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.
This is a shorter version than my other Camino Cill Chuilinn, around 10kms instead of 16, and leaves out the Carnalway and Brannockstown elements.
Start from Market Square, walk 1.2kms to the Dun Ailinne Interpretive Park
Starting from Market Square, cross the bridge, noting its 700 years and how it was responsible for the formation of the town of today. At the bottom of the hill is Bardons, a former inn and the oldest building in Kilcullen providing accommodation, food and drink. On the way up the street look at the shape of the buildings and the streetscape, much of it as it has been since the 19th century and before. On the right a plaque marks a residence as the Old Courthouse.
Beyond the crossroads, the Cross and Passion College on the right was established by the sisters who came to the village in 1878. Inset in the bounding wall of the property is a milestone, one of the original set of distance markers from Dublin. It indicates 21 miles from the capital, which means that it is dated well before 1826 when the country changed to British imperial miles. Old Irish miles were longer. It is of interest too that the milestone is located on the other side of the bridge in the Taylor and Skinner Road Maps of Ireland, published in 1778. The milestone then represented the end of the first toll road in Ireland, from Dublin to Kilcullen, established in 1729.
The Old Kilcullen monastic settlement was established around 400AD, either directly by St Patrick or by one of his followers, St McTail. It became a significant religious centre and a focus for travellers who reputedly came by seven different roads. They wanted shelter, sustenance, and protection. Such settlements provided these. Not always successfully — in 932 Old Kilcullen was attacked by Vikings, who are said to have taken 1,000 people captive. It was attacked again in 1114, and the monastery 'burned white' according to some accounts. About 60 years later what had been a bishopric was reduced to the status of a parish. Old Kilcullen was in decline.
Walk 1.5kms to Yellow Bog Church
Leave the graveyard, and when you get back down to the road, take a left and walk 50 metres down the road to Victorian-era letterbox, located in the remains of an old wall just opposite Brennans Bar. Long disused, the box has been restored by the Old Kilcullen Area Community Association, and the remains of the original wall built up into a small landscaped seating area.
Then retrace your steps, take the next right by the triangle of grass and down the hill. Cross the main road at the bottom, then over the motorway bridge offering pleasant views of the Wicklow Mountains. A little further, on the right, is the churchyard of St John's Church of Ireland.
The piece is built into the stonework above St Brigid's Well and was commissioned in 1977 when the well area was being built in what it is today the Valley Park.
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.