An exciting day out in the King’s River Valley

On Saturday I gave a lecture on St Kevin’s road  at  the Hollywood  Co Wicklow . The  audience  was great  and made me feel so welcome.   While having a cup of tea and a chat afterwards   I was told about a number crosses and old roads at the northwest end of the King’s River Valley.  The following  morning I set off to see some of these sites  in the company of  four local people  C.J, Ite, Francis and John,  who kindly gave up their Sunday to  show me around.

So armed with out maps we headed up the Johnstown road  to Valleymount to the townland of Ballintubber.


View of Poulaphouca Reservoir from the Johnstown road

In Ballintubber is one of the most amazing archaeological site I have ever visited. The site is an enormous broken  granite cross.


Broken high cross with Francis who is 5 ft 7″ acting as a scale

This large cross was in the process of being moved onto its side  when it broke and was abandoned. As I looked at this  broken cross  I couldn’t help but wonder what the mason said when it broke, I imaging given the effort involved in get the cross  to its semi completed state there was a lot of cursing. The cross was carved from a single piece of rock  probably a large boulder like those scattered around the field.


Top of the cross

The shaft of the cross is approx. 3m in length and the head is 1.95m. This makes the entire cross approx 5 m tall.  Tool  marks left by the mason  are on the upper face of the cross. The cross really puts into perspective the efforts involved in creating the many high crosses that are found on monastic sites around the county.

For a detailed discussion of this cross see Chris Corlett’s  excellent  article   ‘The abandoned cross at Ballintubber,  Hollywood, Co Wicklow’ (complete reference below).

The next site we visited was a set of stepping-stones on the Kings River in the townland of Walterstown.  These stones could very well be part of an ancient route used by travellers and  pilgrims. They are marked on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey Map of 1840.


Stepping-stones across the King’s River

Directly opposite the stepping-stones  within a modern forest is  a large flat top mound which may possibly  be a small  Anglo-Norman motte . The site is marked as an enclosure on the RMP maps but  it clearly isn’t one and is a flat topped mound.  If this is  an Anglo-Norman motte its  presence could confirm an ancient route in the area.


Possible Anglo-Norman Motte close to the stepping-stones on the King’s River

From  the stepping-stones  we headed on to see a standing stone also in the townland of Walterstown.  This stone  is directly in line with a mountain pass and may also have acted as a route marker for a prehistoric route.


Standing stone in Walterstown

After a fantastic day  I   said goodbye to my companions   and I headed home via Blessington where I  stopped to see  two high crosses.  Geographically these crosses are the closest  to the Ballintubber cross that I  visited earlier.

The  two crosses were formerly located at Burgage More church and graveyard  but moved to there present locations at the graveyard in Blessington when the  Liffey Valley was flooded. The larger cross is known as   St Mark’s cross,  it is very tall and has unusually long arms and a central boss design. It stands 3.95m high.


St Mark’s cross in Blessington

The Ordnance survey letters  (1840) refer to the name of the cross as St Mark’s or  St Baoithin’s cross.

The second cross is broken with one of the arms missing and  is  more squat.


Smaller cross at Blessington

So all in all I had a great weekend and can highly recommend a trip to west Wicklow.


Corlett, C. 2011.  he abandoned cross at Ballintubber,  Hollywood, Co Wicklow’. Archaeology Ireland, Vol. 25,  No. 2, 26-28.

4 comments on “An exciting day out in the King’s River Valley

  1. Great post …what good luck to find your local guides!

  2. Michael Kenning says:

    Fascinating – wish we had seen the abandoned high cross when walked St Kevin’s Way last year!

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