ByRoute 12.1 Co. Meath (S) // Co. Offaly
These pages describe ByRoute 12 between Barberstown on the outskirts of DUBLIN and Clonfert (Co. Galway).
Ballynare Crossroads (Co. Meath / South)
Entrance to Dolly’s Grove, a STRICTLY PRIVATE airfield (Photo by C O’Flanagan)
Kilcloon & Mulhussey (Co. Meath / Southeast)
The parish church of Oliver Plunkett (RC) is said to be the first church dedicated to the local Roman Catholic patron saint.
Kilcloon Millennium Garden contains a statue of the martyred prelate.
The River Tolka flows through the townlands of Kilclone and Mulhussey.
Mulhussey (Maol Hosae – “bald Hussey”) , a village at the edge of Kilcloon parish, has experienced an ongoing decline in population since 1991.
Mulhussey Castle is a Tower House built by the Hussey family, Norman gentry granted the manor by Hugh DeLacy in the early C13th; according to legend, the last member of the dynasty in the C16th was the bald lady commemorated in the toponym.
Mulhussey Graveyard, beside the castle, contains a ruined church and some Hussey family burials.
Phepotstown (Co. Meath / South)
Larch Hill Gardens
Larch Hill Gardens occupy a 60-acre estate that in the C18th formed part of the land owned by a rich haberdasher from The Coombe in Dublin called Prentice, who grew flax locally to manufacture linen, and established a fashionable Ferme Ornée, a pastoral paradise embellished with ornamental follies, statuary, and picturesque walks. Mr. Prenctice probably had boats bearing silks from China bring him exotic birds and beasts and strange trophies to amaze his friends and neighbours. Mock naval battles were staged on the lake to capture a fort shaped like the Rock of Gibraltar (an idea borrowed from the Earl of Mornington’s nearby Dangan estate). Mr. Prentice was declared bankrupt in 1790, owing ten thousand pounds to a Mr John Smith in Galway.
The Watsons, a Quaker family from Co. Carlow, extended the gardens and added several follies. The oddest is an elaborate temple-crowned mausoleum in the form of a foxes’ earth, impenetrable to foxhounds and with tapered escape tunnels, built by Robert Watson (1822 – 1908), Master of the Meath Hunt, who was apparently convinced that he would be re-incarnated as a fox.
The Mausoleum (Photo – www.buildingsofireland.ie)
His wife was responsible for the cockle-shell tower in the walled garden, where she was buried only to be exhumed later and reburied elsewhere. Her unhappy spirit is said to haunt the district, dressed in a long black cloak.
The land was sold in 1890, and the gardens fell into disrepair until rediscovered and restored over a hundred years later by London restaurateur Michael de las Casas (who had spent part of his childhood in Luttrellstown Castle as a grandson of Mrs. Eileen Plunkett, née Guinness) and his wife Louisa.
Larch Hill combines a new model farm and a gothic farmyard, with dovecotes, goat towers, stables and pigsties housing a variety of Rare Breeds of farm animal, meadows stocked with emus and llamas, a walled garden filled with geese and peacocks, beech avenues, scenic parkland walks and miles of wooded nature trails; a two-acre “maze in the maize,” (regrown and remade annually) and pleasant tearooms. However, most visits are undoubtedly to see the ten follies – there’s even a “medieval” tower with a ghost in residence!
In 2002 Larch Hill was the first Irish recipient of the European Union’s prestigious Europa Nostra Award for Cultural Heritage.
Phepotstown is close to Kilcock on ByRoute 11.
Garadice is the location of Hatton’s Pub, a pleasant hostelry with reasonably priced B&B facilities.
Agher (Co. Meath / South)
Agher, a crossroads hamlet, is best known for its football club.
Agher church & Mausoleum
Agher church (CoI), an attractive edifice rebuilt in 1902, serves one of the two Meath parishes of which Jonathan Swift was Rector in the early C18th (the other being Laracor).
The grounds contain several interesting gravestones.
The Winter Mausoleum houses the remains of the Winter family of Agher House. (Photo – www.buildingsofireland.ie)
(Presumably by coincidence, another Winter family mausoleum in Allegheny, Pennsylvania depicts the patriarch as an Egyptian pharaoh preparing to depart for the Underworld!)
Agher House, residence of the Winter family for about 150 years, was sold to the Land Commission in 1937 and demolished in 1970.
Agher’s former school, an unusual red and yellow gabled building with a purple slate roof, is now a private residence. It was built in 1879 by John Sanderson Winter, who also erected several estate buildings nearby.
Rathcore, a heavily populated district prior to the Great Famine, is the location of this quaint thatched cottage, thought to date from c.1820; there is also an attractive old Church of Ireland building nearby. (Photo – www.enfieldparish.ie)
Rathcore is not far from Longwood on ByRoute 13.
Enfield (Co. Meath / South)
Enfield / Innfield (An Bóthar Buí – “the yellow road”) (pop. 1100), situated near an ancient route to / from Tara, derives its English name from The Royal Oak Inn, an C18th mail-coach hostelry on the old Dublin – Mullingar road, thought to have occupied the present position of the Bridge House Inn. The location was denoted on 1790s maps as “The New Inn”; this became Innfield, eventually anglicised (allegedly by an English postmaster)as Enfield after the well known London borough (although it remained Innfield on many maps).
The construction of the Royal Canal was followed by the 1847 opening of the Midland Great Western Railway linking Broadstone Station in Dublin and Enfield; the town became the transfer point between trains and boats for passenger traffic until the railway was extended westwards.
The Land Commission adopted a mid-C20th policy of resettling people from congested districts in the West of Ireland locally. These migrants accounted for a halt in the decline of the population in and around Enfield from 1939 0nwards. The Celtic Tiger years saw a huge influx of Dublin commuters settling in new housing estates in the area.
Enfield is unusual in having no church; the parish still centres on the older community of Rathmolyon.
The Celtic Brew company is a micro-brewery in Enfield which produces the award winning Finians Lager.
A canalside park has been established around the small harbour.
The Royal Canal near Enfield (Photo – www.leisureways.com)
The Marriott Johnstown House Hotel & Spa, a modern luxury facility on the outskirts of Enfield, is built around a Georgian country house (c.1750) with magnificent plasterwork ceilings by the Francini Brothers.
Enfield is not far from Kilcock (Co. Kildare) on ByRoute 11.