Hello and welcome to this weeks virtual walk.
To be honest I made the visit a few months ago when it was much better weather… regardless we are off to County Clare to visit the ancient settlement of Dysert that is located quite near the village of Corofin, which is about a 45 minute drive north of Shannon Airport.
Now, the name Dysert comes for the Irish, An Diseart , meaning “ hermitage” and I think this will give you an idea of what we are going to visit.
Let’s park the car and get out for a walk around. It’s just been raining so the long grass is soaked – I hope that you have brought your wellingtons with you today !
The whole area is dense with a wonderful range of things for us to visit so let’s start off with the castle. We will have to trudge up a muddy lane to reach the place. The castle, known as either O’ Dea castle or Dysert O’Dea castle is a fortified tower house that was built between 1470 and 1490 by Dirmaid O Dea .
It stands about 15 metres ( 50 feet ) high and is built mainly of local limestone. Over the centuries it changed hands, was taken over by various troops , including Cromwell and eventually fell into the hands of the Synge family. By the 1970s it had fallen into ruins, when it was restored by a wealthy American who has now leased it to the local Archology centre. It has won an award for the most authentically rebuilt castle in Ireland. Unfortunately, its closed today so we can’t get in for a peek inside.. oh well we have many more things to visit on our stroll .
We will retrace our steps into a grassy field that leads to Dysert Monastery but right in front of us we can stop to admire the Dysert O’ Dea high cross. This is in fact the white cross dedicated to Saint Tola that dates from the 12th century. Can you see how it’s much more stylised that the earlier high crosses ? There is no sun disk, and the cross arms are shorter. You see a hole in the right arm of the image of the Bishop who founded the monastery, Saint Tola and this suggests that a secondary piece, or relic would have been placed here. There is a good carving of the image of the crucifixion and rich Celtic detail. We can faintly see an engraving at the base “ Repaired by Michael O’Dea, son of Connor Crone O’Dea in 1663 “ !
As we cross through the long grass be careful not to get too wet – we can cross the little wall into the monastery enclosure itself. The church stands on the site of the original monastery, reportedly founded by Saint Tola in the 8th century. The ruined Romanesque structure that is visible today mainly dates to the 12th century and is over 30 metres long. The lancet windows in the east gable were additions from the early 13th century. The stone arch, showing twelve human and seven animal heads also dates to the 13th century. Don’t you think this carving is simply amazing ??
Nearby , the late 11th century round tower was converted into a fortification in the 16th century. It was severely damaged by artillery fire by 1651. The original height is reckoned to be around 30 metres, only about a third still remains. A story tells us that an old bronze bell discovered in 1790 was taken to Corofin and sold to pay for the current church bell.
Hidden in the wall is St. Tola’s Well that is said to predate the monastery to the pre-Christian era. I simply love the way history, faith and folklore cross paths in Ireland and for centuries there is an annual pilgrimage to the well on 30 March. As always, lets stop for a moment to take a sip of the sacred water, and pause for a moment of calm amongst the footsteps of our ancestors. .
In the distance we can spot “Synge’s Lodge” , which is a ruined guest house. The Synge coat of arms with the motto “Caelesta canimes” remains over the door. But as my feet are soaked I think we can pass on making a visit this time !!
It’s time to hit the road , lets walk back towards the car, and I do hope that you enjoyed coming with me today .
It is hard to believe that we are almost at the end of January and soon it will be St Brigid’s day. Also we have St Valentine’s Day coming up. You know our jewellery is made with a lot of love and so if you have a special Valentine you would like to spoil please keep our unique Connemara Marble in mind.
Our winter sale continues over at www.connemaramarble.com with 20% Off all Pendants and Necklaces but hurry as the sale ends tomorrow on January 31st!
Stay well and all the best, Stephen