Taghadoe Round Tower, County Kildare

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Taghadoe round tower in County Kildare is 1,000 years old Taghadoe round tower in County Kildare is 1,000 years old

The Irish name for a round tower Cloigtheach  literally means bell house and they indeed functioned as bell towers, it's a logical construction with the high tower being visible from miles around, as a way-point guide for pilgrims and other travellers. Also sound travels further from a height and therefore the monastery - round towers are almost always associated with important churches and monasteries - would have been heard from quite a distance too, especially inside valleys where the sound of ringing bells coming from above the tree canopy would have been impressive.

Round towers have sometimes been described as having the function of being a refuge for monks during times of viking siege but likely never served this role - vikings were very good at marauding and pillaging and having an entrance door a few metres off the ground would likely not have been a deterrent. The shape of the tall, thin structures, often over 30m high with window openings would have served to funnel fire upwards through the interior of the tower. Also, vikings can use ladders.

From an engineering or architectural strength viewpoint, having the door a few metres from the ground where the tower sits into the soil (with very shallow foundations) means the building is more likely to stay upright.

Taghadoe as seen here in my video is one of County Kildare's five round towers, it probably was never finished and didn't have a roof. It reaches almost 20m above the ground and had a carving, now almost not visible, above its door. Like most round towers it dates to between the year 900 and 1100AD making it approximately 1,000 years old.

Right beside the round tower is a church, a former Church of Ireland church that is also now disused. It has unusual crenellations for finials, an unusual architectural detail.

I stopped by here on a bright November evening after I had been photographing in County Kildare.

Enjoy the short video and sunshine on the stonework.

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Last modified on Saturday, 11 November 2017 01:51
Darren McLoughlin

Irishman and International travel photographer in search of the best bits of Ireland. Leading photography tours and experiences in Ireland.

Contributor to New York Times / Sunday Times / Irish Times / Echtra Echtra and Eonmusic

Cancer survivor.

Ask me about travel in Ireland or about photography in Ireland.


1 comment

  • Comment Link Rudy Jakma B.A. Saturday, 17 August 2019 20:43 posted by Rudy Jakma B.A.

    Very good comments. Other websites still mention the "defensive" function of the round towers, but as the author rightfully explains, Vikings were very good at marauding. It is only seldom mentioned that early Irish monastic settlements were often based more on the Celtic lifestyle than on the Christian ethos. The Celts were cattle lords and did not see anything wrong in arranging cattle raids. read the "Cattle Raid of Cooley". The early monks were probably not beyond plundering one another's monasteries.
    What is more important is that a narrow tall tower with steep internal ladders would be a very poor defensive structure, a death trap rather than a refuge.
    Clogh teagh: House of tghe bell, bell tower

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