The Slievenamon car and it’s place in Irish history

The Slievenamon (Sliabh na mBan) Armoured Rolls Royce car, used by General Michael Collins, is regularly displayed around the country at heritage events and vintage shows, if you get an opportunity to view it, its worthwhile to see this historic vehicle.

This armoured car dates back to 1920 and was bought from the British Army by the newly formed Irish State after the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed. It was famously part of the convoy at Béal na mBláth in West Cork, on the day Collins was ambushed and killed.  On our recent Cork trip, we got a guided Michael Collins tour with Tim Crowley, (read our blog post here) and visited Béal na mBláth and Collin’s homestead outside of Clonakility. We learnt on the tour, how on that fateful day, Collins didn’t actually travel in this car, where he would have been protected, instead he travelled behind the armoured car and when the shooting started, they took cover behind the Slievenamon but Collins came out from behind it and was hit while standing in the middle of the road.

Irish soldier stands beside armoured car
Irish soldier stands guard over the Slievenamon Collins Armoured car


Who killed Michael Collins ?

It is widely believed an IRA volunteer soldier on the anti-treaty side called Denis ‘Sonny’ O’Neill, fired the fatal shot, he was a highly skilled sniper, having trained with the British Army during World War 1, although he never admitted it, Army pension records show he was at the ambush and was the most skilled of the republican soldiers at the ambush.  The guide also told us, how rumours about Eamon De Valera been part of the ambush, came about as Dev, had stayed only a few miles away in the same townland, the night before in West Cork, which is a coincidence.


Michael Collins car during Irish Civil War
Slievenamon Armoured Car preserved by the Irish Army


Watch this short video clip from the 1996 Michael Collins movie, although the movie is historically inaccurate, it does depict the Béal na mBláth ambush quite well.

Curragh Military Museum

The armoured car is usually located at the Curragh Military Museum in Kildare and can also be viewed at commemoration and heritage events in other locations in Ireland throughout the year. Entry to the military museum is free and you can check out the opening times here.

Check out our blog post on the Michael Collins guided tour


Original blog post published in 2016 and updated in 2017

Cycling along the Grand Canal

Cycling from Dublin city to Celbridge, Kildare

If you are looking to get out of Dublin city for the day, a good idea is to rent bikes and cycle along the Grand Canal. You can cycle along the canal towpath on a flat safe surface, away from the busy roads.  After 25 kilometres, you will discover the old restored Lyons village  in County Kildare.  It’s a picturesque old village built on the banks of the Grand Canal outside Celbridge in Kildare. The original village dates back to the mid 18th Century and  sprang up from the development of the Grand Canal and was based around a Water Mill.  The village was largely abandoned by the turn of the 20th Century with the decline of the Canal transport industry, then in the 1990’s,  a Historical restoration project brought the village back to life.  Today, it is known as Cliff at Lyons village, after the hotel group that own and run the old buildings as a cafe and hotel.

Village courtyard Lyons
The Village at Lyons Courtyard, outside Celbridge in County Kildare

In 1786, the impressive Lyons mansion which overlooks the village was built, which you can catch a glimpse of from the village.  In recent times, the large manor house, was bought and restored by Tony Ryan, the founder of Ryanair.

I thought at first, when I saw photos of Lyons village, that it was recently built like the Kildare shopping village but the majority of buildings are original 19th century buildings and have been restored. There is a cafe, restaurant and holiday apartments and a few stores, including a children’s toy store and arts & crafts store but no pub or church so I guess it’s not technically a proper Irish village!

Village shop at Lyons
The Cliff village at Lyons, old shops

It can be rented out for weddings and the wedding party would have the village to themselves for the big day. It gets a lot of walkers and cyclists, stopping by, as they go along the Grand Canal.  The day we visited, we sat outside and had afternoon tea, after cycling along the Grand Canal via Newcastle village in west county Dublin.

A nice idea for a day out, you can cycle from south Dublin city centre, starting at Ringsend and cycle along passed Grand Canal Dock, Ranelagh, Portobello, Rathmines, Harolds Cross, Crumlin, Clondalkin, Lucan  and onto the Lyons village in Kildare, this is a distance of 25 kilometres via the Grand Canal route.

You could take a Dublin bike and cycle along the Grand Canal towpath. If you are visiting Dublin for a few days, you can sign up to Dublin bikes or rent bikes from the bike rental shops.  We cycled as far as the new towpath and got off at Lucan and travelled up to Newcastle village by the road and from there to Lyons village. Unless you are cycling on a mountain bike I would recommend taking this route as after Lucan the towpath is more grassy and rough so wouldn’t be suitable for a road bike or the Dublin bikes.

cycle route dublin
Grand Canal Towpath Dublin

Another cycle or walking trail, you can do is the Arthur’s Way heritage trail, located around Celbridge and Leixlip in Kildare, it takes in places of interest connected to the famous Guinness brewery family.

Looking for other cycling and walking ideas in Ireland, check out our Greenway blogs posts.


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