For a number of years I had the idea to devise a walk through Kilcullen heritage and history, but it was consistently shelved because of pressure of more immediate working demands. However, a query early in 2019 from serial 'peace walker' Donal Corcoran of Naas, about whether there was any interesting walking in Kilcullen, pushed me to get stuck in. I don't suggest it is a complete representation of everything to see and think about in our community, but it does take the reader and walker through several thousand years of what is behind today's Kilcullen. Obviously, I drew on many sources, locally and further afield, while compiling this journey. They are too many to list, so I take this opportunity to acknowledge them all. Enjoy.
For those who want to pare down the walking or who are short of time, there is a shorter version of the Camino Cill Chuilinn here, around 10km instead of 16km.
Start from Market Square, walk 3.4 kms to St Patrick’s Church of Ireland, Carnalway
As you leave the square, going north you face the part of the village which 19th century writer Thackeray said 'tumbles down a hill and struggles up another'. It was probably formidable for the horses and coach transport used at the time. Before the base of the hill, the 'Dublin House', previously the residence of the Brennan family for more than 120 years, juts out and narrows the thoroughfare. Beside it you pass Bentley's Lane, which leads to what's left locally of an ancient road built by the FitzEustace family to link their castles at Castlemartin and Ballymore. The name comes from the owner of an inn which operated a few yards into that road. Further up, note the imposing saddlery firm of Berney Bros, one of the oldest businesses in the town, well worth a stop to savour the wonderful smell of leather. As you ascend the hill, there's a line of small artisan cottages, built sometime around 1911 to replace a row of less quality dwellings. Note the one which has been restored to show their original stonework.
At the top of the hill, at Dorcas House turn right onto Logstown. The house was built in 1878 by Thomas Tickell, Secretary to the Lords Justices of Ireland, probably at the behest of his wife Clotilda Eustace of Harristown. He endowed it to carry out locally the work of the Dorcas Society, a charitable organisation which developed during the 1800s in England and Ireland, and later in the Americas. It was named after Dorcas, or Tabitha, a female disciple of Jesus. A branch established in Douglas on the Isle of Man in 1834, in thanksgiving for the town being spared in a major cholera outbreak, provided blankets, clothing and other necessities for people in poor circumstances. There's little record of the activities of the Kilcullen Dorcas Society, though it is referenced in a collection comprising 75 letters from Maria La Touche, now in the Morgan Library and Museum on Madison Avenue at 36th Street, New York. In one of which she asks if her 'order for stockings' for the Kilcullen Dorcas Society had been delivered.
Walking along Logstown, the strip of formerly local authority houses was the second such estate in Kilcullen. Like the much larger Nicholastown at the south end of town, all the homes are now in private ownership. Once beyond the turn in the road at the end of the houses, you are outside the town, walking along with what was known locally as Nolan's Bog on the left. The road climbs up from the low section, and there's a fine view of a traditional thatched farm home, The Hermitage, on the left. Shortly afterwards, on the right, you reach the gates of Newberry Stud. From here, the road is probably part of the original FitzEustace road to Ballymore, with Newberry Stud on the right as far as Carnalway Cross where five roads converge.
Turn right here, and you arrive immediately at St Patrick's Church of Ireland. There has been a church on the site since the 13th century. The current one is a superb example of religious architecture, with strong 11th-century style Hiberno-Roman detailing inside and out, even to the gutters. This work was carried out in 1894 under the supervision of the Diocesan Architect James Franklin Fuller. But he failed to make sure that foundations were included, and between 2000-2005 a major remedial work had to be carried out to save the building from collapse. The work was funded by local donations. One of the significant treasures in the church is a stained glass window by Harry Clarke.
From St Patrick's Church walk 1.1 kms to Carnalway Bridge
It is a pleasant walk to the bridge, built over the Liffey in 1788 by John La Touche, whose family had bought the original Harristown Estate from the Eustaces. On the way, a very pretty roadside farmhouse on the right with roses climbing around its front is to be admired. It is worth pausing a while on the bridge itself to watch the river meander on its journey towards Kilcullen. From there via Newbridge and Celbridge it eventually flows into Dublin Bay. On the upstream side is Harristown House itself, owned originally by David La Touche II (1704-1785), a successful businessman and banker in Dublin, who had invested considerably in lands beyond the capital. When a national bank was proposed by the Irish House of Commons in 1782, David la Touche II was one of the commissioners appointed to receive subscriptions for stock, along with his three sons David III, John and Peter. The Bank of Ireland charter was successfully negotiated by David III in May 1783. He was then elected as the first Governor of the Bank of Ireland, and his brothers John and Peter were appointed Directors. John La Touche subsequently took up residence in Harristown, which he had inherited. The estate remained in the La Touche family possession until the 1920s.
From Brannockstown Baptist Church walk 4 kms to St John’s Church of Ireland, Yellow Bog
The road takes you out of Brannockstown village and between the Gilltown and Sallymount studs, and then New Abbey Stud on the right until you reach Mile Mill cross. Walk through the cross and on to the next turn left, where the Mill Stream runs under the road on its way to the Liffey. Walking along towards St John's Church, you are in the area of the Kilcullen Stream, which joins with the Mill Stream before it flows on to the Liffey. The church is at the next crossroads. According to author and historian James Durney, the present building was erected in the early 1800s on a site which was possibly where a previous church had been built to replace the ancient one beside the round tower of Old Kilcullen. Various local families are interred in the surrounding graveyard, many of whom are commemorated with plaques and stained glass windows. They include the Blackers of Castlemartin, and some of the items in the church were donated by them. Among these a Telford organ and an oak panelling in the chancel.
From the monument walk 1.3 kms to the Dun Ailinne Interpretive Park
From St Brigid's Well walk 0.3 kms to the Grotto and Kilcullen Parish Church
Beyond the well, take the steps to the upper path and then cross the road into the grounds of Kilcullen Parish Church. The grotto in honour of Our Lady of Lourdes and St Bernadette was a gift from local businessman James J Quinn in the 1950s and is the location for nightly parish Rosary during the month of May.