An abbey and an alley in Abbeylara

We headed over for a spin to Abbeylara, on Friday evening, its a quaint little village, close to the Longford and Cavan border. Directions can be found here.  It is one of those Irish villages that could be used as the set of a movie from the 1930’s. The village is kept immaculate, the villagers obviously have a lot of pride in their village and an active tidy towns group.

We wanted to use the handball alley court, I love how this court was constructed back in 1924 by local people, just as the Irish free state was in its infancy.  There are also old Cistercian Abbey ruins in Abbeylara, that date back to the 13th Century, when Richard De Tuite established an Abbey in about 1205 for the Cistercian monks.

I really need a blue sky for my photos, to be considered anyway pretty and or have a filter applied!  Although I got lucky last year, when I got a blue sky, followed shortly by a sun shower and a rainbow appeared, the lighting and weather can really change in the space of a few minutes in Ireland.

These photos are from June 2015 and were just taken on my phone and I have no filters on them.

Before lovely blue sky background.

Cistercian Abbey in Longford
Abbeylara abbey ruins with a blue sky

After 15 minutes, the dark clouds rolled in.

Old Cisterian Abbey monastery ruins
A Rainbox appeared beside the medieval Cistercian Abbey ruins in Abbeylara

The photo below of Richard, was taken in June 2015, at about 7.30 pm in the evening it was sunny but cool, hence the wooly hat and base layer. Also, note to any readers who may not be familiar with the game of handball, this not how you play it!  we were just messing about having a puck about with a hurley stick and a tennis ball.

Handball Alley court

I love this cottage, I think it was an abandoned old cottage in the village that was spruced up by the tidy towns committee.  It reminds me of my Junior Cert Art project, for which I made an Irish cottage complete with green doors and windows but I had straw for the roof.  I still have the cottage in the attic, it was part of the art assessment, you had to create a 3D structure and the subject topic was Ireland in the 18th century, I must throw up a photo of it later.

Irish cottage with a green tin roof
Irish cottage in Abbeylara County Longford
Irish cottage
Irish Cottage with green tin roof in Abbeylara

And the auld triangle went jingle jangle

All along the banks of the Royal Canal.

The Royal Canal was immortalised in Brendan Behan’s song The Auld Triangle.

Last Summer we walked part of the Royal Canal Way in county Longford.  We started off near the village of Kilashee and walked to Clondra and back, it is a distance of about 12 kilometres in total.  I think we started from Aghanaskea bridge point 8 on the Royal Canal trackway map below and walked to Richmond Harbour.  It was a beautiful sunny day and we stopped for a drink at the pub and sat outside.

Royal Canal longford map
Source: www.LongfordTourism.ie

You can view the full map and other information here.

You can start from Longford town and cycle or walk the full 16 kilometres.   The surface isn’t tarmac so it isn’t as smooth in parts, it might be better to cycle it with a mountain or hybrid bike than a road bike with thin wheels.  I believe there is a long term plan that the canal trackway or Blueway will join up with the Royal Canal Greenway which is completed in Westmeath, the route would go from the Mullingar greenway to Abbeyshrule and onto Longford town.   It is connected to the long term plans for the Dublin – Galway Greenway.

Royal Canal Way Walk Longford
Royal Canal Way Walk Longford

This would be a great boost to Longford,  walkers and cyclists could travel from Westmeath to Longford on a safe and traffic free route. The opening of the greenway in Mayo, has given a boost to the local economy and provided a great leisure activity.  The recent opening of the Old Rail trail greenway in Westmeath should hopefully see the same positive results.  I know another greenway is due to open in 2016 in Waterford, it will be called the Deise greenway and will run on the old Waterford to Dungarvan railway.

