Ballyknockan the Granite Stonecutters Village

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Village Treasure Trail

For those who feel like a leisurely stroll to seek out the secrets of the village lets go on a treasure trail. You will find the Stormount Castle Lion, the Virgin, the landgrabbers cottage and many more items of architectural and historical significance.

Active Map of Ballyknockan
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small cross cross commerating quarry workers Rejected Stormount lion The Land Grabbers cottage the village pump Mother and Child old cinema Treasure trail map hover over the green marks and click to images)

Park in the picnic area at the Old School House. You are welcomed to Ballyknockan by a granite slab with an inscription. What is this inscription ?

From this vantage point you can see the Oghill/Troman Brook which varies from being a raging torrent feeding the lake with the rains off Moanbane to a quiet little stream. The bridge is pre 1838 and has pointed stonework on the upstream side helping to break the force of the winter torrents. Looking west you will see two roads the main road and one grass track (The Old Road) bound on both sides by tall granite walls .

Follow the Old Road until you come to a narrow lane to your left, this is Bull Lane, it will lead you up to the quarries. It is passable but you will need boots and briar proof clothing. We will continue on along the Old Road, passing on the left the musicians rock, a flat rock where the walking crowds were entertained by fiddlers and box players on their way home from dances in Lacken. Moving along  we come to the village where you will begin to see the superb stonework in the buildings. In Ballyknockan through buildings was how the stonecutters displayed their craftsmanship. Their magnificent work, recognised in many of the buildings in Dublin, can be found here. On your left you will see a well kept outhouse with a loft . On your right there is an outbuilding with a chamfered /corner which meets the main road, here you will find is a crows foot or height mark, I am not shure how valid this is but ballyknockan is 700 to 800 feet above sea level. At all times look for the chimneys they are made from carefully squared blocks and fitted with precision. As you walk to the left on the main road you will see an old ruin which has two fine chimneys still standing.

There are more ornate chimneys found on larger houses in the area which reflected the status within the village of quarry owners. The doorways and window surrounds are also items to be observed.



granite window surround

House window:



Now take a left turn and head up to the quarries. At the top of the road veer left at the newly reconstructed Laurel Lodge which in its reconstruction has incorporated granite in the window sills and porch. The outbuildings are a very attractive feature. Moving along you will soon come to the lion, one of the pieces rejected, which was intended for the entrance avenue to Stormont in Belfast. Beside this lies a banding stone.

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On the opposite side there are two piers leading to the Granite House. This is a well featured house with fine chimneys an ornate porch and windows as shown above. Continuing along the road you will come to the quarries. Please pay heed to the signs as the quarries are dangerous. These quarries were in existence before 1838 and have recently ceased operation due to imported granite from China. They descend 20 meters down into a watery abyss and large cranes overhang them. Take a moment to imagine the buzzing activity of some 400 people working on this site when it was in its former glory. Quarrymen removing the large lumps of rock to the rhythm of pounding sledge hammers feeding the chiselling stonecutters who shaped the granite. At the granite festival of  September 1998 a tall granite celtic cross was erected in remberance of the stonecutters and quarrymen of times gone. This cross stands in front of the quarries.

From here you have a panoramic view of the lake. On weekends you can see sailing boats using the gusts off the mountains to zig zag across their course. If here on a windy day you might have the pleasure of seeing how a Kat is uprighted and windsurfers zip across at high speed.

You may continue along this road to a white cottage at its end. Just before you arrive there is a pipe on your left where you can taste the purest water which has been filtered through a large bank of granite. Many locals come here to collect pure spring water. At the entrance to the white cottage is a forge where blacksmiths made and sharpened the quarrymen's and stonecutter's array of tools.

Now return to Laurel Lodge and where you veered left go straight until you come to a grass track leading off to the right. Here you will find the Virgin. It is a sculpture of Our Lady and Child which was rejected by the commissioning priest because the child was held by the right arm and not the left. If you search the nearby walls you will find some rocks with inscriptions.

Backtrack to the road or if you are feeling energetic turn right and keep right until you come to a gate this will lead you through the forest track. The track goes on for a mile and a half and the prize is a fabulous view across the planes of Kildare. About a quarter of a mile up this track in the fields on the left you will find a old granite cross presumably another reject.

If not so energetic walk back down to the village to Cullens Pub. You will find a pump with granite trough recently restored. On passing the pump continue down the main road where you will find a fine example of a granite cottage on your left. Just past this cottage go left signposted Ballyknockan Inn and follow a well fitted wall leading to The Barn Cinema a fine building in which the dancing scene in the film Widows Peak was staged. Go right just before this Barn and follow the high granite wall passing the entrance to the Band house cottage . You are now going down Horse Lane which on both sides has towering walls. At the end of this lane you will find the Land League house of which only the gable end remains and carries an inscription.

It is now time to take a rest so walk down to the shores of the lake and enjoy the view. After you have rested continue back passing the Land League gable until you come to the main road. If you go straight on you will come back to the car park where you started.

I hope you enjoyed the walk.

If you want further information on the area with historical data you could pick up a copy of the book 'Ballyknockan a Wicklow Stonecutters' Village' by Seamas O'Maitiu and Barry O'Reilly.

 

 

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