Carrickmines Castle, the Vale of Shanganagh, Dalkey, Killiney and Ballybrack Hills
The three above-named hills, which so gracefully sentinel the southern shores of Dublin Bay, are seen to great advantage from the inland side, for which reason (Carrickmines has been selected as the starting point for this excursion. Carrickmines can, of course, be most readily reached by train from Harcourt Street, but those desiring a longer walk might, perhaps, get out at Dundrum, proceeding thence by Sandyford, after which the third turn on the left should be taken. Just at the turn is a high whitewashed wall, in the masonry of which, over a former entrance door, is a tablet bearing the quaint inscription: - "Content in a Cottage, and Envy to no One. BD. M. 1771." A secluded road about two miles in length, conducts us thence to Carrickmines, formerly Carrigmayne, a locality of great historic interest and the site of a castle, portion of which still remains.
During the Insurrection of 1641, a strong body of the insurgents established themselves in the castle, to dislodge whom a small body of cavalry was sent out from Dublin on a Saturday in the month of March, under command of Sir Simon Harcourt, an officer of experience and distinction. when he arrived there, however, he found that the castle and its garrison were much stronger than he had expected, and that to attack would be hopeless with the force at his disposal, the smallness of which excited the derision of the defenders on the battlements; and, accordingly, he sent to Dublin for reinforcements. As these did not reach the place until late that night, he decided to defer the assault until next day, encircling the castle meanwhile with his forces, and placing musketeers and horsemen alternately in the cordon, with the view of preventing the escape of any of the garrison.
Signal fires were lit on the battlements after dark, and others answering them on the surrounding mountains, revealed the proximity of the insurgents in such numbers that Sir Simon Harcourt hesitated to make the attack even with his reinforcements, and sent into town for further assistance. During the interval the garrison were not idle, utilising every opportunity that presented itself, by sorties and musket fire, of inflicting losses upon the besiegers. In repelling one of these sorties, early on Sunday morning, Sergeant-Major Berry was mortally wounded by a shot in the side. At this time Harcourt with some of his officers, had taken shelter behind a thatched cabin, but incautiously exposing himself to give commands, he was picked out by one of the sharpshooters in the castle armed with a long piece which had already done great execution, and shot in the breast under the neck bone. He attempted to walk away, assisted by two of his men, but had to desist from weakness, and as it was then seen that he was seriously wounded, a vehicle was procured, and he at once set out for Dublin accompanied by an escort. The jolting on the way, however, occasioned him such pain that the party decided to break the journey at Merrion, leaving him at Lord Fitzwilliam's castle, where he died next day.
Further reinforcements with artillery having now arrived, Lieut.-Colonel Gibson, the next in command, ordered a bombardment and general attack, which was met with desperate resistance by the defenders, but the superior numbers and equipment of the besiegers prevailed, and they at length succeeded in making a breach sufficiently large to effect an entry into the building. The first two that entered were killed, but they were followed by others who, acting under orders, deliberately proceeded to slaughter the entire garrison, with a great number of women and children who had taken refuge in the building, to the number of about 200 to 300 in all. The castle was then blown up. The besiegers lost about 40 altogether in this action.
The authorities from which this account has been compiled are: - A tract, entitled The Last True Intelligence from Ireland (1641), and Borlase's History of the Irish Rebellion.
In Lord Clarendon's History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in Ireland (p. 343), however, it is stated that quarter had been given by Lt.-Col. Gibson before the slaughter: - "After quarter given by Lt.-Col. Gibson, to those of the Castle of Carrigmayne, they were all put to the sword, being about 350, most of them women and children, and Col. Washington endeavouring to save a pretty child of seven years of age, carried him under his cloak, but the child against his will was killed in his arms, which was a principal motive of his quitting that service."
A totally different account of this siege is given in the Aphorismicall Discoverie, Vol. I., p. 24, which is, however, unsupported by any authority. According to this version, the castle was garrisoned by 15 men only, who repelled the attack with a loss of 500 of the besiegers, and after capturing, by a sortie, a quantity of powder with which it was attempted to blow up the castle, stole out by a back door and escaped with a loss of only two of their number.
On approaching Carrickmines Station by the road already referred to, on the right will be seen a farmhouse entered from the Glenamuck road. The castle stood on the site of this house and adjacent buildings, and although no definite trace can now be discovered of the foundations other than the great quantity of stones about the place, there still remains, incorporated with one of the outhouses, portion of the western wall containing a light or window and constructed with great strength and solidity. Some fifty yards to the south-west is the remnant of a square watch tower that evidently formed part of the outworks. Portion of the moat lies eastward of the farm buildings, and still contains water supplied from the stream that flows through the adjoining fields. An old lane, now closed, probably the original entrance to the castle, leads to the Kilgobbin road.
