The High Road to Dublin

Shankill Castle started as a Butler tower-house near the ruins of an old church. Peter Aylward bought the lands from his wife's family, the Butlers, in 1708, and it was rebuilt and set in a formal landscape with a vista to the front and canal to the rear

This week The Kilkenny Observer welcomes ‘Cois Ceim’ with a very interesting tale of the journey from Dublin to Kilkenny.

With thanks to The Saturday Walkers Club

In ancient times a pathway ran from the ford over the Barrow at Leighlin Bridge by Shankill Castle through the village of Garryduff to Highrath Castle then over the river Nore to Outrath and down into Kilkenny.

When the course of this pathway was interrupted by the construction of the mills at Maddoxtown its continuation by Highrath was useless.

About this time the portion of the road from the railway crossing at Highrath down by Aughmolog was opened up as an approach road for the first time conducted into the city of Kilkenny. Fortunately we are in a position to establish the precise date of its opening.

In the year 1731 an Act was passed in the Irish Parliament for the repairing of the road leading from Kilcullen through the towns of Castledermot, Caherlough, and Laughlin Bridge and from thence to the city of Kilkenny.

The Act goes on to describe the hollow ways and of the many and heavy waggons frequently passing through same have made same ruinous and bad, and impassable in Winter.

The Act then proceeds that for the Surveying, Ordering, and keeping in repair the said Highway or road, one hundred and ninety peers and gentlemen are appointed trustees.

Any five or more of them can appoint and authorise or cause to be erected one or more gates, turn pikes on any part of the roads and also a toll house.

As this Act formed the Charter upon the turn pike system was first introduced into County Kilkenny.

This Act was passed in 1731 and the object of it was immediately entrusted to William Colles of Millmount for execution.

The works must have been carried on with Great Spirit for the Dublin road appears at least to have been fit for travelling by the year 1737. For it appears from an advertisement in an old Dublin newspaper “Pue’s Occurrences” January 1737 John Walsh who keeps the Kilkenny Stagecoach gives notice that he will set out from Dublin and Kilkenny at 7 o’clock in the morning on every Monday and Thursday during the Summer and run through in two days (accidents excepted). Twenty pounds of weight of luggage will be allowed for every person and one penny per pound to be paid for every pound over. The perils of travelling to Dublin about this time were well preserved in local traditions and gossip.

There were people who would tell you that they remember persons making their wills before venturing on a journey to the capital. John Walsh’s stage coach mentioned earlier seems to have been identical with the coach named “Fly Diligence” which started from the “Cross Keys” in High Street.

This was a vehicle of celebrity as it was the only means of conveyance from Dublin to Kilkenny during the latter half of the 18th Century.

John Banim the Kilkenny novelist left a record of the Diligence.

“In those days it was thought no waste of time or energy if the Diligence accomplished a journey of sixty Irish miles in forty hours, from or to the Metropolis”.

Days before his departure a tender gloom shaded his domestic circle machine.

Upon the doomed morning not only members of the family but friends escorted to the side of the machine, and there tearful and embraces were interchanged.

The scene on the return of the Diligence from Dublin, upon a hill outside the town (Fennel’s Hill,) many persons were assembled hoping to catch along the distant road a sight of the Diligence.

It was late on a winters evening but sufficient light still remained.

They had been assembled since before three o’clock, and had now strained their eyes more than an hour but without a promise of the expected object.

“The group descended the hill and returned to the city in despair and it was not until the following evening the Diligence arrived in town. It’s entrance through the streets as described by John Banim, at length there appeared an avaunt courier in the person of the town fool running and jumping towards the Cross Keys and flourishing a stick over his head crying out “we have her home at last” she is our own darling Dilly.”

Around the corner of the Parade two helpers trotted on bareheaded before the horses.

The driver who was enthroned in the huge box seat told how much he was satisfied with the unusual spirit of this approach to the Cross Keys. The expectant townspeople gathered around demanding to know if their friends were safe.

Amid renewed cheers the passengers alighted from the coach.

The well-known village of Outrath (1867) is situated about 2 miles South of Kilkenny City.

It is now far removed from when it was a major thoroughfare.

The grand views of the country side, Kilkenny city and the ancient cemetery gives the observer the impression of what was a very important site.

The modern word Outrath, comes from Outeraghi into Ought and prefixed to Rath.

Translated into Upper Rath because of its relative situation in the locality with High Rath.

Although situated on opposite sides of the River Nore were one time connected by a road.

The bosheen that now leads from the Waterford road by the churchyard of Outrath and directly onto the Bohertounish road, down through Loughboy, Patrick Street (Upper)down New Street (The Cool)Walkin Street and into Kilkenny city.

But at one time it took a course through Raggetsland into Warrington, down the Bennetts bridge road to Maddoxtown where it forded the river Nore at Colles Marble Works then directly to Highrath Castle, at which point it joined with the High road to Dublin.

The public road by Garryduff , Freestone Hill and the chapel of Pit did not enter Kilkenny but ran directly to Highrath Castle thence to Maddoxtown, forded the river, ran onto Outrath thence by Inchiholohan, Dama, Golden field, Ballinamara, and Tubridbritain into Munster.

The high road from that point by Lyrath and Aughmalogue into Kilkenny is a modern construction from the coming of the railway to Kilkenny.

It was by the Bohertounish road that Cromwell entered Kilkenny, after taking Gowran.

He set up camp at Outrath from where he could survey the surrounding countryside and city. Tradition holds that he pounded the castle and city walls with cannon fire, but this is unlikely from such a distance.

The summit of this hill is popularly known as Cromwells Hill.

Cannon were set up in St. Patricks church grounds from where he attacked the Castle and city walls.

After the Battle of the Boyne, King William camped at (Cannon Hill) Bennettsbridge and wrote his famous address to Kilkenny Corporation. The great highway from Leighlin bridge, Gowran to Bennetts bridge, Burnchurch, Ballymack, Mullinahone into Munster was the route that William took to Limerick.

• The ‘Cross Keys’ mentioned in this article as the departure point for the stagecoach was a tavern situated where Argos is now. It would later change its name to ‘The Coach and horse’

• Fennels Hill is where Altamount is now.

• * You will note the different spellings of the Aughmalogue bridge. The spelling varies depending on which book or records you read.

SOURCES: Kilkenny by John Hogan, 1884.

The Journal of the South East of Ireland Archaeological Society 1867


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