Sheela na gig

three castles

Shortly before my holidays I had some business to attend in Kilkenny, and used this as an opportunity for a detour through the countryside. I took the Freshford Road and turned right to Three Castles. This is a beautiful road with some very nice spots for photography. Because my friend used to live there, it is a ‘memory lane’ to me as well. The first picture was taken from Martin Campion pub doors.

According to the Lonely Planet, there is 0 things to do in Three Castles, Ireland. I object to that. There is a castle, church and graveyard, and some day I will put up a post about them. This time I only took one picture of the castle, from the road – I think it looks nice in b&w.

three castles

Also, there is a beautiful limestone bridge, dated 1790. I walked a little bit further and found a roadkill – a huge pine martin. I was very sad for the unfortunate animal. Wildlife in Ireland is scarce. I took a picture but didn’t feel like posting, because the carcass was badly damaged.

threecastles bridge

After driving through Three Castles, I turned to Ballyragget. The village of Ballyragget was named after le Raggeds who had lands here in the 13th century. This castle was built in 1495 and belonged to the Mountgarret Butlers who lived here until 1788. Richard Henry Piers Butler, 17th Viscount Mountgarret, died in 2004. He served in Irish Guards – well, some of the Mountgarrets were in opposition to the crown in the 17th century and distinguished themselves by defense of Ballyregget castle.

There is no access to the castle grounds, so I just took two pictures from the road.



Oh, how could I forget! I bought a .99 in Ballyragget! A .99 is the name for and Irish cone ice cream, the best in the world 😉 If you happen to drive through Ballyragget, buy one in the local store.

After enjoying my .99, I left Ballyragget and turned to Lisdowney, a tiny village on the border with Co Laois [ lee-sh]. I have fond memories about the place and the church where I once helped with the Christmas music rehearsal. Some day I will share more pictures and stories.

These pictures of the countryside don’t need much comments.




Irish graveyards are special. If you are interested, you might check the link – a friend of mine takes part in the project Historic Graves. This is St Bridget’s, Aharney,  graveyard.


You probably wonder, why this title, and where is Sheela? Now we are getting there! 🙂 My plan was to drive to Cullahill and take a hike through the forest. When I approached the village, I took this picture of the Cullahill castle ruin. I zoomed it to see what kind of bird was sitting on the electrical wire, and then I noticed something interesting on the castle wall!


A Sheela! There was a Sheela na gig on the castle wall! I didn’t have a longer lens – you can have a closer look if you open the link.

There are a few theories why people placed the sheelas on the churches and castles – I guess they had some benefits from doing that. It is amazing how this one survived the centuries and the destruction. They say there are 101 sheelas found in Ireland, but most of them in museums.


I was so delighted about the sheela, and so proud that I got the picture.

This is the Northern wall of the castle, badly damaged by cannons of Cromwellian forces in the 17th century. The hill of Callahill in this picture, where I was heading, is hidden right behind the castle.


Across the road from the castle there is a ruin of a chapel.


My hike was over before it even started. I was driving that extremely narrow road to the hilltop, mortified with the thought that someone might drive downhill and knock me off the road to my death. When I reached a parking spot, I quickly turned around and drove back even more horrified, because this time the abyss was on my side of the road. There was one car parked, and fortunately no one else felt like hiking that afternoon. I even didn’t take any pictures of the hill.

On my way back  I took a picture of this property near Freshford. It is for sale. Thatched roof looks so cute.


The sky finally cleared and  I drove home.


Thank you for taking the trip with me!

inesemjphotographyHave a wonderful weekend!


  1. Here’s a great post chock full of great photographs, Inese. I liked the bird, sheela na gig, the purple cascading flowers growing on the castle, the lovely countryside and beautiful ancient Celtic crosses. The antique bridge was so pretty, too. Thank you for all the interesting background facts! 🙂

  2. What a great post, Inese. The countryside photos are simply lovely and so idyllic – but the ones of the sheela-na-gig are fantastic and I followed your link for a closer look. I have to admit, I’d never heard them before, so I had to look them up on Wiki. They are very strange things, though I suppose they’re no worse to look at than many other grotesques. How lucky you were to find one and photograph it!

    1. Thank you so much! Yes, I had no idea it was there. Just a lucky shot. Next time I am in the area I will have a longer lens with me. I have never seen sheelas except in museum in Dublin.

      1. Wikipedia tells me there’s one in Kilpeck in Herefordshire, so next time we’re in that area I’ll be making a beeline to have a look! I’m ashamed of myself for not having heard of them.