Resuming our journey, we cross the bridge at Carrickimines Railway Station and turn immediately to the right over a stile. We now keep to the laneway beside the railway wall as far as the first hedge, after which we follow the pathway through the fields, passing to the left of Barrington's Tower, an ornamental castellated structure, erected by a local proprietor. The district between Carrickmines and Foxrock has come greatly into favour in recent years for residential purposes, and now contains quite an extensive settlement of handsome detached houses, many of them built in the old English style of architecture. As we reach the road close by the tower, to the right will be seen the dense woods of Glendruid, within whose dark shades is concealed a large cromlech, or Druid's altar, as these structures were formerly called, that originated the name of this glen.
Keeping to the road for about half a mile, we reach Cabinteely, whence we proceed along the main road towards Bray for a little over a quarter of a mile, till a slated cottage is seen on the left. Here cross the stile beside the iron gate, pass between the wooden posts, and keep to the pathway along the hedge down to the bottom of the field, where cross the foot-bridge over the stream. Now take the pathway uphill to the swing-gate at the comer of the field, proceed along by the wall of Kilbogget Farm, cross the low wall into the lane, and emerge by the stile on Church Road, Ballybrack. Ballybrack hill, easily identified by its flagstaff, with its bright green golf links, stands prominently in view all the way from Cabinteely.
In the grounds of St. Columba's at Ballybrack, is a pyramidal limestone monument commemorating the death while hunting, at the early age of twenty-one, of the 4th Duke of Dorset. It bears the inscription:
On reaching Church Road turn to the right, and for some distance until an entrance gate is seen on bearing the names "Balure" and "Larkfield"; pass through this entrance into the laneway and pathway uphill through the swing gate into the golf links, and thence towards the boundary wall at the top of the hill, where another swing-gate and stile will be seen, leading out on a lane which joins the main road to Dalkey near the entrance to Victoria Park.
The view of the mountains and of the district inland is seen to better advantage from Ballybrack hill than from Killiney hill, the westward view from which is frequently obscured by the smoke from Killiney village and the numerous houses adjoining it.
We now enter Victoria Park by the entrance gate, and proceeding by the steep pathway up the hill, we presently come in view of the sweep of coast extending map-like from the base of the hill on towards Bray, fringed in rough weather by a long white selvage of foam. On reaching the Obelisk, at an elevation of 512 feet, we obtain what is probably the finest coast view in the county, comprising the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains extending from south to west, Kingstown and its harbour below the hill, to the north Howth, Sutton, and Portrane, and to the left of these the South Wall, the Poolbeg Lighthouse, and the metropolis enveloped in its smoke.
The Obelisk, which gives such a distinctive character to this hill, has undergone so many repairs and alterations since it was erected, that it may be said to resemble the traditional Irishmans gun, of which the only portion of the original left after the many alterations was the touchhole, and, in consequence, the drawings made at different periods vary considerably in their representations of it. The masonry work is of a very rough description, probably carried out by unskilled workmen, so that it is not surprising that it required frequent attention. It seems to have been at one time surrounded by a circular walled enclosure, entered by a massive gateway, which in time gave place to a railing that was ultimately removed to allow visitors access the structure. Then, again, a flight of steps formerly led up to a balcony over the lower portion, and the upper part, which is now conical, is represented in one of the older pictures as curved at the sides, giving it somewhat of the appearance of a gigantic sugarloaf Two marble slabs on the side facing the sea bear the inscriptions: - "Last year being hard with the Poor, the Walls about these Hills and This etc. erected by John Mapas, Esq, June, 1742." "Repaired by Robert Warren, Esq., MDCCCXL."
The winter of 1741-2, known as "the hard frost," was a time of such distress and suffering among the working classes, that wealthy proprietors all over the country erected fanciful structures merely to give employment to the poor.
The flat, well wooded tract extending along the coast from Killiney to Bray, including portion of the valley of the Loughlinstown river, is known as the Vale of Shanganagh, and owes its attractions to its environment rather than to the possession of picturesque features.
From any of its higher points the views are strikingly beautiful. To the north and north-east are Ballybrack, Killiney and Dalkey hills with Dalkey Island and the Muglins, to the east is the sea dotted with various craft on their way to and from Dublin, southward the bold form of Bray Head rises precipitously out of the water, and on the west are seen Carrickgollogan with its conspicuous chimney and the higher mountains of Dublin and Wicklow in the background.
