Kilranelagh Graveyard, Legend & Stories

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Kilranelagh Graveyard, Legend & Stories



GPS Location

52.945246, -6.632108

Short Interpretive Text

Kilranelagh Graveyard includes the cemetery, the foundations of a church, St Brigid's holy well, a couple of small stone crosses, several interesting grave slabs, including the grave of Sam MacAllister, and a pair of unusual upright stones known as the Gates of Heaven. Nearby, to the north lie Brusselstown and Spinian’s Hillfort complex, the largest in Ireland.

Interpretive Text

Kilranelagh Graveyard is situated on a hill looking towards the Blackstairs Mountains and local folklore suggests it dates to pre Christian times. The site includes the cemetery, the foundations of a church, St Brigid's holy well, a couple of small stone crosses, several interesting grave slabs and a pair of unusual orthostats.
The two large upstanding stones or ‘orthostats’ are orientated in a south-easterly direction with a sill stone lying between them. In line with the western orthostat is another smaller slab. It became a local custom to carry the coffin between these two portal stones before being interred in the cemetery. This entrance was known as the ‘Gates of Heaven’ as it was believed that passing the deceased through this gate insured that they would go straight to heaven.
Kilranelagh is the final resting place of the Irish Patriot Sam Mac Alastair who died trying to defend Michael Dwyer, a hero of the 1798 rebellion. Dwyer led a guerrilla warfare campaign in the Wicklow Mountains until December 1803, and after Robert Emmet’s rebellion in Dublin failed, Dwyer and his group of thirty men represented the only rebels still fighting in Ireland.
There is a legend that Aedh Mac Ainmire, High King of Ireland in the 6th century is buried in the graveyard, after being killed in a battle close by.
Nearby, is a very extensive hillfort complex that occupies the whole of the Spinans Hill-Brusselstown hilltop. A hillfort is a type of earthworks used as a fortified refuge or defended settlement, located to exploit a rise in elevation for defensive advantage. The hillfort on Brusselstown Hill (known as Brusselstown Ring) is enclosed by a collapsed rampart made of limestone boulders. It has been dated to the Iron Age. The interior rises towards several high points marked by limestone outcrops. Two hut sites have been identified within Brusselstown Ring and another 22 are on the south slopes outside the rampart.
Approximately 1.5kn to the northwest is the Spinans Hill hillfort. It comprises an irregularly shaped area enclosed by a peat-covered earthen bank, best preserved at the north and east and was mostly levelled over the remainder of its course. A large cairn and five smaller ones lie within the hillfort. At a lower level another outer rampart has been identified which encloses a roughly L-shaped area and encompasses both Spinans Hill and Brusselstown Hill. The enclosing element consists in part of a double rampart with intervening fosse faced with stone in some areas.

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Category of Interest

Archaeological, Cultural, Historical



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ActiveMe, “Kilranelagh Graveyard, Legend & Stories,” Lakeside Heritage Trail, Blessington Lake, accessed May 21, 2022,