round tower

Tourism Pure Walking Holidays

Guided Walking Holidays in Mayo & Connemara, Ireland

 

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Posts tagged with: 'round tower'

Balla to Ballintubber Walk

From Round Tower to Abbey

Our round towers and abbeys are among the most visible still extant reminders of early and medieval Christian Ireland. While the former date from the 9th to 11th centuries, what remain of our medieval abbeys tend to be from the 12th to 15th. This Balla to Ballintubber walk links examples of both.

In Mayo, we have five remaining round towers and multiple abbeys and friaries, including the most magnificent of them, like Rosserk, Moyne, Murrisk and Burrishoole. Just across the border in north Galway is perhaps the finest in the West of Ireland, at Ross Errily.

This first section of the 60km+ Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail almost links Balla round tower with Ballintubber abbey, although a diversion is required. An easy trail, we traverse nice small sections of broadleaf woodland, fields and numerous interesting sights. Unfortunately, almost 50% of the route is on roads, minor as they are.

Balla to ballintubber walk

Mixed woodland at Balla

The abbey at Ballintubber was founded by Cathal Ó Conchobhair, King of Connacht, in 1216 and recently celebrated its 800 years. An abbey of the Augustinian Canons Regular, it was substantially destroyed by Cromwellian forces in 1653, but continued in service while roofless and has been rebuilt, most notably in 1966 to celebrate its 750 years.

Balla to ballintubber walk 2

Ballintubber Abbey

Although by no means a spectacular walk, this 15.5 km from Balla to Ballintubber is nonetheless a pleasant stroll, taking 4 to 5 hours. Along the way, you’ll see ringforts and ruined castles, notably the one at Donamoma. It was here that numerous Gaelic lords submitted to the authority of Richard Bingham, Lord President (Governor) of Connacht, in 1588.

A tougher walk in winter than in summer, due to waterlogged and boggy stretches, this season does, however, bring the additional attraction of numerous turloughs along the way. Mind you, you’re unlikely to keep your feet dry!

Somewhat bizarrely, once you’re at Ballintubber Abbey, you have the choice between two paths if you wish to continue onward towards Croagh Patrick and Murrisk. You can either regain and follow the Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail, or simply depart the abbey on the Tóchar Phádraig.

Balla to Ballintubber Walk

15.5 km; total ascent 88 m; approx. 4.5 hours.

The route is well marked (if not entirely accurately) on OSI Discovery map sheets 31 and 38. You can make do without the latter, as it only covers a little bit of the trail.

Posted in Walking in the West of Ireland | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Round Towers of County Mayo

Of the 60-odd Irish round towers remaining, in various states of repair, 5 are to be found in County Mayo. Round towers are believed to have been built around the 8th to 12th Centuries and were most probably bell towers associated with the church that would have stood alongside. Famously, they have a doorway set several metres above ground level and a few window slits inserted into the stone walls higher up. Window slits tend to be dispersed one per floor, with four at the top floor, in under the conical roof. The top floor windows tend to be larger than the others on the way up, presumably to let the sound of the bell be better heard and are generally (more or less) set in the cardinal directions.

Round Tower Killala

Killala Round Tower

Magnificent relics of medieval Christian Ireland, our round towers are superb examples of medieval stone masonry. Perhaps they are the architectural structures that most symbolise Ireland?

While presumably primarily for bell ringing, I can easily imagine these early medieval monks spending time alone in one of the tiny upper floors, crouched beside the single window slit to one side, a lit candle to the other, perhaps reading scripture or working on a new codex. I admit I can less easily imagine the towers being used as hideaways, in case of attack.

Round Towers of County Mayo

Mayo’s round towers are at Aughagower, Balla, Killala, Meelick and Turlough.

Aughagower : Standing 16m high, this partial tower had a second door cut into it at ground level in recent centuries, allowing the visitor to access it and look up into its interior. It is roofless. Extensive ecclesiastical ruins adjoin this tower.

Round Tower Aughagower

Inside the Round Tower at Aughagower

Balla : The smallest remnant in Mayo, the remaining stub of this tower is just 10m high and, again, features a later second door at ground level. What appears to be the original door is a whopping 8m off the ground. I’m still dismayed at how the new community hall was allowed to be erected so close to it.

Killala : Mayo’s finest extant tower stands 26m high and occupies a site bang in the middle of this medieval North Mayo fishing village. Its (repaired) conical top remains.

Meelick : Despite being without its roof, but at 21m high, this remains an impressive tower in a lovely rural setting. There is a very fine inscribed cross slab at its base.

Round Tower Meelick

Meelick Round Tower

Turlough : This 23m high tower, near the excellent National Museum – Country Life, gives an impression of being unusually short and still boasts its roof (repaired).

Round Tower Turlough

Turlough Round Tower by night

Of Mayo’s round towers, only Aughagower and Turlough still have their churches alongside, although both are ruined.

Visit this excellent website that describes all of Ireland’s remaining round towers.

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