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Towns and Villages


Castledermot is a small town in south Kildare with a population of approximately 1,122 (2002 census). The name of Castledermot (Diseart Diarmada) originated in an early Christian monastic settlement of about 500 A.D.

This historic town, with its round towers and castles, is situated on the River Lerr. Originally called Diseart Diarmada, and later Tristle-Dermot. A must for historians, the town contains St James's Church, a Hiberno-Romanesque arch, a round tower, two high crosses and a number of ancient stones and grave slabs.

A step through a gateway at the southern end of this straggling town takes visitors back 800 years in an instant, into the stillness of a 13th century Franciscan friary, which was plundered by Robert Bruce in 1317. Later, in 1541, the friary was suppressed. Only the walls of the church remain, attached to a square building known as the Abbey Castle, which possibly dates from the 15th century and was where the monks lived. The ruins are set back from the main road by only two or three feet, which makes it all the more remarkable that they have survived for so long. The solid stonework is well-preserved, seeming as secure and strong as the day it was first assembled. It is a thought-provoking place, worth spending a few moments in, pondering on the life of its original inhabitants. The key is available in the caretaker's house next door.

A short walk from the friary is a churchyard just off the main road, which goes back even farther in time, to the 12th century and even to the 9th. It lies on the site of a monastery founded around 800 by St Diarmuid, after which Castledermot takes its name. The monastery was raided by the Vikings in the 9th century, but continued its existence at least until the 12th century. All that is left today is a splendidly reconstructed Romanesque doorway, which came from a church that has since vanished, a 10th century round tower, 65ft high with granite base, and two magnificent high crosses, probably 9th century. They are richly carved with depictions of the Crucifixion, Adam and Eve, Daniel in the Lions' Den & the Sacrifice of Isaac. The north cross shows David with his harp, one of the few images from this time of an Irish harp. These high crosses are among the best preserved of the granite crosses in the Barrow valley.
There is also a hog-back Viking grave stone, decorated with carved crosses and lozenges. It is a representation of a long house, a common type of Viking Age house. It is the only monument of its kind in Ireland.

Also in the churchyard are the foundations of a medieval church and early Christian and medieval grave slabs.

Things to do

Mullaghrelan wood:
Situated approximately 1 km from Kilkea Castle is Mullaghrelan Wood where there is a 3km trail. There is a rath-capped hill which stands 170m above sea level overlooking the River Griese. The main tree species found here are Norway spruce, Scots pine, Douglas fir, ash and beech. The fauna include fox, badger, squirrel and pheasant. The facilities include forest walks, a wishing well and a ring fort. Open to the public. No entrance charge.
















Attractions By Stages
Ballyshannon To Carlow
Carlow To Athy
Athy To Kildare
Kildare To The Heath
The Heath To Athy

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