyers Clifford, the Commander of the English forces in the Battle of the Curlews, 1599.

Castle Island, Lough Key, Boyle, Co. Roscommon

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A huge thanks to Peter Walsh [and son in law Oliver] of Lough Key Boats for doing this podcast with me, books are one thing, but a voice tells the story so much better.

How do you get there ? I stayed in Lough Key camping. After that, one can rent a paddle boat to get out – when the weather is slightly calm-er, but I would highly recommend the pleasure cruise tour of the entire lough. That said, I was absolutely honoured to get a personal tour by Oliver of Castle Island and Trinity Island where, his ceremony of marraige to Peter’s daughter took place.

Go to Lough Key and have a chat with the lads. 😉

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View more images of Castle Island.

I’ll do a seperate post on Trinity Island later.

For the moment – thanks again Oliver mate. So very much appreciated.

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Courtesy Lough Key Boats:

Castle Island has passed through the ownership of two famous families the Mc Greevy’s and the Mac Dermots.

The island is sometimes referred to as Mac Dermots Island to this day. We first hear of a castle Island when the Annals of Loch Cé report that it was burned down in 1187 by lightning.

A 1792 print shows the original castle tower (see right)

The castle featured in the final act of the conquest of Connacht in 1235, by Richard de Burgo whose army included 500 mounted knights. The castle came under siege, first by a raft-mounted perrier (catapult), and then by fire ships comprising wood stripped from the nearby town of Ardcarne. The combination of rocks and flames proved too much for the castle garrison, forcing Cormac MacDermot, King of Moylurg to surrender.

The castle is mentioned frequently in the ancient annals, being a focus for both fighting and partying. A poem addressed to Tomaltach-an-einigh MacDermot (King of Moylurg 1421-58) tells the story of the Hag of Loch Ce who used (or abused) Cormac MacDermot’s (1218-44) hospitality by staying on the Rock for a full year, and laid upon the MacDermot family the obligation of perpetual hospitality.

Brian of the Carrick, Chief 1585-92, is the last head of the clan who lived on the island.

A poem by Eochaidh O hEoghusa, written about 1600, laments the castle’s uninhabited and ruinous condition:

…Thy bright fair form has changed, gone are thy gold-rich dwellings from thy fair comfortable long-walled enclosure, nor does the lime-white adorning of thy frontal remain…

Lord Lorton built a folly castle in the early part of the 19th century, as one of the adornments to the estate whose centrepiece was Rockingham House.

Isaac Weld, writing in 1832, describes as part of “the castle proper” 2 rooms, one above the other, each 36 feetby 22 feet, with walls of 7.5 feet thickness. It is not clear whether this refers to part of the original castle, or the later construction. The folly castle, used as a summerhouse, was gutted by fire shortly before the Second World War.

Lough Key Forest

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This actually comes under the [web] title of Lough Key Forest and Activity Park. Which includes a lot under its banner. I chose to go camping there for 4 days and try and experience as much as possible within the beautiful town of Boyle in Co. Roscommon. That’ll come later on the weblog.

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Lough Key camping

I arrived on a Thursday evening. The campsite reception was closed, but I had called in advance and so I just went ahead and pitched my tent. The next morning I went down paid my €22 per night. Overall the campsite is good. I chose it mainly because of the forest. There was a water tap nearby but that’s about as good as the right by your tent facilities got. Not a problem.

Whilst there were some queries over the cleanliness at the cooking and preparation facilities, more importantly and for those with kids, there are tumble dryers and washing machines in the main area [require tokens] and the showers [also token] were hot and clean as were the bathrooms and washing areas.

I liked the fact that the security man came by at night time to make sure no sticks were being burned from the forest and warning the dangers of. A more polite way for everyone to note that he was around.

The great thing about the forest surrounding the campsite really is the fact that one could go for a wander through the woods. For those with families this is a great way to keep the kids entertained and dry-er when the rain really does fall. There are many dry spots to be found under shelter from the trees. Whilst that was the ultimate for me and no one minds a tree that fell over or gave rebirth to another, it would have been nice if greater attention could be paid to the rubbish within the woods. That said the setting is brilliant.

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Activity Park

The activity park is an odd one depending on who you talk to. There is a €4 charge on the barriered car park which most avoid and simply park outside. For me it was simply a short walk from the campsite.

Inside there are options to pay for a tree canopy walk, an activity challenge called boda borg and a [paid] play ground. There is also a coffee shop/ restaurant.

