I went here on my birthday, it was a relatively nice afternoon and I had promised to make the evening meal for the family today and I told them I would make Apple and Blackberry crumble which they had never tried before, they had never even been blackberry picking. I was making Chilli con carne which they had also never tried; it’s not a big dish in this country.
Anyway on my way looking for blackberries I came across Ballintubber Abbey which was down a little side road with a long path across the field to the main building, I walked a little way and was able to pick all the blackberries I needed, then I saw the road ahead leading to the main entrance so I drove around the front, which was most impressive, with its large entrance hall and imposing stained glass windows, it has a main building which was intact, with smaller buildings around it that were obviously ruined, but kept in a very tidy and orderly way. These ruined sections were related to a previous church that had been built there and there was part of the well that St Patrick used to bless people, along with the arches built for decoration around the church.
I found out that it is the only Abbey to have been built by a king to still be in use today, and has always been used even when there was no roof. The ruined part was damaged during the protestant reformation as well as the main Abbey which was roofless but it continued to be used by the Catholics. In 1966 the nave was restored and the roof replaced in time for the 750th anniversary of the Abbeys’ foundation and in 1997 more of the buildings were restored with plans to restore it all as soon as funds allow. This year is its 800th year Anniversary.
The Abbey marks the beginning of Tochar Phadraig, the ancient pilgrimage route to Craogh Patrick (the holy mountain I climbed). It has been re-opened as a cross-country pilgrimage route and tourist trail.
There are regular mass services held here every day at certain times and you can even bring your own priest to conduct mass here if wished. I’m not a particularly religious person but since I have been on my travels I seem to be drawn to places related to religion, not just churches but the mountain I climbed was where St Patrick fasted for forty days and Downpatrick Head is said to have been where St Patrick formed a church, which have been two of my most favourite places since I have been in Ireland. There is a kind of serenity to all these places, whether that is just in the imagination or it really exists, I don’t know, but like the other places I have visited this place was so peaceful and tranquil.
It is not far from where I am staying and when I got back and told my hosts where I had been they told me Pierce Brosnan got married there and one of the members of Westlife. It has a very special ambience to it, even though it is 800 years old, it is also modern and the way it is decorated inside, I imagine would appeal to all ages.
The peace and tranquillity are obvious as soon as you arrive, there is a little carpark on the right of the church, even the gravestones here seem more well-kept here than I have seen in other graveyards. Once you enter the church a warm feeling envelops you, it’s not a huge building but imposing and majestic in a homely kind of way, there are candles burning and it feels really warm inside.
The stained glass windows are lovely here, very modern, I love the ancient ones with the scenes of Christ and biblical events depicted in them, but in this place it was more about the colour and the art and design and the way it all blended with the decorations of the church.
There was an area outside where some ruins still remain and an area where Sean Na Sagart, the notorious priest hunter was buried, a tree is now growing on the spot he was buried, known as the Sean Na Sagart tree.
I suppose it might be a strange place to go on your birthday but since I have been on my travels, I’m trying to go with the flow a bit more and not plan too far ahead, just go wherever the mood takes me whenever I feel, today it was Ballintubber, tomorrow it might be Matt Molloys pub! LOL!! It all depends on how much time I have too!