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 – 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. 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.

  2. 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 🙂

  3. 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.

  4. 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 😀

  5. 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. 🙂

  6. 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 🙂

  7. 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.

  8. 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

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