Hello and welcome to this weekend’s virtual walk.
The town of Bantry is located in West Cork in the south western corner of Ireland. Overlooking the town is something really interesting, so come along with me today to visit the Kilnaurane stone pillar.
Our drive will bypass the town. We must put this on the list for a walk as it’s a really lovely place to visit with views overlooking Whiddy Island and Bantry bay. Just before the town itself we take a sharp right hand turn, up the hill and passing the back gate to Bantry house – the green signpost will tell us where to stop !
Let’s park the car and follow the direction of the signpost – it leads us up a little lane and through a gate into an open grassy field.
As we look around there is no trace of any path or trail ….However my boy scout eyes spy some flattened grass leading up the slope, so in the absence of any other clue let’s head on up.
We have a lovely day, just white puffy clouds overhead and a gentle breeze, so no need to worry about slippery conditions and it’s about a five minute stroll before the ground levels out.
Frankly what we see at the top isn’t that much.. The ground levels off and there is a metal fence surrounding what was once a monastic settlement that was founded by Saint Brendan in the 6th Century AD.
St Brendan – known as “Brendan the navigator” is said to have sailed across the Atlantic and discovered America some 600 years before Columbus. He would have sailed in a currach – the traditional leather fishing boat that is still used on the west coast of Ireland. His route would have taken him via Iceland, Greenland and towards the northern Canadian coastline. In fact archaeologists have found Viking remains along that route and in the 1970s an adventurer Tim Severn recreated this journey using a replica currach – proving that it was possible !
Let’s take a look at the stone pillar that stands in the middle of the enclosure. Standing at 2.1 metres, over 6 feet high, this is in fact the base of a high cross that dates from the 9th century.
As we take a closer look at the top, have a look at the cut out slots where the cross arms would have been placed, and all around are fragments of what were possibly other parts of the cross.
But here’s the exciting thing .. as we look closer have a look at the carvings ,they are weathered and worn but we can make out some Celtic knot work, an image of St Anthony and St Paul and other faint carvings .. but on the north eastern face is carved a boat containing four oarsmen and a steersman rowing through a sea of crosses . The boat looks like the same leather skinned currach – and is pointed skywards , or westwards.
It’s believed that this is the image of St. Brendan on his journey to the new world .. and don’t forget this was carved hundreds of years before Columbus… amazing.
Nearby there is an information panel showing the carvings in better detail. It’s so sad to see the actual cross eroding before our very eyes and exposed to the elements.
Just before we head back to the car, take a look at the setting. I marvel how this site overlooks Bantry bay and the gateway to the Atlantic ocean and the new world beyond.
I do hope you enjoyed coming with me today and take care until next time.