Royal Canal Gate water

Activities in Longford on the Royal Canal

If you are in Longford for a weekend, this canal trackway is a great amenity:

Cycling:  You could bring or rent bikes and cycle from Longford town or Kilashee to Clondra, this is very doable for all levels of fitness as it is completely flat.  You could always rent an electric bike if you don’t feel up to the full route.  Then have lunch in Clondra village or cycle a little further up the road to the village of Tarmonbarry in Roscommon.

Hikes/Walking:  If you prefer to walk, the canal is a nice flat scenic and safe walk with lots of wildlife to see, you could also bring a picnic along.

Watersports:  At Aghanaskea bridge, you can go kayaking, we saw a sign for kayak rentals.  I’m not sure if anyone is doing it in Longford yet, but Stand Up Paddling is becoming very popular and would be suited to the sheltered Royal Canal.

Fishing: You can bring or rent fishing rods and fish along the canal.

Walking Tour:  We saw a sign for walking tours on the canal, which recounts the history of the Royal Canal.  I would love to do this sometime in the future.

There doesn’t appear to any bike rentals online for Longford, but I do believe you can rent a bike locally in a bike shop or from a local cycle club.  I think this is a potential business opportunity for someone! but until the Westmeath to Longford greenway opens, it may not be a viable option.

Quick History of the Royal Canal

The Royal Canal was built over 27 years, starting from the initial land survey in 1789 and work finishing in 1817.  Barges carried cargo and passengers down the canal.  It proved a popular mode of transportation for goods and passenger’s for the next 30 years, but the arrival of the railways signalled the end of the canals.  I read online on the RCAG website, “that a passenger journey time from Dublin to Mullingar initially took twelve hours..” .  By the 1880’s passenger journeys ceased and only cargo was transported until 1961, when the Canal closed.  In 2010 this section of the Royal Canal in Longford was reopened.

Royal Canal 19th Century Stone Bridge in Longford

The Royal Canal is a lovely scenic walk and you will pass wildlife on the canal and we were lucky enough to see cattle been herded on the other side of the canal path and brought across the canal bridge for milking.  It was a nice rural scene to catch,  all the cows walking along and lined up.

 

 

We passed an old canal gate keeper’s cottage, which had a plaque on it, the cottage was restored by a lady called Frances K. Kelly, who lived in Forest Hills in New York.  You can read about Frances and the cottage restoration project here.  I have to say, it really is a heart warming story.

Frances' Cottage on the Royal Canal
Frances’ Cottage on the Royal Canal

 

The plaque reads “She always loved old buildings and the history that went with them.”

Frances K. Kelly Royal Canal cottage
Frances Cottage

I would love to restore an old house and for the same reason as Frances did.   Although the entrepreneur in me, I would probably put the spare room on Air BnB!

 

 

Roadside Art fiddle
Fiddle road art on N5 in Longford

 

boats royal canal Ireland
Boats on the Royal Canal

 

kayaks on royal canal
Kayaker’s on the Royal Canal in Longford

 

Boats at Richmond Harbour
Richmond Harbour in Longford

 

bridge over royal canal Longford
Bord na Mona Bridge on Royal Canal

 

royal canal pathway
Royal Canal Blueway

All along the banks of the Royal Canal

Images from a walk on the Royal Canal Way in Longford, Ireland, from Kilashee to Clondra in June 2015.

To read the blog post, click here.

 

 

 

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Blacksmith of Ballinalee

We drove through north county Longford recently and noticed this prominent bronze statue of Seán MacEoin by sculptor Rory Breslin, erected in 2013 in the quaint village of Ballinalee, County Longford.

Seán Mac Eoin was an Irish politician with the Fine Gael party and soldier, rising to the position of a General,  who fought in the War of Independence.  He was commonly referred to as the “Blacksmith of Ballinalee”.

The Battle of Ballinalee took place during the Irish War of Independence on 3 November 1920. The Irish Republican Army(IRA), led by Seán Mac Eoin, drove a force of British Army and Royal Irish Constabulary from the village of Ballinalee in County Longford.

