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Discover Clonegal

Clonegal is located just off the N80, 31 km (19 miles) south east of Carlow Town and 4km from Kildavin, on the border with County Wexford. In ancient times the village was known as Moyacomb, or “Plain of the Two Hounds”. The two hounds belonged to Fionn MacCumhaill, a famous hunter warrior of Irish mythology who is said to have rested here during his pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne. Fionn was due to marry Gráinne, the beautiful daughter of the High King of Tara, but after meeting Diarmuid she refused to marry him. Thereafter, Fionn pursued Diarmuid and Gráinne the length and breadth of Ireland for over 16 years before Diarmuid was killed by a wild boar. The story of Diarmuid and Gráinne is one of the great romantic legends of Ireland. The great forest, Fiodh Doracha, which once surrounded the village, was the site of a battle between the King of Leinster, Dermot MacMurrough Kavanagh and the High King of Ireland, Rory O’Connor. It was after this battle that MacMurrough Kavanagh left Ireland for England in 1166 to seek help from Henry II and thus changed the course of Irish history for hundreds of years to come. A number of local attractions are of interest to a visitor to Clonegal today, including Huntington Castle, The Weavers Cottage and St Brigids Roman Catholic Church. Built in 1625 on the site of a former 14th century former O’Kavanagh stronghold and abbey, Huntington Castle, the ancient seat of the Esmonde family is today one of Irelands historical treasures. Presently lived in by the fourth generation of the Durdin-Robertson family, descendents of the Esmondes, the castle is set in picturesque countryside at the foot of the Blackstairs Mountains. The famed Yew tree walk, lime tree avenue and water features, are just some of the features of the castle’s delightful gardens and pleasure grounds, most of which were laid out in the 17th century by the Esmondes. There is also an ancient vine in the conservatory and a temple to the Goddess Isis in the basement and former dungeons of the castle. The Castle and Gardens are open to the public during the summer months only or other times by prior appointment. The Weavers Cottages were built by Alexander Durdin in the late 17th century. They were lived in by weavers when the trade was at its height in the area and now feature many items, artefacts, furniture and pictures from bygone times. Open by appointment. St Brigids Catholic Church on the Carlow road was built in 1824, and is a fine church with some beautiful work by Italian artisans. The most important feature however are the paired Corinthian columns in the Sanctuary area. Clonegal is a popular area for those interested in walking, and the village marks the end of the Wicklow Way, a 130km way-marked walking trail which begins in Rathfarnham, Dublin. For those who prefer to tour by car, the Mount Leinster Heritage Drive is a 75km (47 mile) driving route through the beautiful countryside of south Carlow, taking in many of the areas towns and villages including Clonegal. Identifiable road signs make the driving route an easy-to-follow tour while large map boards in the centre of each village or town provide further information. The trail can be joined at any point and driven in an anti-clockwise direction.

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