  3. The photography you have here is a bit mythical to me, as it is just how I’d imagine the Irish countryside ~ green, beautiful and historic. If I found myself on this journey, I would not get past the first photo as I’d likely spend all my time just admiring the view all while drinking some find Irish delicacies 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by! Green it is, and much more beautiful than in the pictures! If they served ice creams in that pub, I would stay there all the afternoon 🙂 There are no picturesque rolling hills and dramatic mountains in Co Kilkenny; there are no lakes or any other big water bodies. The most beautiful places are situated at the very borders and shared with the other counties, but there are, nevertheless, some lovely places that could be easily overlooked; narrow country lanes, that could be missed. Beauty of Co Kilkenny is not obvious and has to be discovered 🙂

  4. What wonderful photos of all those castles. I love the one of Ballyragget with the wisteria growing on its walls. How sad that there’s such a shortage of wildlife in Ireland. What has happened to it all? Have the farmers destroyed it all, treating many animals as pests? You make me feel very privileged having foxes, hedgehogs, and slow worms in my garden, and countless birds, although I wasn’t too happy about the rats living under my shed recently! Your countryside is so beautiful, it should be teaming with creatures.

    1. Yes Sarah, exactly as you are saying. Animals are barely seen, they have moved to the wilderness overgrown with briars and brambles where humans cannot get them. No variety of bird species in the backyards either. Crows, blackbirds, starlings, occasional swallow or sparrow – that is pretty it.

  5. What a fascinating country Ireland is! Sheela is naughty. Lol. I may have to write a poem about her someday. Ha! So glad I went along on this hike with you and what amazing castles — I rather like the lavender flowers cascading from the walls.

      1. Haha! I read there are Seán-na-Gigs which are the males, but they are rare in Ireland.. My goodness — What fun!! Happy architectural digs, Inese 😀

  6. Your posts always inspire me! I’m taken back to my brief time in Ireland, the luminescent green beneath the mist. Just beautiful. And you caught the mist just right above the patchwork landscape. The sky’s color worked in your favor, too–perfect contrasts with the life and stone. Breathtaking, one and all. 🙂

  7. Living in the states, we can’t just go for a drive and see castles! And we certainly don’t have any buildings dating back 600 years! Thanks for the tour, Inese, and the beautiful photos. Someday, I’ll get out there and see those things with my own eyes 🙂

  8. Beautiful photos Inese, and that horse is adorable. I love .99’s, I push the chocolate flake right down into the cone and …… oh dear, I just have to go out now and get one. It’s the Moby Dick festival in Youghal this weekend so there will be an abundance of ice-cream consumed with all this lovely warm weather.

    1. Oh I didn’t know about the festival. My friends asked me to come over to Clonee beach and I said no because I was busy all the morning and got tired. If I knew about the festival I would go no matter what 🙂
      I have noticed that the cones could be quite different depending on the creamery. I just read that in Ballaghaderren, Co Roscommon, you can get one for 50 cents 🙂 I wonder how it tastes. Castlecomer-Durrow-Ballyragget cones are rich and creamy.

  9. Terrific post, Inese!!! I so much love your pictures, and have always felt a very soft spot for Ireland (although I´ve never been there 😉 )!!! The castle looks amazing, the bridge is absolutely lovely and those horses are just beautiful! 🙂 I can vividly imagine you sneaking around there and trying for the best shots 😉 And then to be rewarded with the Sheela-na-Gig – awesome 😀 Wish you an absolute splendid sunday, my friend! 🙂 xoxoxo ❤

    1. Thank you so much, Sarah! Sneaking, it is what I usually do, you are right 🙂 Photography requires a lot of sneaking 🙂 Have a lovely week ahead, inspiring and happy! xx

      1. Hehe! Yeah, phtography is a sneaky business – and we´re not even photographing celebrities! 😉 And to be honest, apart from the pictures that may or may not come out fine, it´s the sneaking bit that I like most about it 🙂 Wish you also a lovely happy week!! 🙂 xoxo

  10. I enjoyed the post. I definitely try one of those 99s next time I’m in the area. (That may be quite a while, sadly.) I was excited to learn you’d found a sheela-na-gig, even though I wasn’t sure what I sheela-na-gig was. When I Googled it, I got quite a shock! Those naughty medieval Irish! 🙂

    1. Thank you for stopping by! Not only Irish! Many sheelas were found in Britain too 🙂 I have to read more about them – is it solely a catholic thing, or not. You can read Cynthia’s comment about her grandfather’s saying 🙂

