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ARDPATRICK “Of Saints & Scholars”

Ard Phádraig, Saint Patricks Height/ Hill

The steep climb up the hill to the ancient monastery of Ardpatrick is worth the effort to enjoy the panorama of County Limerick from the top. Even now, hundreds of years after the last monks left the summit, it radiates timelessness and separation from the modern world below. However, Christian monks were not the first to appreciate the prominence of this hill, which is part of the Ballyhouras. A series of earthen banks and enclosures near the summit date from the Iron Age (500BC-400AD). Its later adaptation as a monastic settlement suggests that it had a religious significance prior to the arrival of Christianity. According to local tradition, Saint Patrick founded the monastery in the fifth century. In later times, it collected tributes (payments) from all of the province of Munster, which were then paid to Patricks Archdiocese at Armagh. The round tower, north-west of the church ruin, (of which only a stump now remains), is evidence of Ardpatricks ecclesiastical importance. Round towers – known in Gaelic Irish as Cloictech (bell houses) – were symbols of religious importance and temporal wealth. Ardpatrick is a small village in County Limerick, Ireland. It lies at the foot of the north slopes of the Ballyhoura Mountains, on the edge of the Golden Vale. On the hill above the village is the site of a 5th century monastery and round tower or cloictheach, now in ruins. Legend tells of a peal of 7 silver bells which once hung in the tower. The monastery was reputedly founded by St.Patrick himself and is surrounded by earthworks probably far more ancient. From the hill can be seen Castle Oliver, a 19th Century mansion built by the Oliver Gascoignes, an Anglo-Irish family. Its fine stained glass windows, which feature the life of St.Patrick, have recently been restored.

Ardpatrick has a total of 590 memorials, all of which have been digitally surveyed  and are available to view if you just follow this link:  Ardpatrick Historic Graves click here


Tí­r na nóg “The Land of Eternal Youth” is known to every schoolchild in Ireland and is the most widely known story from Irish mythology.

According to legend, the Fianna hero, Oisín, was out hunting when he met the beautiful Niamh of the Golden Hair, who was riding a white horse. She told him she loved him and invited him to join her in Tí­r na Nóg. Travelling with her, due west, they arrived in Tír na Nóg where they began 300 years of lovemaking, and Oisí­n never experienced sickness, ageing or frailty. However, not a day passed when he did not think of returning to Ireland and the world of mortals. Eventually, Niamh reluctantly allowed Oisí­n to return but she warned him not to dismount from his horse or he would become old, withered and blind. Of course, to his great sadness, the good old days of 300 years earlier had gone and all his friends were long dead. At Glenosheen (The Glen of Oisí­n), he leaned from his horse to help men lift a stone into a wagon. As he did so, his reins broke and he fell to the ground. Oisín immediately transformed into the aged man. As luck might have it, Saint Patrick happened to arrive on the scene and had just enough time to baptise Oisín a Christian before he died!


The Palatines were mostly economic refugees from the Rheinish Palatinate in Germany, who fled to Ireland in 1709. Most settled around Rathkeale, County Limerick, but 50 years later, 27 of the original families moved to the Glenosheen and Kilfinane areas. The Glenosheen Palatines included Steepes, Mees, Schumachers and Jungs. Rev. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, frequently preached to them between 1765 and 1789. Consequently, these mostly Calvinist and Lutheran Palatines were converted to Methodism. However, because of dwindling numbers, many later joined the Church of Ireland. The Old Palatine schoolhouse is now a private residence. The original Palatine home of the Altons in Glenosheen is now the property of Limerick County Council. The house has been tastefully renovated as an artists retreat.


A plaque on their family home marks the birthplace of the Joyce brothers, who made an outstanding contribution to Irish scholarship. Patrick Weston Joyce (1827-1914) was a brilliant music collector, historian and scholar, who, despite very humble beginnings, graduated with a Master of Arts Degree from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1864. He undertook extraordinary work to protect and record Irish culture. The Origin and History of Irish Names and Places is the best known of his 20 published books. Patricks brother, Robert Dwyer Joyce (1830-1883), was a physician, poet and Fenian. After graduating from Queens College, Cork, in 1857, he became Professor of English at the Catholic University, Maynooth. In 1866, he went to Boston where he practised medicine and became a lecturer at Harvard medical school. While in America he published several collections of Irish music and poetry. Robert returned to die in Ireland in 1883.


Thomas Oliver, whose family had owned this area for upwards of two centuries, took the additional surname of Gascoigne when he inherited the Gascoigne estates at Parlington, Yorkshire, in 1812. His daughters Mary and Elizabeth Oliver-Gascoigne (later Mrs FC Trench and Lady Ashtown) rebuilt their ancestral home in 1850 and renamed it Castleoliver. The young Oliver-Gascoigne ladies employed a Yorkshire architect G. Fowler Jones to design it for them. Scottish Baronial style, it has a massive tower like a keep, and many stepped gables and corbelled oriels. The entrance has a gabled porch-tower over segmental pointed arches to form a porte-cochere. Castleoliver can be seen in the distance from Ardpatrick and Glenosheen. Visible also is Olivers Folly, an H-shaped structure on the top of a nearby hill.

(Castleoliver is a private residence and not open to the public)


This very impressive hill-top ring fort, dating from the Early Christian period, was probably the residence of an important chieftain. There is an information panel at the site which explains more about its purpose and the people who lived there. However, the fort is on private property and not open to the public.