Situated on the very bank of the Loughlinstown river are the ruins of the ancient castle of Shanganagh, the ancestral home of the Walsh family, whose connection with the locality lasted over three centuries.
The name Shanganagh, which should be accented on the first syllable, the other two being pronounced very short, means a place abounding in ants, and at the present day these insects are found in great abundance in the district, especially along the sandy banks of the river. (See Joyce's Irish Names of Places, Vol.11., p.293.)
On a high cliff immediately south of the flat stretch of shore where the Loughlinstown river flows into the sea, are the remains of a battery erected about 100 years ago in what appears to be a very ill-chosen position, for although elaborately loop-holed, no portion of the structure, owing to the rising ground in front, commands a view of the shore, or even of the sea, except in the distance. Remains of the dwelling for the accommodation of the garrison may still be seen, and underneath is a vaulted chamber, probably the ammunition store.
Adjoining Shankill Railway Station is a village now known as Tillystown or Chantilly, but which seems to have originally been called Shanganagh, as evidenced by a tablet dated 1830 in the wall on the main road. No indication of a village or even house, however, appears here in the Ordnance Survey Map of 1837.
In 1751 a lead mine was opened at Killiney, which contained some silver, but, proving unremunerative, it was abandoned after a considerable sum of money had been wasted on the project. Small garnets have occasionally been found among the sands of Killiney strand.
The descent from the Obelisk should be made by the pathway leading down to the Vico Road, along which we proceed towards Sorrento, turning to the left up the flight of stone steps leading to the Torca Road so as to reach the road at the back of Dalkey hill. This hill was originally much larger and higher on the northern side than it is at present, the quarrying away of the rocks to build Kingstown Harbour having greatly reduced its bulk, and rendered it so precipitous that in places it is steep and rugged enough to test the agility of even an experienced Alpine climber. The ornamental castle on its summit is fashioned out of a semaphore station which stood there in the old days, before the invention of the electric telegraph, when the hill was generally known as "Telegraph Hill" - a name not yet extinct among the aboriginal inhabitants. The castle, which is substantially the same structure, was nearly undermined by the quarrying operations.
Early in the last century, up to about the time the building of Kingstown Harbour commenced, the whole coast from Dunleary to what is now called Sorrento, but then generally known as "The Land's End," presented an almost uniform appearance of wildness and solitude, with open expanses of sward and heather, broken by masses of granite rocks amid thickets of golden furze, and, except for the villages of Glasthule, Bullock and Dalkey, was almost uninhabited. The portion known as the Commons of Dalkey, lying between the village and Sorrento, was a place of singular beauty, much in vogue as a holiday and Sunday resort for the Dublin folk of that day. A few cottages standing on the shore, with a Solitary cabin originally built by miners, were then the only habitations in this neighbourhood, all of which has now been built over with the exception of a small portion remaining in its original condition of wildness on the hill over Sorrento.
Up to the close of the 18th century there stood on Dalkey Commons a cromlech enclosed by a circle of granite stones, and almost concealed by a luxuriant growth of ferns. This interesting relic was unfortunately removed during the Martello Tower epidemic, and the stones utilised in the construction of one of these ungainly edifices in the neighbourhood. This cromlech was such a conspicuous landmark on the Commons that they were generally known as "Dalkey Stone Common, and as such are referred to in the famous old hunting song, "The Kilruddery Hunt" (see Index.)
In consequence of Dalkey having been for so long the port of Dublin, quite a number of distinguished historical personages landed there from time to time, and a metal tablet, setting forth their names and the dates of arrival, was formerly attached to a large rock at Coliemore harbour.
In 1385 the Lord Deputy, Philip de Courtney landed here, and Sir John Stanley, the Deputy of the Marquess of Dublin, two years later. In 1414 Sir John Talbot, afterwards the renowned Earl of Shrewsbury, landed here as Viceroy, and in 1488 Sir Richard Edgecombe embarked from this harbour for England, after having taken the homage and oaths of fidelity of the nobility who had espoused the cause of Lambert Simnel. Here also landed Sir Edward Bellingham as Lord Lieutenant in 1548 Sir Anthony St. Leger in 1553, and Sir John Perrot as Viceroy in 1584; and it was also from this harbour that the Earl of Sussex, in 1558 embarked a large expeditionary force to oppose the invasion of the Scots at Rathlin Island.
