My Top 10 of Everything: Local Gems

This is VERY Local – even for me. This is my tribute to Covid and is specifically in honour of yesterday’s announcement from the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) that the 5km restrictions are continuing for at least another 6 weeks! 6 more weeks!! At Least!!

I’m luckier than most – I’ve the sea in front of me (ignoring the fact that I cannot therefore travel 5km in that direction!) and the foothills of the Dublin Mountains behind me. I can walk the beach or climb a bit of a trail, depending on the mood (rarely in the mood for a climb to be honest!). The following treasures are all well within my boundaries. You’ll recognise some from other posts and challenges but I’m pulling them together as a reminder that things could be worse – even though I see them over and over and over……and will be seeing them over and over and over…… 6 more weeks!

1. Rathmichael Cross

I think this cutie is my favourite, tucked away in bushes along a woodland trail. The 12th century cross is one of a series of crosses – known locally as the Fassaroe Crosses – all believed to be the work of the same stonemason.  It’s thought that the crosses might have marked a route between churches in the locality or perhaps marked the site of another church,  now long gone.  Its an unusual cross in that the crucifixion is depicted on both front and back faces. Note the stones left as offerings by passersby .  Its quite safe just tucked in here at the side of the lane  – no one will dare move it –  a series of misfortunes is said to have befallen a group of men sent to take the cross at the bidding of a local collector of antiquities!


2. Kiltuck Cross

This is another of the Fassaroe Crosses. It stands in the grounds of the local Catholic Church but was originally located in the ruins of an ancient church about 1km away. That church was mentioned in a Papal Bull of 1179 so that’s how the crosses have been dated from around that period. One side has a crucifixion scene while the other has a face – you can make out the eyes, nose and mouth. Luckily the plants are partly concealing the rather ugly plinth!

3. Ráth

Ráth was an earthen ringfort found throughout the less rocky parts of the country.   They didn’t exist for military reasons but were used primarily as family dwellings or for housing livestock. They reckon there would have been up to 50,000 such structures on the island dating from the Bronze Age right up to around 1,000AD. Over 40,000 sites are still identified as Ráths. They came in all sizes, with an outer bank or ditch enclosing at least one dwelling and animal enclosures.

The grassy remains of the earthen banks are just about discernible in this local Ráth.


4. Lead Mines

Every Dubliner knows the Lead Mines Chimney. Occupying a beautiful scenic location, it offers amazing views of Dublin Bay and environs. The lead mines were built in 1807 after a vein of lead was found within the hill. Smelting works were constructed in the valley and the chimney was built on top of the hill to offset toxic fumes (unfortunately, many workers still died from lead poisoning, leading to the area being dubbed ‘Death Valley’ by locals).

Smelting was finally discontinued in 1913 but the chimney has survived. Standing about 26 metres tall, old photos show it about a third taller. The top section, along with the lower steps, was removed at some stage for safety

5. Puck’s Castle

Not far from the Lead Mines are the ruins of 16th century Puck’s Castle.  It would have been a fortified homestead and there are many similar buildings from that era around the city.    Puck is derived from the Irish ‘púca ‘meaning ghost or spirit.   I don’t know how the castle got its name – some say it was built using sacred stones from a nearby ráth – but I can tell you that a fairy piper is often seen jumping from rock to rock while playing his pipes!


6. The Rathdown Slabs

Dating back to the 12th century, Old Rathmichael Church was in use until it fell to ruin in the 16th century.


Remember this headstone for later……


Look at this treasure –  Grave slabs,  known as the Rathdown Slabs,   were original grave markers from the Viking era.   Attached to the church walls,  they are well worn by time and the elements  but we can still make out the pattern or motif.


7. The Skull Hole

This is what we locals call The Skull Hole.   Its actually the remains of a round tower dating back to at least the 9th century.  Located beside Rathmichael Church, its charming name comes from the fact that it was used at one stage to store skulls and bones from nearby graves…

There are a few theories …. one is that the graveyard was being cleared to create extra space and some remains were ‘deposited’ in the hole rather than being re-interred.

Another theory suggests that bones became exposed over time: new coffins weighed more than old ones and so when a grave was opened,  the old remains were dug up,  the new coffin lowered and then the older coffin put back on top.   Gradually,  the old coffins disintegrated,  exposing their contents to the elements.   Those uncovered bones were put into the handiest receptacle available!

It is also said that the hole is actually the entrance to a tunnel going down to the coast.     This may be true as there is evidence of an underground passage close to the tower.   This would be a Souterrain –  a passage built in the Early Christian period as an escape route from invading Vikings.   

A piper (not the one up at Puck’s Castle!) was once seen entering the tunnel playing his pipes – but was never seen again!


