Trip to Tipp. Holycross Abbey and Farney Castle

Trip to Tipp
Holycross Abbey and Farney Castle

Irish people have a great fondness for the seaside and, once the sun shines, head for the coasts. But remember there is much to see inland as well, especially in Tipperary, Ireland's largest inland county. We all know about the Rock of Cashel, the Glen of Aherlow, and Semple Stadium and there are many other places of interest there.

Took a trip to Tipp recently and visited Farney Castle and Holycross Abbey, two places not visited previously (see my list below). It turned out to be a very enjoyable day, helped by excellent food and drink at two caf├ęs, Stef Hans in Thurles and the French Quarter in Tipperary Town.

Holycross, founded in 1180 by King Donal Mor O’Brien, has had its ups and downs but the old church is long back in use. It was added to during the 15th century and became a place of pilgrimage when a relic of the true cross was presented to the Cistercian monks there. 

It was suppressed by Henry VIII in the 16th century but it got off lightly compared to others. Eventually though it fell into ruin and was abandoned about 1650. After reconstruction the abbey was re-opened in 1975. 

Admission is free - you may wander around on your own - and guided tours can be arranged during the season; ring 086 1665869 or email Pay attention to your guide but there are some gorgeous little birds here, the colourful goldfinch, so keep an eye out for them darting about.

Henry VIII also turned his greedy eyes on Farney Castle. It, or at least the big round tower, was built in 1495 by the Butlers (Dukes of Ormond). The Butlers were well known to the King and this may have helped getting the tower returned to them a few years later.

Shortly after 1650 a Cromwellian soldier named Hulett took control of the castle but, just 10 years later, a Capt. William Armstrong (who had fought against Cromwell) was awarded the castle and he and his descendants lived there for 200 years.

Nowadays, still complete with murder hole, it is occupied by renowned knitwear designer and maker of fine porcelain Cyril Cullen and his wife Margie. His multi-coloured sweaters, undyed, are made from the wool of the Jacob Sheep.

Cyril gave us a most interesting tour of the Castle, basically two towers and the link between them. So much to see here, including memorabilia of his friend Sybil Connolly. He has made a gorgeous piece of pottery in her honour.
Farney Castle

The walls of the tower are over 12 foot wide! The stone stairs are built within the walls. And he opened a door in a room in the tower and showed us a Butler’s Pantry inside. He is still discovering doors, and secrets behind, here.

Lots of souvenirs from his international days. He helped set up a home knitwear industry in Lesotho and showed us a pair of delicately carved Ostrich eggs that he bought while helping the people there.

Unusual bits and pieces too such as a pair of Tibetan Bull door handles and a tea cup whose handle can be used to whistle for the butler in the pantry! Tours are daily and are well worth the six euro!

See also: