Castledermot is a small town in south Kildare with
a population of approximately 800. The name of Castledermot (Diseart
Diarmada) originated in an early Christian monastic settlement of about
This magnificent town with its round towers and castles, is situated on the River Lerr. Originally called Diseart Diarmada, and later Tristle-Dermot. A must for historians, this town contains St. James's Church, a Hibernian-Romanesque arch, a round tower, two high crosses and a number of ancient stones and grave slabs.
A step through a gateway at the southern end of this straggling town takes visitors back 800 years in an instant, into the stillness of a 13th century Franciscan friary, which was plundered by Robert Bruce in 1317. Later, in 1541, the friary was suppressed. Only the walls of the church remain, attached to a square building known as the Abbey Castle, which possibly dates from the 15th century and was where the monks lived. The ruins are set back from the main road by only two or three feet, which makes it all the more remarkable that they have survived for so long. The solid stonework is well preserved, seeming as secure and strong as the day it was first assembled. It is a thought-provoking place, worth spending a few moments in, pondering on the life of its original inhabitants. The key is available from the caretaker's house next door.
A short walk from the friary is a churchyard just off the main road, which goes back even farther in time, to the 12th century and even to the 9th. It lies on the site of a monastery founded around 800 by the father of St. Diarmuid, after which Castledermot takes its name. The monastery was raided by the Vikings in the 9th century, but continued its existence at least until the 12th century. All that is left today is a splendidly reconstructed Romanesque doorway, which came from a church that has since vanished, a 10th-century Round Tower, 65ft high with granite base, and two magnificent High Crosses, probably 9th century. Richly carved with depictions of the Crucifixion, Adam and Eve, Daniel in the Lions' Den, the Sacrifice of Isaac, these High Crosses are among the best preserved of the granite crosses in the Barrow valley.
The North Cross shows David with his harp, one of the few images from this time of an Irish harp. Also in the churchyard are the foundations of a medieval church and early Christian and medieval grave slabs.
Things To See
Situated 5 miles from Athy in the Castledermot direction is the oldest inhabited castle in Ireland. The castle was built in 1180 by Hugh De Lacy for Walter de Riddlesford and afterwards passed to the Earls of Kildare. In 1414 the O'Mores and O'Dempseys were defeated here by the Lord Justice. The castle was nearly rebuilt in 1426 by Lord Kildare. It was restored in 1849.
Castledermot Round Tower:
The round tower of Castledermot is situated to the North of the Protestant church in Castledermot and attached to it by an ancient high, narrow passage 8ft in length stands the Round Tower. Its construction is attributed to Cairbre or Carpeus, head of the piety of Leinster who died in 919AD. Roundish granite boulders cemented together with quarry stones and mortar were used in the construction of the tower. The original conical roof is gone. In the top storey there are four windows facing the cardinal points of the compass.
Situated approx. one km from Kilkea Castle is Mullaghrelan wood. The length of the trail is 3km. There is a rath-capped hill which stands 170m above sea level overlooking the River Greese. Main tree species found here are Norway spruce, Scots pine, Douglas fir, ash and beech. The fauna include fox, badger, squirrel and pheasant. The facilities include forest walks, a wishing well and a ring fort. Open to the public and there is no entrance charge.