On one hand if you are camping you get discount on these activities with a pass given from the camping reception. On the other, if you are on a budget it can easily mount up. That said whilst there is a free playground and picnic areas outside the children tell me the pay for play area is really good. Adults obviously go in free. The tree canopy walk I chose not to do but it also got good reports.

The reality is though that for me to come here for a weekend is one thing. The flip side is when it is right on your door step…. and on this fact alone I’m inclined to disagree with Lough Key on the €4 car park charge. They can say it goes to the forest maintenance – but I don’t know any park or outdoor variant in Dublin that charges for this.

The Forest Park and Lough

The walk through the surrounding park is brilliant. Brimmed with history, watching the boats, feeding the ducks… I could literally walk and sit here for days and if I were living in Boyle it would be free [apart from the car park of course].  But, from a campers point of view it is the reason I went there and for that alone I am so glad that I did.

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Overall

I thought it was great. Absolutely brilliant for families. Would I go again ? 110% in the morning. In fact I actually had that moment where I wanted to stay the extra night[s]. The down and upsides, were my little gripe with the car park. There is also the option to buy imported bottled water in the café but/ and at the same token there is free water in the coffee shop where they also supply free bread to feed the ducks.

The campsite needs a little tlc – but after that it is camping and it is amazing. As to the paid for activities, well I guess as long as you know in advance you now have an option to do or not to do so.

Either or Lough Key as always was made for me by the people I met, those who chose to sit and talk with me and of course the natural surrounding setting which are absolutely amazing. Go there. Visit. Camp. Stay. Lets the kids run wild. Run wild yourself while you are at it. I did. I loved it. I will return.

More to follow.

View more images of Lough Key Forest

Courtesy Wikipedia:

Situated just off the N4 is Lough Key Forest Park, a fantastic parkland area that has been tastefully revitalised by an addition of a Visitor Center and Activity Facilities including Boda Borg, a puzzle solving activity centre which is a Swedish concept originally unique to Irelandbut now has locations in Sweden and plans to expand Worldwide[7]. The park covers 800 acres (3.2 km²), and was formerly part of the Rockingham estate. The Moylurg Tower, standing on the site of the old Rockingham house, now stands overlooking the wonderful lake to the north and impressive lawns to the south. This was the seat of the Stafford-King-Harman[8] family until 1957, who at the end of the nineteenth century owned over 30,000 acres (120 km²) in north County Roscommon and County Sligo. The impressive Rockingham House itself was badly damaged in a fire in 1957 and was demolished in 1970.

There are many interesting islands on Lough Key. The impressive Castle Island is a well-known visual icon of this area. Trinity Island contains the ruins of a chapel, linked to the Cistercian monastery in the town. There are two trees growing on the island with interlinked branches, said to mark the graves of Una Bhan Mac Diarmid and Tomas Laidir Mac Coisdealbhaigh, two ill-fated lovers, celebrated in the poem Una BhanUna Bhan is a standard text on the Irish school curriculum.

The Battle Of The Boyne Site

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The Battle Of The Boyne Site was visited by The Garden Group yesterday Sunday 27th June.

For a group that is entirely run free gratis yesterday would not have been possible without the help of Aisling Mc Mahon of the OPW and her team who gave us a personal guided tour of the grounds and access to areas that are not as yet open to the public.


The place is absolutely brimmed with history. That aside, from a personal point of view, as having restored and designed 17th and 18th century landscapes, to see the before and then the end result after landscape restoration is simply amazing. I know I am not alone when I say I will return to this place.

There is so much more there than just history to see and do here. It’s also free as long as you don’t do the guided tour of the house. Which you should. The landscape is simply breath taking. Two displays were taking place while we were there. The coffee shop is a must…. the list goes on. Go. Visit. Enjoy. Wander in the long grass.

More Details at the Battle of The Boyne Website

View more of my Battle of The Boyne Images

Looking for more information:

I really enjoyed Sarah’s images of the Boyne Battle site trip – baffles me how she took this picture from the boyne site visit 😉 genius.

George has great [curious] images of the Boyne Site Trip.

John Williams as always, took these great shots of the boyne site tour. Keep an eye on his personal weblog. You wouldn’t know what boyne site gems he could pull out of the bag.

Check out these images of the Boyne Visit. Jennifer posted the rest of her [as always genius] images of the boyne day. Some bits in there a lot of us missed. Makes me wanna go back and stay longer 😉