Posts tagged with: 'Carnacon'

Towerhill – A Ruined Mayo Mansion

Built by Isidore Blake at the end of the 18th Century, Towerhill was a very fine “Big House” in Mayo. Standing 6 bays wide and 3 bays deep over basement, the house was reputedly built on the site of an old burial ground and church dedicated to St. Patrick near Carnacon. The 340 acres of the demesne proper were described by a visitor in 1838 as “splendid ornamental ground”. One year earlier, Lewis refers to “the beautiful seat of Major Blake, situated in a noble demesne. The house stands on an eminence commanding fine views of the surrounding country and the adjacent mountains of Partree [sic]”.

Towerhill Carnacon Mayo

Towerhill House in its Heyday (Courtesy AWM)

Isidore was succeeded by his son, major Maurice Blake who, in time, was succeeded by his own son, Valentine.

Catholic landlords, the Blakes were descendants of one of the Twelve Tribes of Galway and Valentine is credited with having reintroduced the newly organised Gaelic Football to County Mayo, by sponsoring a 2-hour match on their land in December 1885. The local team, Carnacon, wore the green and red that were to become the colours of the county team.

The colours were presumably selected in response to Young Irelander Thomas Davis’ poem “The Green Above The Red”.

“Full often when our fathers saw the Red above the Green,

They rose in rude but fierce array, with sabre, pike and scian,

And over many a noble town, and many a field of dead,

They proudly set the Irish Green above the English Red.”

But change was afoot. At the time of the foundation of the Irish National Land League in nearby Castlebar in 1879, the Blakes owned 11,900 acres (4,800 hectares) in Mayo and Galway. By the early 20th Century, however, almost all of this land had passed into the hands of former tenant farmers.

Towerhill House, Mayo

Towerhill’s ivy-covered façade

Writing in the 1930s, well-known Mayo local historian and journalist JF Quinn visited Towerhill, noting that “practically the whole country hereabouts was up to recently in with the landlords’ demesnes or grazing ranches, the sections occupied by tenants being congested and the land not of the primest. Now, all outside the demesnes proper has been broken up and picturesque homesteads abound, the land being extremely well cultivated.”

Of Towerhill itself, where he was visiting retired captain Valentine J Blake (b.1866), Quinn continues “The demesne is of considerable size and well timbered. Gigantic trees, hundreds of years old, abound with immense stretches of charming woodlands devoted to sheep, cattle, meadows and cultivation. The entrance and up-to-date farmyard indicate farming on a big scale and it is evidently a place that requires considerable labour and outlay. The mansion is a huge solid structure of local limestone, of some architectural beauty. It contains many fine apartments, antique furniture and portraits in oils of various members of the family adorn the walls.”

Valentine Blake, unmarried, died in 1947, aged 81, at which point the demesne itself and house were sold to local landowners, via the Land Commission. The roof was removed and Towerhill emptied of its valuables.

Towerhill window

Window showing remains of framing

Towerhill House today

Today, the ivy-covered roofless shell of Towerhill lies hidden in forestry, long forgotten and rarely visited. It doesn’t share the same place in the Mayo public’s consciousness as the neighbouring Moore Hall estate. Like Moore Hall, though, it is home to a colony of Lesser Horseshoe Bats.

If you are interested in Connacht’s “big house” heritage, you can search sites and families on NUIG’s wonderful Landed Estates website.

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Family Fun Orienteering, Moore Hall

Orienteering in Mayo, Moore Hall, Tourism Pure Walking Holidays

Family Fun Orienteering, Moore Hall, Co. Mayo

Saturday, January 29th, will see our first Family Fun Orienteering event of 2011. Come along to Moore Hall, outside Carnacon, south Mayo, for a few hours outdoor fun with the children.

Meeting time is 2 pm at the car park. Bring warm clothes and decent footwear, plus your camera. If you are not familiar with Moore Hall, the ground is a mix of reasonable forest tracks, some smaller tracks and some rough trails through the trees. Small children in buggies are most welcome, although they won’t be able to go everywhere.

Please call or leave a comment here if you would like to come along. There is a charge of Euro 15 per family.

Tel. 094 – 9027797.  Mob. 086 – 8318748

Location :

Moore Hall is just outside Carnacon on the shores of Lough Carra in south Mayo. Driving south from Castlebar on the Ballinrobe road, there in a brown tourist sign to the left at Ballintubber, showing Ballintubber Abbey and Moore Hall on it.

At the Abbey, the road swings left 90 degrees. At the first cross roads, turn right. Drive on to Carnacon village, where you turn right again. At the next junction, turn right before the little bridge. Moore Hall car park is on the right, after 300 m.

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Some Places to Visit in Ireland’s West

If you’re living in or visiting Ireland’s West, you might like to consider some of these places for a nice walk or some fun out with the family :

1. Moore Hall, near Carnacon, south County Mayo.

Ruined “big house” plus surrounding forests – much of it planted conifers, but also quite a bit of native broadleaves. Nice walks around Lough Carra.

2. Lough Key Forest Park, near Boyle, north Co. Roscommon.

Okay, there’s the paying part, but there is also loads to do without parting with your cash. Kilometres of forest walks, most of it through native and non-native broadleaves, parts also through conifers. Lakeside walks. Feed the swans and ducks. Look at the passing cruisers, etc.

3. The Suck Valley Way, Athleague, south Co. Roscommon.

Head for the lovely Visitor Centre in a former church. Walk along the bank of the River Suck as far as Castlestrange and its La Tene Stone. If you’re up to it, continue to the quaint and pretty riverside village of Castlecoote.

4. Mountbellew Demesne, Mountbellew, north Co. Galway.

Very large and dense conifer plantation has good walks. See its old forge. If you’re lucky, you might spot some deer, or test your skills in finding their footprints.

5. Arigna Mining Experience, near Drumshanbo, mid Co. Leitrim.

Perhaps Ireland’s best paying tourist attraction (in my humble opinion). Visit the old coal mine, guided by the actual miners themselves. If I remember correctly, mining ceased circa 1990 and the guys themselves now bring visitors around. When they’ve retired in the future, I doubt if the experience will ever be the same, so get there soon.

6. Old Head Wood, beyond Westport, west Co. Mayo.

Forget the beach (as pleasant as it is). Walk beyond the beach and discover the amazing, though small, Old Head Wood. Walk through it at a slow pace and take in this tiny piece of old Atlantic Wood. Then exit the far side and walk along the cliff top fields, until you get a clear view of the great Atlantic Ocean and Clare Island in front of you. Spot the Cormorants, Seals, Dolphins, etc. Take note of the poor trees, bent over at 90 degrees eastwards from the fierce and unrelenting Atlantic winds.

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