Photos below show the location of the Clonfin Ambush, where a monument is erected.  The North Longford IRA flying column defeated the British forces at Clonfin,  Ballinalee in Longford on the 2nd February 1921.

Seán Mac Eoin’s Blacksmith forge which was burnt down by the British and later rebuilt.

Blacksmith forge Longford
Sean Mac Eoin Blacksmith forge

The grave of Seán Mac Eoin, who died in 1973 and is buried at St Emer’s cemetery in Ballinalee, County Longford.

Seán Mac Eoin IRA leader of the North Longford Flying column

 

Images: Melcoo.com
Text: Melcoo.com & Wiki
Image of Sean MacEoin - Irish archives

To Edgeworthstown and Beyond

We took part in a new walking tour over the summer in County Longford.  The St. Mary’s to St. John’s & Beyond walking tour is an historical and literary trail based in the town of Edgeworthstown.

St Marys to St Johns and Beyond Walking heritage trail
St Marys to St Johns and Beyond Walking Tour (Click on images to enlarge & click outside of images to close)

The walking tour tells the history of the town and of the Edgeworth family and other famous literary figures connected with the family in County Longford, including the head of the family, Richard Lovell Edgeworth, who was an inventor, (find out what he invented here) and also about his daughter, the novelist Maria Edgeworth.

Maria Edgeworth Portrait
Maria Edgeworth Portrait in the Rectory

Maria Edgeworth, was born on 1st of January 1767 near Oxford in Great Britain but spent most of her life in Ireland.  Her novels include, Castle Rackrent and The Absentee, which were novels about Irish tenants and the Landlord classes.  Castle Rackrent was the first novel to give the ordinary Irish peasant a voice.

The tour starts from the gothic style St Mary’s Church, which is just off the N4 road in the town, we got an introduction on the Edgeworth family and a short history about the church.  The guide that day was Matt Farrell, he has a nice pleasant manner and is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic, which really helps to bring the stories and sites we visited to life.

St Marys Church Edgeworthstown
St Marys Church Edgeworthstown

We left the church and walked across the road into the grounds of the Manor nursing home which, was the ancestral home of the Edgeworth’s family.  We got to see the house and grounds where they lived and also the walled garden’s.

Edgeworth Walled Gardens
Edgeworth Literary Trail Gardens
Edgeworth Walled Gardens
Edgeworth Walled Gardens

As this is private property, it was great to view this site in particular on the tour.  We then moved onto the Main Street and found out about a few of the buildings in the town, this was very interesting as having passed through the town for many years, it was great to find out the background, one in particular was the connection to Charles Bianconi.

The Lodge Edgeworthstown
The Lodge Edgeworthstown
Porter House Edgeworth Trail
Porter House Edgeworth Trail

The tour then moved onto the Rectory and to St John’s Church and graveyard, where the Edgeworth family are buried.  We heard lots of interesting stories and history along the way connected to the Edgeworth’s and visitors to Edgeworthstown over the years, you can check, out the tour to hear all about them.

St Johns Church Edgeworthstown
St Johns Church Edgeworthstown

We were lucky to attend the walking tour during the Maria Edgeworth Literary festival and when we arrived, at the Rectory there was a short presentation by the artist Bernard Canavan as he presented a painting of the Edgeworth’s to the town, I really liked this painting it reminded me of Jack B Yeats work.  We also got to attend an interesting lecture on Maria Edgeworth given by Dr Derek Hand  in St John’s Church.

Matt Farrell Tour Guide Bernard Canavan Artist Edgeworthstown
The artist Bernard Canavan presents a painting to the people of Edgeworthstown

The tour is a great idea and is run by the Edgeworth Society and is a great boost to tourism in the county, I recommend doing the tour and afterwards, you can visit nearby Ardagh village.  This quaint village is synonymous with the poet Oliver Goldsmith.  (Check out our post here).

You can book a group tour or contact the Edgeworth Society through their website or on their Facebook page, to find out about their next organised public tour.