8. Ballybrack Dolmen

Look at this beauty – just a few minutes away and clearly visible from the main road. A Dolmen is a type of megalithic tomb. with upright stones supporting a large flat capstone or ‘table’. This wonderful example has stood here for about 2500 years!

Although it appears to be in good condition, some of the side stones and a back stone are missing. The capstone measures over 2 metres in length and about 2 metres wide – imagine the weight!

The underside of the capstone is completely flat, looking almost polished.

Surrounded by roads and housing, its brilliant that the Dolmen has survived – hats off to the planners for working around it instead of levelling it. When the nearby houses were being built, a small scale excavation was carried out but no artifacts were uncovered.

9. Old Killiney Church

This old church and graveyard nestles among some very fine houses on the side of Killiney Hill. There has been a religious presence here since the 6th century. Léinín, a local chieftain, and his seven daughters converted to Christianity, and together they went on to found a monastic community on this spot.  The oldest part of the church dates from the 11th century with an addition in the 16th century. The earliest gravestone found here dates from 1791.

Killiney was anglicised from Cill Iníon Léinín which translates as Church of the daughters of Léinín ( Cill = church / iníon = daughters / Léinín = the chieftain’s name)

10. Martello Tower

There are many such towers to be seen along stretches of our coastline. There were 26 constructed in Dublin Bay alone. They were built in 1804/05 by the British to warn of any incoming French invasion. They were always built within sight of each other. This particular one – imaginatively named ‘Martello No. 7‘ – is a bit different from the rest because it was actually built about a half kilometre from the sea. But, located up on a hill, it would still have served as a useful lookout post.

While many towers have disappeared due to development, this one has been beautifully restored – it even has a working cannon mounted on the roof! There is also a coach house, an artillery store, a tool shed, a gunner’s cottage and a gunpowder store. The tower is now privately owned but is sometimes open to the public (I’ve yet to get inside).

Remember the headstone back in Rathmichael Church?


So there you have it – from Neolithic tombs through to early Christian symbols and signs of Viking settlement, on to medieval strongholds and British occupation – and not forgetting 19th century industry – Ireland’s history is truly encapsulated in my little corner of the world!

Stay Safe y’all

28 thoughts on “My Top 10 of Everything: Local Gems

  1. I love when history is blending with stories or legends🙂 Thank you for sharing them!
    Sorry to hear about your new restrictions, Stay safe! xx

    1. Glad you enjoyed – I’m very lucky to have so much on my doorstep.
      No huge surprise really – they’d been dropping broad hints for a while…’ll pass…. someday!

  2. Six more weeks! I know, I know, we’re the same here – I think. To be honest, I forget from day to day what we’re supposed to be doing and who we’re supposed to be avoiding. I seem to drift through life in a fog nowadays, I get up late, my hair’s a mess as I can’t do it myself, never have managed that and the hairdresser isn’t due to open for another 8 weeks. At least I’m booked in that first day! You have nice spots around you for walking, I’m a bit more limited here now that we’re not supposed to go on buses because I had to sell the car last year as i developed wet macular degeneration very quickly and very badly, so driving is out. That only leaves the beach really, and a cliff walk, and honestly, I’m bored now. I can’t see any difference in the water, or the grass, or the sky. (Pull yourself together girl, and stop moaning!!! – That’s my mother speaking!)

    1. I’m sure you’re like myself Mari – less inclined to make an effort compared to last year….. You are certainly very restricted without bus travel – although, in my situation here, the car moves once per week for the supermarket run and that’s it…. don’t know when last I bought patrol.
      Speaking of hair – Tom cut mine this morning!!!! But that’s another story!!!😣 😖

      1. Last lockdown my neighbour cut my hair, but so badly that I swore to leave it this time even if I looked like a witch – which I think I do! If my husband were still alive he could have done it as his mother was a hairdresser and he was adept with the scissors. His father was a tailor so when he died I lost both someone handy with the hairdryer and a great alteration hand. Now buttons fall off, hems droop, sleeves need cropping and as for trouser lengths, well turn-ups are back in my house!

  3. I am with you, Marie – six more weeks was something I didn’t really expect, it would be nice to finally reach the point where we could at least move freely within our county or a neighbouring one. I am glad to see you have a lovely backyard with lots to see and do. My sisters lives in a two bedroom apartment in Dublin suburbs, far away from the ocean and the mountains, and that’s why, as we are living stones throw away from the beach, I sometimes feel a little bit guilty about complaining about ongoing restrictions and lack of travel opportunities. Take care and hang in there, my friend. Aiva 🙂 xxx

    1. I really do try not to whinge too much because I’ve so many advantages here on my doorstep. We also have family in suburbia with daily walks through neighbouring housing estates. It could be a lot worse. But you’re right – I’d settle for the freedom of the county at this stage! Maybe in April. Meanwhile, its the little things – the stretch in the evenings and the odd sunny day…. Mind yourselves there in the west…… XXXXM\rie

      1. I agree with both of you above, we mustn’t whinge when we have lovely scenery on our doorstep, room to move about and space to ourselves. I have friends living in Birmingham which is horrible at the moment and one of my sisters lives in Sweden where they have had no lockdown at all but all seems well with them – except the awful weather!

