Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ireland Revisited: A Midlands Ramble

Day 29 of 35: Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Dominican Priory ruins, Lorrha, Co. Tipperary

As we headed into our last three full days in the Irish midlands and I had finished my time in the archives for this trip, the urge to do a lot of running around to many places became almost overwhelming. Before Diane got going on this morning, I made a quick trip to the little village of Lorrha at a nexus of very back roads between Birr and Terryglass on Lough Derg, through which we had driven the previous evening on our way back from dinner at the Derg Inn. Lorrha turns out to have a number of attractive ruins in its vicinity, including the Dominican Priory, established in the 13th century and now serving as a graveyard adjacent to a modern church.

Details, Dominican Priory, Lorrha.

Once Diane was ready to go, we started on a three-county, generally west-to-east meander across nearby parts of the midlands. We started in Portumna, County Galway, a familiar town to us because we had traveled through it many times in 2006 and on this trip. We had always intended to visit Portumna Castle, but never seemed to have the time. We did so, finally, on this day.

Portumna Castle.

The castle – really an Elizabethan-style mansion – was built in the 17th century as the Irish headquarters of the English Clanrikarde family. It was almost entirely destroyed by fire in 1839, leaving only the stone outer walls intact, and was abandoned. The ruin was taken over by Ireland’s Office of Public Works (which administers and operates Ireland’s public antiquities sites) a few decades ago, and the OPW has been slowly restoring the place to an approximation of its 1700s state since the 1960s. Progress is slow because funding is sporadic. So far, only the ground floor is in shape for the public to visit.

From Portumna, we meandered back through the rural environs of Lorrha in North Tipperary, to look at a tower house in a farmer’s fields (Lackeen Castle), and then on to the town of Banagher on the Shannon in County Offaly.

Lackeen Castle (top) and Banagher's bridge across the Shannon.

Finally we followed the Shannon eastward and upstream to the ancient monastic ruins at Clonmacnoise. We had visited Clonmacnoise in 2006, and returned this time as much for its view of the Shannon as for the ruins themselves.

Clonmacnoise, the Shannon, and a fellow visitor.

And, then, finally home to Birr, the Demesne, and the Bothy. An evening stroll gifted us with a short visit with Miss Kitty, another with Lord Rosse (who was driving back from somewhere in the Demesne’s far reaches), and…

… two sociable horses and some of the last vestiges of the weekend’s fair.

More images from this day's wanderings are available in this slideshow on

Next: September 2, 2010 -- The Hill of Uisneach
Previous: August 31, 2010 -- Back to Brú na Bóinne
Beginning of the series: Prologue, August 2

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