I haverecently begun to focus my Ruin hunting in the Meath area, just for a change. One of my first ports of call was to the medieval church ruin which sits atop Skryne Hill. Skryne or Skreen as it is sometimes known as comes from the Gaelic Scrín Cholm Cille, meaning “Colm Cille’s shrine. The hill is approx 500ft above sea level and commands a stunning view of the surrounding countryside which includes the Hill of Tara, the former seat of the High Kings of Ireland. The current structure is an Augustinian Monastery dated around 1341, which is said to have been dedicated to a St. Lawrence and was built by a descendant of Hugh De Lacy of Skryne Castle. One interesting fact about Skryne, at the foot of the hill is a pub and stables that feature in the Guinness white Christmas television advertisement.
After the Norman invasion of Ireland, Henry II King of England came to Ireland in October 1171 in order to establish his control of the new kingdom of Ireland which the Normans were hell-bent on conquering. Before he left in April 1172, he made extensive grants of land to three powerful men. Ulster was granted to John de Courcey, Leinster to Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, better known as Strongbow, and Meath to Hugh de Lacy. Dublin and the few coastal towns that remained were kept under direct control of the King. Sometime around 1170AD Hugh de Lacy, Lord of Meath granted Skryne to another Norman knight Adam de Feypo, whose descendants used the customary title Baron Skryne?The Barony of Skryne was granted to the knight, Adam de Feipo, whom in turn subdivided it and presented twenty of his followers with grants of land.
The church has long been associated with St. Colmcille (also known as St. Columba), founder of the monastery at Kells. A monastic settlement existed here for many centuries prior to the arrival of the Normans, and was known as Acail. Colmcille came to visit the monastery in 560AD. Approx 300 years later the name was changed to Scrín Cholm Cille. In 875 the relics and shrine of Colmcille were brought there from Iona for safe-keeping. The monastery was plundered several times during the late 10th to 12th century, during one invasion the shrine was taken, but it was later recovered in 1027. The church which sits inside a walled graveyard is in good condition but has no roof with a good portion of its walls missing.
The dominant feature of this site is the 100ft tower to the west of the church. The gates to the site are locked but you can still gain access via a stone stile. The first item that you will encounter is a rather large rock directly in front of the church; there is a faint carving in the west side of the stone. Behind this you can see two broken grave slabs which also have faint inscriptions, but are almost to weathered to make out. As you move on to the church ruin you are faced with the remains of two partial walls with the tower at the end. There are a number of impressive medieval pointed arches within the walls. Above the doorway in the north wall there is a carving of a male allegedly said to be a rendition of St. Colmcille/Columba. . Inside the tower, which is said to have been built during the 15th century, you will find an undecorated baptismal font and an unknown engraved stone. Unfortunately access into the tower is blocked by an iron gate.
Now a quick mention as to the strange encounter I had here during my visit. On the north side of the tower there is a low lying window which has been barred in. I was attempting to take a couple of shots of the inside of the tower, with my camera lense resting in between the bars. When all of a sudden, my camera strap, was sharply pulled inside the window. My natural reaction was too pull the camera back, unleashing a torrent of expletives in the process. I knew that there was nobody inside the tower, because if a seasoned Ruinhunter was unable to gain entry then I am quite sure nobody else could. Then I taught maybe the wind had been the cause, but as I had been standing so close to the wall this was also ruled out. So whatever grabbed my camera strap I can’t explain? Spooky or What?
Not to be disturbed by such an encounter I proceeded on up along the North wall, there is a narrow window, when I looked through I could see brickwork which was strange because I did not notice a window here from the inside. So I went back to investigate more. It just goes to show that a good look around does not always show up everything to be seen. On the inside part of the wall there was the remains of a hidden stairway which rose inside the wall. The stair leads you up to the top of the remaining wall which affords a slightly better view.
To the North-east of the church stands a rather intriguing short armed medieval cross bearing a rather crude crucifixion scene, the cross stands at about 1.5 metres high and almost 50cms wide, the cross is so weathered it is impossible to make out any detail on the carving. The church is surrounded by graves, dating from the 1500s to the present day. Skryne is a magnificent site to visit and with the Hill of Tara a short distance away, you could easily make a day of it, provided the weather is favourable. You will notice that I slipped a colour shot into this post, I just couldn’t resist. Although I love how these places look in mono, I also love to see them in living colour, so I guess I am still torn between the two. So let me know what you think? Mono or Colour? Perhaps it may help me make a decision?