      2. I’m so ‘institutionalised’ here at this stage that I can’t get my head around the fact that there are people in the world – like your sister in Sweden for instance – who have freedom of movement and for whom life goes on almost as normal. I’m constantly taken aback when I see crowd scenes or just normal street scenes on the news – I keep thinking everyone is like us!!

  4. Sorry to hear you are still on the 5km lockdown for another 6 weeks Marie. We have never had that type of lockdown here, but we still stay as local as possible. I am with you, exploring what is right on our doorstep, like it is the grandest trip we will ever go on. We will get through this, but it will be a chore. Stay well and keep exploring every inch of your 5 k lockdown area. Hugs Allan

    1. We all feel as though its never going to lift…. but….. it is what it is, as they say. Everyone is desperately looking forward to the summer and some level of freedom. Meanwhile, we’ll keep walking – buying a new house on every road, picking the best garden, eyeballing oncoming walkers to see who will yield and step on to the road……😅. XXXMarie

      1. Oh, I love that game of “chicken” wondering who has to walk out in traffic to keep physical distance. We find it is almost always us old folks. Most younger walkers do not seem to get physical distancing requirements. Happy walking. Allan

      2. Same here – teens / early 20’s were pretty good during the first lockdown but as a group in general they don’t bother as much any more. And they’ve stopped bothering to pass in single file. Definitely succumbed to Covid fatigue!

  5. Fascinating Marie and even though it is at least another 6 weeks, it looks like you could be in worse places – let’s hope we get the weather to enjoy whatever is within our 5 K.
    Thanks for all the posts – I really enjoy them.

    1. Thanks Siobhán for your nice words…. this blog has been a Godsend really – it has filled many hours this past year. Despite the TOTAL irrelevancy of a travel blog, I’ve managed to find something to write about almost every week. Hope you are all keeping ok…… XXXMarie

  6. So much history so close to your home! I loved reading about and seeing your photos of those old crosses, ruined churches and the dolmen.

    But I know what you mean – it doesn’t matter how much there is in our area that is of interest to others, we’ve all seen for too much of our own patch during the past year. We have the ‘one hour and stay local’ limit on our exercise until the end of March and then we should at least be allowed to drive to somewhere else for a walk, although still not to stay overnight away from home. At the start of lockdown there was some novelty in discovering places near home that I’d not really visited or appreciated but that wore off long ago.

    1. We were the same – of the 10 things I picked, I reckon I discovered 5 of them during the first lockdown. We were actually embarrassed at how much we didn’t know about our locality. But its been a while since anything stirred an interest – apart from spotting new cars in January!! 😅

  7. Your local area is beautiful – it’s amazing that you have so much history on your doorstep. Here’s to hoping this 6 weeks go fast, I think every week feels more like a slog!

    1. You’re right Hannah – this is a lovely area. I’m very lucky. The 6 weeks will pass of course – but we’re all a bit doubtful that much will happen even then…. we strongly suspect that restrictions will continue after that… Roll on summer!!!

  8. Brilliant Marie. I never really saw anything of that locality during my time in Dublin. So much history and much only vaguely documented, if at all. I though all raths were for fairies, but maybe it’s only some of them 🙂 (I gather the Irish folk are getting pretty annoyed with the Government right now.)

    1. Well – fairies or no fairies – many people are very reluctant to tamper with a rath…. You’ll see oddities all over the country – clumps of trees in the middle of fields and so on… I don’t think they were called fairies actually – little people – and they were fine as long as you left them alone but they could do you a great deal of harm if you interfered with or damaged their rath!!!

      Ah Roy – everyone is tired – very fed up …. a lot of cracks beginning to appear – protests, student parties…. I feel very sorry for young people in general – and those living alone. We’re at level 5 until early April but its unlikely that there will be much easing of restrictions until May at least. Numbers were dropping for a while but are plateauing so the Government is as frustrated as the rest of us. They can’t win. If they open up everything, the numbers will rise again, If everything remains shut, we’ll all just go nuts…. Schools are reopening at the moment so that’s a big move. Passed a school this morning – 3 mothers chatting at the gate after the kids went in, no social distancing and only one with a mask….. you just can’t tell some people…..

  9. Yet more ideas for our next trip over the sea. Wonderful and tempting. Now I really am going to have to start a comprehensive plan for it and including all the beautiful locations we missed last time. Thank you. Mx

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