(Spots of beauty and historical interest)
The Millers Bridge
Mount Leader Lodge
Less than one kilometer from Millstreet town just off the road on the left stands one of the finest examples of a medieval Fort. A similar one was excavated a short distance from here in the sixties and was found to contain several passage-ways and cavities or small rooms, also an oghan stone bearing one of the oldest forms of writing in Europe. The stone is housed in the local museum as well as pictures of the interior of the Fort. Legend has it that this fort was at the top this the field on which it now stands and that it moved to it’s present location over-night, and also the in years gone when a ploughman was ploughing this field, the plough hit a stone and it was heard dropping away down underground, frightening both horses and ploughman. A fine view of Mount Leader house (now in ruins) can be seen from this point.
This fine Grotto was erected in honour of Our Lady in the Marian year of 1954. The local people contributed to the entire cost and it has remained a place of veneration ever since, either for the casual passer-by or the organised prayers groups who pay special homage there in the month of May.
Some people say that it was from the Mill which was once in operation that the town Millstreet got it’s name. However there is no concrete evidence to bear out that belief, or even what the mill produced. In the mid-eighteen hundreds a traveling clogger is said to have settled at this point for four years. The wood from the black elder trees which grew profusely around here at the time was said to be very suitable for making the soles for the clogs. This type of footwear was quite common in those days and were worn by both men and women. The black elder tree is still very evident in the area but is kept under control due to modern farming methods.
This Lodge is a refurbished version of the old entrance lodge which housed the gateman and his family. It was the gateman’s job to open and close the gate for all passing horses and carriages or the gentry on horse-back and also to keep out any undesirables. There was an enameled sign on the gate proclaiming in bold writing, NO THOROUGHFARE. Today it is the entrance gate to part of the Munster Way, where all are free to roam and enjoy the local scenery and sample it’s peaceful tranquility.
A little further along the main road beyond the lodge on the left lies a stretch of low-lying flat land which was used as a race course in the early part of the century and also as a football field for a while.
Slanan Well was a place of great veneration right up to the 1980’s. The old people had great faith in it’s healing powers and often told stories of great favours granted there. It is situated in the fields about two hundred yards to the right of the main road as you approach Kilmeedy bridge. It is just one of a number of very interesting features which make up this historical location. Just beside it stands the tomb in which are buried the Leaders of the Mount Leader estate, which is encased in a stone built protective outer wall with iron railing on top. Standing stones in various formations mark the burial places of others but as these stones bear no names or markings it is not known who they were. There is also a square or rectangular space said to be the site of a church oratory. St Ide was the saint connected with the place and the local town land of Kilmeedy got it’s name from her church. Legend has it that she was a sister of St Lateran of Cullen, St Abbey of Ballyvourney .
The present day structure replaces the old winding humpbacked bridge proved inadequate for heavy traffic. It was a great meeting place in years gone by when rural areas were thickly populated. Games like pitch and toss, football, chases a races, music and dancing and general merry making. Looking west from the bridge one can see the house furthest up on the side of Clara Mountain where a very dramatic event took place at the turn of the century. On a cold stormy winter night a baby was born into the Desmond family who had already had four children. Just as the child was born a thunder-bolt struck the house, setting it’s thatched roof alight and burning the home to the ground. The family took flight and received shelter at a neighbours house further down the mountain. One of those children later became Mayor of Cork City and was the father of the present day politician Barry Desmond.
Built in 1436 Kilmeedy Castle was never a residential castle, but it was a military stronghold, built to command the wild mountain pass between Cork and Kerry. The by-road that runs past the castle was the main highway between Cork and Kerry and was the scene of many raids and robberies on the merchants who used it. It was the duty of soldiers at the Castle to keep order. The castle was damaged by Cromwell’s army in the late sixteen hundreds. It was further defaced by local tradesmen who hacked away it’s limestone curbstones and used them as corner stones in many houses in the locality. Some of these stones can be seen appearing through the plaster in the old dwelling house adjacent the castle. The stairs was also broken near the top by farmers who had a problem with cattle climbing to the top in summer to get away from the flies. An underground path leads from under the ground floor to some unknown place out of the castle walls. The national flag is flown form the castle top on special occasions, such as the coming of the Pope to Ireland and to hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest in Millstreet.
The road beyond the castle leads to some of Ireland’s most picturesque scenery. The pass over the mountain is called Bealac and from it on a fine day one can see as many as four counties. Also the Tralee and Killarney mountains. A circle road leads to the beautiful Cumeenatrush Lake where a 2000 year old dugout boat was found in 1993 and is now in a state of preservation on the lake shore.
On completing the circle to the main road one comes across the home of Sean Riobard the famous “Moonlighter” who carried out a Robin Hood lifestyle in County Cork for many years in the early years of the previous century.
This is just one person’s account of one part of the countryside in the Millstreet area. There is much more and it is for each one to come and view for oneself, to discover the beauties of their own in this land which is now only about to be discovered.
- Kilmeedy, Curacahil, Adrivale, Ballinatona – 5 miles
- Ballinatona, Curragh, Gneeves, Comeentrush Lake – 3 miles
- Kilmeedy, Bealac, Ballydaly, Clara, Millstreet – 7 miles
- Grotto, Willowbrook, Cloghoula, Carrigacooleen, Main Rd to Grotto – 6 miles