      1. I read Cynthia’s comment with interest. What a weirdly fascinating custom. Quirky little things like that always make history yet more fascinating. 🙂

  11. What a beautiful country! And a happy chance that you discovered the Sheela na gig. My maternal grandfather came to North America from Ireland as a child, and he had an expression he used when he wanted to tell somebody off: “up your giggy” he would say. I figured that “giggy” had something to do with an orifice of the human bottom. Later, when I learned what a sheela na gig was. with its exaggerated vulva, it all made sense. Perhaps we’ll never know for sure whether those grotesque figures were meant to chase evil spirits away, or bring fertility, or excoriate female lust. But they are truly interesting and it was a great find on this ramble of yours. Thanks for a delightful tour!

    1. Thank you so much for your visit and the story! As I have read, the sheelas are mostly found in the churches, not the castles. The chapel across the road indicates that the castle owner was quite religious. May be it is the reason he placed a sheela on his wall.

    1. Thank you so much for your visit! I would love to read your blog too, but the link from your name opens a message ‘nothing is found’ 🙂

  12. Ms inese, Awesome post and photographs …. whew … enjoyed them to no end. I looked up pine martin and there was a Utube video of a pet pine martin eating a ice cream. I guess they are cute critters until they get about kneecap height. Thanks for sharing you wonderful photographs.

    1. Thank you so much, glad you enjoyed the photographs! I have seen pine martens, but none of them was as big as the one killed on that road. I took a picture so that I could do more research at home. All the colors indicated that it was a pine marten, but the size was unusual – like a big cat. I was very upset – it might be a big male with big, strong paws, a fine specimen with good genetics.

  13. Very nice tour of the place. The lone castle in the middle of the field reminds me of seeing one while I was there a year back too. The post brings good memory back.

    1. Thank you for stopping by! These purple flowers are Campanulas, tiny flowers growing from the cracks between the stones. The castle has owners, and all the site is fenced. I was sneaking through the neighborhood to find a better view. There are three round towers on the site, but I wasn’t able to see them from this vantage point. I also wanted to take a picture of a latrine on the tower, but it is on the other side. I was quite disappointed, but the .99 lifted up my spirits 🙂

      1. I wasn’t sure what the flowers were but they do look pretty. It looks like an idyllic moment but photos can lie, can’t they? 🙂

        1. Oh the moment would be more idyllic if I could get closer. In two weeks I will post a blog about the castle ruin that stands in an open place and is free to enter.

  14. Thanks so much, Inese, for taking us along on your countryside adventure. Your photos are so lovely, with the green hills, castles (fun about the sheela!), and relics of ancient times. I really enjoyed this.

    1. Thank you so much, Jet! So delighted you like the sheela 🙂 If I didn’t zoom the image to look at the bird, I would never know what I have missed 🙂 It is not the first time I discover things this way. I guess a pair of binoculars would do a better job for me 🙂

    1. Thank you! Some birds in my next post, and some more castles in the following one 🙂 I love to sit down and imagine what the life was like when the castles were built.

  15. I love the castle with the Wisteria growing up the wall, although I imagine the Wisteria may some day tear down the wall. I also like your graveyard shot a lot. Happy travels.

    1. Thank you so much! No, it is not Wisteria that sure would damage the wall. It is a tiny Companula. They grow everywhere here, on each stone wall and ruin. Happy June to you too! 🙂

  16. I agree with you. Look at the beautiful scenery, the bridge, and castle. The old chapel. There is history there. What can possibly be more interesting than that? Great photos. Happy weekend.

    1. Thank you so much! I was laughing when I read that line about ‘zero things to do’ 🙂 Depends on what a person likes to do 🙂

        1. Oh yes, it is very inspiring. Pity I didn’t get to hike the hill, but the road was so scary that I was happy to get out of there in one piece.

  17. This another gorgeous and interesting post, Inese. You know how fascinated I am by any sort of ruins, so of course my favorites are the shots of the castle. I love the blooming vine on the walls (wisteria?). I’m amazed that you spotted the Sheela. It will be interesting to learn more about them. Thanks for taking us along for your detour through the countryside. Mega hugs! 😀

    1. Thank you so much, Teagan! I am very proud of the sheela even though I found it in the internet and learned that it wasn’t my discovery after all 🙂 Still, this is my first one found on site. Next time I will bring a longer lens and take a proper image.
      I too though it was wisteria, but no, it is Companula.
      Thank you for stopping by! Many hugs! xxxxxx

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