A "Kinsella Roots" Trip in Ireland

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For those interested in searching out their "Kinsella Roots" in Ireland, here is a recommended itinerary, one that includes many of the places made famous over the centuries by our Kinsella ancestors.

The trip starts in Dublin and, after doing the sights of that great Irish city, we drive northwest to our first stop, Newgrange, situated on the banks of the Boyne River in County Meath. Newgrange is a large pre-historic passage grave that is not very well known in spite of the fact that it is much grander than the famous Stonehenge in England and is a thousand years older. To be able to stand in that 4000 year old burial chamber is a moment you'll never forget. Newgrange doesn't have any connection to our Kinsella ancestors (it was constructed by an unknown group of people thousands of years prior to the coming of the Celts to Ireland) but it is a must see.

The next stop is Tara, the legendary residence of the Kings of Ireland. Tara is approximately 15 miles southwest of New Grange. Ancients documents state that Tara was the residence of the Kings of Leinster for centuries so we may safely assume this included some of our illustrious ancestors. The Leinster kings were replaced at Tara by the O'Neill dynasty in the 4th or 5th century. There isn't much to see at Tara today but the view is magnificent and just being at such a legendary spot is well worth the visit.

After leaving Tara, we journey 25 miles south to Croghan Hill, an high point just inside the northern border of County Kildare. It was here that Eanna Cinnsealaigh defeated Eochaidh Muighmheadhin, leader of the O'Neills and father of the famous Niall of the Nine Hostages. It was also here that the name Kinsella originated.

For those who know where their own particular Kinsella family originated, that should be the next spot (It should be somewhere in Hy Kinsella). For us, the descendants of John Kinsella and Esther Burns, that is the city of Athy, about 30 miles south of Croghan Hill. Parish records indicate that John and Esther's children were born in the townlands of Grangemellon and Rosetown in the early 1800's. These townlands are about 2 miles south of Athy on the Barrow River. It is worth visiting this spot if for no other reason than to "walk the streets and paths our ancestors once did."

This "Roots" trip continues at Castledermot, a few miles south for it was in St. Mary's Church here that John and Esther were married. Castledermot contains the ruins of an old monastery and a round tower that are worth visiting. Also, the famous High Cross of Moone is nearby which is definitely worth seeing. (It has recently been restored.)

Continuing south, our next stop is Rathvilly, just inside the northern boundary of County Carlow. It was here in 448 A.D. that Crimthann, son of Eanna Cinnsealaigh, was baptized by St. Patrick, thereby becoming the first Christian King of Leinster. Near Tullow, a few miles east of Rathvilly, is a wonderful stone fort named Rathgall that may have been the original stronghold of the Hy Kinsella clan. (The historical marker says that it was used by the Kings of Southern Leinster which as we know, were the Hy Kinsellas.) The fort consists of three large stone rings, each about 10 feet tall and 8 feet thick. The diameter of the innermost ring is approximately 80 feet!! It is a most impressive sight.

In the same area, also near the town of Tullow, is a huge boulder called a "Holed Stone". Legend has it that Eanna Cinnsealaigh's son, Eochy, was chained to this very stone by Niall of the Nine hostages. Niall's intent was to kill Eochy but he was foiled when Eochy broke the chains and escaped. Eochy then proved the truth of the old adage, "he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day" because several years later, the two met again and this time Niall died of a spear thrust to the heart--thrown by Eochaidh.

Our next stop is in the town of Leighlinbridge, on the Barrow River. It is here that long, long ago stood Dinn Rig, headquarters of the Kings of Leinster. It was at this spot that Labhradh Longseach, the legendary founder of the Kings of Leinster, avenged the murder of his father and grandfather by killing the reigning king.

Next we proceed about 25 miles south to the southernmost part of County Carlow to visit the monastic ruins of St. Mullins. The site includes several churches, a round tower and a high cross. St. Mullins, who founded this monastery in the 7th century was Bishop of the Hy Kinsellas.

After visiting St. Mullins, we head east. After proceeding through Bunclody, we enter County Wexford through a pass in the Backstairs Mountains, probably the very same route the Wexford branch of the Kinsellas took when they decided to establish a royal seat at Ferns. So, we follow their path ending up at Ferns, the place made famous by Dermot MacMurrough and his illustrious ancestors. It was here, of course, that Dermot's son, Eanna Cinnsealaigh, the founder of the surname Kinsella was born. Sights to see here are a ruined castle, an ancient church, monastery ruins and several high crosses. In a graveyard behind the church stands a cross with a broken shaft that is said to mark the spot where Dermot MacMurrough was buried.

From Ferns, we drive north towards Arklow. As we approach that town, off to the left can be seen a large mountain. It is now called Croghan Mountain but it was formerly called Croghan Kinsella. In fact, it was here that considerable deposits of gold were discovered in the late 1700's. Just before Arklow, we turn northwest and travel up the Avoca valley. At the end of this valley is Glendalough, one of the most beautiful spots in Ireland. The ruins of the monastery founded by St. Kevin are scattered all over this gorgeous valley. In addition to round towers, high crosses, and ancient churches, there are numerous natural beauty spots--waterfalls, steep cliffs, clear lakes, etc.

To complete our journey, we drive northeast about 30 miles to Dublin. The total mileage of this "Kinsella Roots" trip in Ireland is about 350 miles. Certainly a trip to remember.

Jack Kinsella (Jackk2846@aol.com)

 

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