Last Thursday, 5th September, we enjoyed a wonderful day in St. Mullins, Co. Carlow with our retired colleagues from Carlow RTA. They organised the guided tour of this historical site which is associated with St. Moling who founded a monastery there. He was born in 614AD, was a prince and during his lifetime became a poet, artist, craftsman as well as a priest. He became Bishop of Ferns and Glendalough and was made Archbishop of Ferns and successor to St. Aidan in 691. He died at St. Mullins in 696 and his relics were held in Temple Mór until they were destroyed in the great fire of 1138.
Brigid Fox of Carlow RTA was our wonderful guide for the day. History can sometimes be very dry but Brigid was able to bring the characters, historical facts and stories to life with the depth of her knowledge, her sense of humour, knowledge of local characters, her anecdotes and wonderful engaging delivery. It made the day!!
St. Moling’s Well
We started our journey at the well of St. Moling which has been a place of pilgrimage since medieval times and the well is still venerated for its powers of healing. In this area you will see a bronze statue of St. Moling and a series of brass wall plaques that illustrate stories and legends about the saint.
From the well we proceeded to the historic graveyard with its distinctive 18th century ornamented headstones enclosing a Penal Altar and graves from the Battle of the Boyne and Battle of Aughrim, of Kavanagh Kings of Leinster, and of local 1798 rebels.
Motte and Bailey
There is also the remains of a Motte and Bailey in this area. The Anglo-Norman invasion, led by Richard de Clare (Strongbow), took place in 1169. They were attracted to St. Mullins by the presence of a thriving monastic site and Viking settlement.
By 1171, a manor house was established with a typical motte and bailey castle. This for a time was in the possession of Raymond le Gros before it passed to his heirs, the Carews.
The motte was a flat-topped mound of earth which was surrounded by a ditch or fosse and fortified with a palisade fence with a tall watch tower on top. It was built to dominate passage and the crossing on the river Barrow, which is tidal to St. Mullins. Attached at one side was a rectangular bailey or banked enclosure which would have housed the castle’s garrison and household.
Our final stop on the guided tour was St. Mullins Heritage Centre. The award-winning St Mullins Heritage Centre is located in a former Church of Ireland church, built in 1811. The building is bordered by historic ruins and the graveyard.
The Centre was opened in the 1980s in order to preserve the rich heritage of the townland, by presenting an exhibition which interprets its varied history, and by displaying a collection of artifacts. The exhibition is open to the public all year round, and the centre also offer tours for individuals and groups by prior arrangement.
The Mullicháin Cafe
At the end of our tour we were rightly famished with the hunger and retired to the Mullicháin Cafe for lunch. The Mullicháin Café is a tastefully restored 18th century canal storehouse which was used to store grain and all kinds of goods that were transported on the canal line from 1760.
We arrived during a very busy lunchtime but great credit is due to the management for the tasty food that was efficiently and promptly served with a smile by the welcoming and friendly staff.
We were blessed with the weather, the wonderful guide, the food and the conversations with colleagues new and “old”. Thanks to Carlow RTA for inviting us to join them.