In 1834 numbers of persons attracted by rumours of buried gold, flocked to Dalkey where they worked and mined, day and night, at the rocks, under the directions of a young girl who claimed to have had the place of concealment revealed to her in dreams. When the craze had gone on for a time, some wags among the operators at night, two black cats covered with phosphorescent oil, which scattered the gold seekers in all directions, and effectually put an end to the proceedings owing the ridicule provoked by the incident.
A land craze immediately succeeded the gold fever, and a of modern residences were soon afterwards erected at Dalkey the old squatter tenants selling their holdings for high prices in consequence of the enhanced values produced by the construction of the railway.
Dalkey Island, so conspicuously in view from all points this coast, is of nearly oval form, with a long reef of extending in a north-westerly direction, and has a very regular surface, partly rocky and partly consisting of fertile pasture land. It contains several springs of fresh water, one of within a few yards of the shore on the western side, was in former years considered to possess valuable sanative properties, and was much resorted to for the cure of scurvy and cutaneous diseases. On the verge of the cliffs, and often washed by the spray from the raging surf, is the ruin of an church dedicated to St. Begnet or Benedict, the patron saint of the parish. At the south-eastern extremity of the island is a dismantled battery, and adjoining, on high ground, is a Martello tower, the entrance to which was originally constructed on the top with a view to affording extra security, but was subsequently altered to the side.
To the northward of the island are three small rocky islets called Lamb Island, Clare Rock, and Maiden Rock, and to the north-east is the group of rocks known as the Muglins, on which, in 1766, were hung in chains, the bodies of the pirates MacKinley and Gidley, who were executed for the murder of Captain Cochrane, Captain Glass, and other passengers of the ship Sandwich, on the high seas in the previous year.
Dalkey Island, in 1575, became a refuge for a number of the Dublin citizens who fled from a terrible outbreak of plague in the Metropolis. At a later period it was the scene of the annual coronation of the King of Dalkey, a burlesque ceremonial continued up to 1797, when owing to the political troubles at the time, the promoters voluntarily discontinued the proceedings. An interesting description of the scene on the island on one of these occasions, is given by an eye-witness, surviving in 1840, who communicated it to The Irish Penny Journal in that year. According to this writer, both Dalkey Island and the Commons, on the occasion of this festivity, were covered with dense masses of people, gaily dressed and arranged into groups of happy parties, each with its own musician. The dresses of the women were almost invariably white, with green silk bonnets - a costume that lent a brilliant effect to the scene. A large marquee was erected .about the middle of the island for the use of His Majesty and Officers of State, and a cordon was drawn around it to prevent intrusion by unauthorised persons.
A military band was generally in attendance to provide music for dancing - the noblemen and ladies of the Court remaining within the cordon, whilst the ordinary subjects of the monarch danced outside. For the Dalkey boatmen it was a red-letter day - they were kept busy from morning till night, and generally reaped a harvest sufficient to maintain them in idleness and inebriety for a considerable time afterwards.
The ceremony of coronation was performed in St. Begnet's Church, on the island, with a mock gravity which was irresistibly humorous, and as the various functionaries were chosen for their known wit and eloquence, it can readily be imagined what a treat it was for the audience. The long coronation sermon was one of the principal events of the day, and produced effects such as sermon never produced before.
During this august and imposing ceremony the church was not only crowded to its utmost capacity, and its ruined walls covered by anxious listeners, but it was also surrounded by a dense crowd, most of whom could hear little or nothing of the proceedings beyond the loud bursts of laughter that punctuated the various speeches and addresses towards Towards evening the people commenced to return from the island, but it took many journeys by the boats to convey them all back, and it was generally late at night or early in the morning before all his loyal subjects had reached their homes after paying their respects to, and drinking the health of "His Facetious Majesty (Stephen the First), King of Dalkey, Emperor of the Muglins, Prince of the Holy Island of Magee, Elector of Lambay and Ireland's Eye, Defender of his own Faith and Respecter of All Others, Sovereign of the Illustrious Order of the Lobster and Periwinkle."
The ruined Church of St. Begnet, apart from these proceedings was subjected to very irreverent treatment about 100 years ago, when the tower and battery were being constructed on the island. The masons and other workmen finding it inconvenient and often dangerous to cross the Sound to their lodgings, fitted up the ruin as a dwellinghouse, added a fireplace, and enlarged a doorway and some of the windows.
Distances - From Dundrum to Carrickmines Station, 4½ miles; Carrickmines Station to Killiney Village, 3½ miles (approximately by route described above); Killiney Village over the hill to Dalkey by Torca Road, about 1¾ miles.