Kildare round tower and St. Brigid’s Cathedral

In which I climb six near-vertical ladders and look round another church…
After the lovely sunshine and blue sky of the previous couple of days the last full day of the holiday arrived very cloudy and grey but I wasn’t going to let it stop me from going out. My destination this time was Kildare with a couple of places to visit in mind, and I got the 10.15am coach – when it finally came – from Roscrea. It put me off at Kildare shopping village so I thought I may as well have a quick look round while I was there, although the designer shops are all so expensive I would have needed to take out a mortgage if I wanted to buy something.
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The first place I really wanted to visit was Kildare round tower, specifically to climb up the inside to the top. I’d first discovered it on a visit to Kildare a couple of years ago but it was early December then and it was closed for the winter months so I’d put it on my list of places to go back to when I had the opportunity. Walking through the town from the shopping village I came across a building which looked like it had once been three cottages but was now just one place with painted windows and doors at the front. There was nothing to say what it was, and in spite of much Googling I still haven’t found out, but round the side was a colourful enclosed space with a handmade plaque on the wall saying that bit was St. Brigid’s evergreen garden.
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Kildare street art?
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Kildare round tower is situated in the grounds of St. Brigid’s Cathedral ; built in the 12th century on the site of a previous much older tower the walls are over 2ft thick and at 108ft in height it’s Ireland’s second tallest tower and one of only two which can be climbed. The Romanesque doorway, which is situated 13ft above the ground, is constructed of ornately carved dark red sandstone receding in four ‘steps’, while the original conical cap was replaced by castellations in the 18th century. These castellations have crumbled in places over time so there’s now a steel cage round the tower roof to stop anyone falling off.
At the bottom of the steps leading up to the door was a small shed with two very genial Irish guys taking payment for doing the climb and after handing over my 4 euros I set off on my adventure. Now in the last few years I’ve climbed quite a variety of steep staircases, usually spiral ones, but this wasn’t even a staircase ; a series of six almost vertical ladders took me up through the floors, and though four of the ladders seemed to be fairly modern in construction ladders three and five have been in place since 1874. The tower narrowed in width as I got higher up and the bottom of each ladder was almost touching the wall, meaning there was only just enough space for me to squeeze onto the first step. Added to that was the fact that the top two ladders only had a handrail on one side – this definitely wasn’t a climb for anyone with claustrophobia or a fear of heights.
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Photo from 2017 showing the position of the doorway

Kildare Round Tower doorway

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Looking down from the doorway
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Ladder 1
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Ladder 2
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Ladder 3
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Ladder 4
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Ladder 5 with only one handrail
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Ladder 6 – still only one handrail
Eventually I reached the top of the last ladder and emerged onto the roof ; it was a shame it was such a cloudy grey day as the views over Kildare and the surrounding area were excellent and I got several shots as I walked round. I had to watch where I was putting my feet though as there was no guard rail round the top of the ladder ; one wrong step and I could have fallen through the hole to the platform below. The custodians of the tower mustn’t have heard of health and safety! I took my photos without mishap though then set off on the slow and careful climb back down the six ladders.
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The top of ladder 6 and the tower roof
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Views of  Kildare town from the tower
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Rear of the cathedral from the tower doorway
Back at ground level I had a quick chat to the two guys in the shed then went to have a look in the cathedral. In the entrance was a small collection of medieval sculptural monuments, including the tomb of Bishop Wellesley who died in 1539, and there were many more historical features in the cathedral itself but I was more interested in the stained glass windows. They were all very lovely, as most stained glass windows are, but I particularly liked the modern design dedicated to St. Luke and installed in 1974.
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The High Altar
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Carving on the side of the pulpit steps
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The Bishop’s Throne
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A section of the beautifully tiled floor
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The front of the church
For some strange reason the cathedral closed for lunch at 1pm and as it was getting close to that and it looked very much like I was the only person in the place I thought I’d better go before I got locked in. My next port of call was within walking distance and this was one I was really looking forward to.
To be continued…

20 thoughts on “Kildare round tower and St. Brigid’s Cathedral

  1. WOW, that climb isn’t for the faint-hearted, I know I couldn’t have done it! You are fearless LOL.
    Love the tiled floor in the cathedral, really unusual.

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    1. The tiled floor is lovely, I could have taken lots of shots of it as there are several different patterns repeated throughout, but I thought this one was the nicest. The tower climb wasn’t the easiest I’ve ever done but it was worth it for the views πŸ™‚

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  2. The sort of challenge I love, Eunice, but I bet your legs were tired by the time you got back down. I like your sequence of ladder shots. Hope the week is going well πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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  3. The week is going okay Jo, I hope yours is too πŸ™‚ My legs were fine when I got back down – I have a gym-spec stair climber at home which I use regularly πŸ™‚ – it was just the top two ladders which were a bit hairy with only having one handrail. The views from the top were worth the climb though, a shame it was so cloudy.

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  4. The climb certainly isn’t for anyone of a nervous disposition πŸ™‚ but it was worth it for the views. If you haven’t already seen it have a look at my previous post – now that IS a gorgeous part of Ireland πŸ™‚

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    1. I’ve just checked my ‘pending’ box and there’s no comment from you in there so if you did then it’s disappeared into the ether somewhere. Going UP the ladders was no problem, it was coming back down where I had to be careful, especially where there was only one handrail. I’m glad I did it though, and at least I can tick it off my list of things to be climbed up πŸ™‚

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  5. I’m sure they must regulate how many people go up there, the platforms are so small there would only be just about room for 3 adults max. I think they must wait until whoever is up there comes back down before they let someone else go up – as it happens I was the only one there at the time so there was no problem. I’d be interested to know how many people actually do the full climb in a season as it’s definitely not a walk in the park.

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  6. You were very brave tackling all those ladders. Glad you didn’t get stuck up one over the lunch hour! You certainly made the most of your trip to Ireland. πŸ™‚

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    1. I wouldn’t have minded being stuck at the top, at least I’d have some great views to look at, though I don’t suppose the guys would have closed for lunch until I came down πŸ™‚

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  7. Oh no, I feel claustrophobic just looking at that tower, never mind my fear of heights. You get such a great view from the top though, but no, I don’t think they’ve heard of health and safety. The cathedral is much more my thing with those beautiful windows.

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    1. Definitely not good for anyone who doesn’t like heights but those ladders are a certainly a great challenge. The cathedral windows were lovely and the colours of the modern one were really vibrant πŸ™‚

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  8. I’ve seen the round tower in Kildare, but didn’t realise you could go up it. It certainly wasn’t possible the day I was there (a late Sunday afternoon in Autumn a couple of years ago). Not sur I’d have been as daring as you! Went up a round tower in Kilkenny once, which was easier to get up than this one bythe looks of things) – a little scary for someone who doesn’t have a good head for heights.

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  9. Kildare tower and cathedral are only open to the public from May to the end of September so if you went later in the autumn that would explain why it was closed – the one at Kilkenny is open all year (subject to weather conditions) and that’s the next one on my list if I can get there πŸ™‚

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  10. Thanks for sharing the church. Love the stained glass. Gorgeous. Look at all the steps! I got tired just looking at them, lol. But the photos of the view once you got there shows a magnificent view. Very cool.

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  11. I must confess I’m not particularly religious but I do like to look round churches for their stained glass windows. The views from the top of the tower were great, it’s just a shame it was such a grey day.

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