Ahenny Village and Slate Quarries

The unique mining village of Ahenny sits above the beautiful River Lingaun Valley just outside Carrick-on-Suir.

This two street village was built by the Victoria Slate Mining Quarries Company in the 1860s for their workers. Now only one of the original streets, Vickers’ Street, remains in its entirety. Modelled on quarry workers’ cottages in Wales, these houses were finest workers’ cottages in the area at the time, boasting slate roofs, clay floors and latticed windows.

Slate is known to have been quarried in the Ahenny area from the 14th Century onwards and used in a number of important buildings including Ormond Castle in Carrick-on-Suir, Kells Priory in County Kilkenny, and even the Palace of Westminster in London. Quarrying in Ahenny was most predominant in the Victorian era, and a large community grew in the area. Today all quarrying activity has ceased and much of the quarry land is returning to nature.

Perhaps the most accessible and best known of the quarries is Ormond Quarry on the banks of the Lingaun River. In the 1990’s the Slate Quarries Festival was centred around the lake and to mark its first year a Slate Sculpture Park was created. The sculptures include ‘The Miner’s Egg’, ‘The Weir’, ‘The Dinosaur’, ‘Eternal Spirals’, and ‘Noah’s Ark’ perched on the cliff top overlooking the lake.

Although the festival no longer exists, an annual Mass is still held at the lake during early summer followed by music in the famous nearby Delaney’s Pub.

Directions: Take the R697 north from Carrick-on-Suir and after approx 6 km turn left to Faugheen. After 400 metres turn right for Ahenny and drive for approx 2.5 km to arrive at the village.

Ahenny High Crosses

The Ahenny High Crosses are believed to be all that remain of an early Irish monastery that once existed on the slopes of the Lingaun Valley near Carrick-on-Suir. They are found in a field to the east of the road with the ruins of a small church to their north.

The two ringed crosses and the remains of the plinth of a third cross are part of the Ossory group, and thought to date from the 8th or 9th Century AD making them some of the earliest examples of ringed High Crosses.

Constructed from local sandstone, the two remaining crosses display elaborate carvings of geometric design, interlacing spirals and trumpet patterns reminiscent of contemporary illuminated manuscripts and metalwork, and which is characteristic of early Irish art, now often described as Celtic.

The plinths of both crosses are carved with figures. The northern cross depicts what may be scenes of either local legend or of historic events, while the southern cross shows what appears to be biblical scenes.

Both crosses are topped with unusual capstones, one like a flat cap, and the other like a beehive which may depict an abbot’s or a monk’s headdress.

Other important High Crosses in the area can be found at Killamery to the northwest and at Kilkieran, about two kilometres southwest of Ahenny.

Directions: Take the R697 north from Carrick-on-Suir and after approx 6 km turn left to Faugheen. After 400 metres turn right for Ahenny and drive for approx 2.5 km where the Ahenny High Crosses can be found in a field on your right. Ahenny village is 200 metres further on.

Other Attractions near Ahenny

Kilkieran High Crosses

There were at least 4 High Crosses at this monastic site dating from the 9th Century. Apart from the High Crosses, practically nothing remains of the original monastery at Kilkieran. Originally, perhaps at the site the large present tomb, there would have been a stone church surrounded by the monks’ wooden huts.

The High Crosses were used as gathering places for prayers and sermons outside the church. Two of the crosses here have the well known ‘Celtic’ ringed heads and intricate carving. The shaft of the fourth cross survives here; other fragments of it are displayed at Jerpoint Abbey, Co Kilkenny.

Most of the carvings at Kilkieran are abstract spirals and animals, but the east panel on the base of the west cross has an illustration of 8 horsemen carved on it. The east cross has no decoration.

The spiral and animal interlace ornament on Irish High Crosses comes from a mixture of pagan Celtic and Germanic designs which remained popular in Christian religious art. Some of the interlace here is imperfect which is a very rare occurrence in Irish High Cross sculpture.

Kilkieran Cottage Restaurant overlooks the High Crosses. For opening hours and information click here http://kilkierancottage.ie

Directions: Take the R697 north from Carrick-on-Suir, and after approximately 6.5km turn right onto the R698 (at Moloney’s Pub). Kilkieran Cemetery is 400 metres on the right hand side of the road.

Knockroe Passage Tomb

The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year and has been marked by civilisations across the world for millennia.

Knockroe is a unique megalithic tomb because it boast two chambers in one cairn. One is aligned with the Winter Solstice rising sun, while the other is aligned with the setting sun.

Built over 5,000 years ago during the Neolithic period by the first farmers, Knockroe is thought to be 1,000 years older than Stone Henge or the Egyptian pyramids.

The site was first excavated in 1990. As well as the two chambers with a dual solar alignment, archaeologists uncovered the greatest collection of megalithic art outside of County Meath.

Archaeologists believe that Knockroe Passage Tomb is part of a large collection of interconnected megalithic sites in the area, including Bawnfree, the Kilmacoliver Stone Circle and the cairn on Slievenamon.

This large and unusually well preserved collection of monuments is testament to the human story from the Stone age to the present day, which has played out across the Slievenamon and its foothills and the Suir Valley region for 250 generations.

That human story continues as locals and visitors alike now gather each year to celebrate the Winter Solstice as the sun sets over the foothills of Slievenamon.

Directions: Follow the R697 north from Carrick-on-Suir for approx 9.5km and then turn left onto the L5099 (just before Delaney’s Pub) which will bring you to the Slate Quarries. Continue to a T-junction and turn right, continue approx 1km until you see a lane to your left. The passage tomb is approx 500m down the lane. It is advisable to park at the top of the lane.

Kilmacoliver Stone Circle and Looped Walk

Known locally as the ‘Burial Ground’, Kilmacoliver Stone Circle is believed to be a neolithic tomb more than 5,000 years old.

A 6km looped walk starting at the wildlife pond in the picturesque village of Tullahought will bring you through woodland, ancient, mossy lanes and fields to the summit of Kilmacoliver Hill where a great circle of rough, jagged rocks encloses the weather eroded stones of the megalithic tomb.

From the crown of Kilmacoliver Hill there are spectacular views of the Kilkenny flatlands to the north, the Comeragh Mountains to the south and Slievenamon and its foothills Carrigadoon and Curraghdobbin to the west.

For further information go to http://www.discoverireland.ie/Activities-Adventure/kilmacoliver-loop-walk/71561

Directions: Take the R697 north from Carrick-on-Suir, and after approximately 6.5km. Cross straight over the crossroads at Moloney’s Pub to the lane up the hill to Tullahought. Continue for approximately 2.8km to the Tullahought Wildlife area on the left. This is the starting point for the looped walk.