Killashee is very excited to be on Ireland’s Ancient East trail as the hotels history is what makes Killashee special. Kildare is a very unique county with the Curragh, Stud Farms and Horse Racecourses. Killashee is proud to be part of the Kildare Heritage.
The Killashee estate is steeped in rich history. From its humble beginnings as a 18th Century Georgian house, Killashee blossomed under the hand of renowned architect Thomas Turner, into a grand Victorian residence, set in acres of the finest Kildare Stud farmland.
The earliest archaeological evidence that Killashee is aware of is An Iron Age site comprising a well and ring fort or ráth located about 600 metres to the north of the hotel.
The ancient ráth, fort, or liss, was generally enclosed within about half an acre, and had two or more ramparts. They were formed by the heads of the local tribe for defence purposes. Some were in use as late as 1000 AD. According to folklore when the race of the chieftains died out, the Sidhe (descendants of the Thutha de Danann) crowded into the forts, and held their councils, revels and dances there. It is said that if a man puts his ear close to the ground of a ráth at night he may hear the sweet fairy music rising up from under the earth.
One of the first Christian monastic sites was established at Killashee by St Auxillius (a nephew of St Patrick) at the dawn of the Christian era in the fifth century. St Auxillius died in 459 AD and by then the monastery was well established and remained in existence until the Suppression of the Monasteries in the 16th century (over 1000 years).
Commercial milling and tillage was conducted in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries on the former monastic lands. The ruins of a mill are still visible. Killashee became a landed estate comprising a castle and house under the ownership of the Graydon family during the 18th century and remained in their ownership for over 100 years. The construction of a COI church adjoining the old tower which survived from the monastic period and the adjoining burial ground with tombs which date back to the early 1700’s. A later reconstruction of the COI church – date uncertain.
The acquisition of the estate by the Moore family in the early 19th century and the construction of the manor house in 1861 by Lt Col Richard St Ledger Moore which is now one of the features of the hotel. The acquisition of the property in 1927 by the La Sante order of nuns and the conversion of the manor house into a convent and junior boarding school. The de-consecration and closure of the COI church in 1965.
Another interesting aspect of the site is the caves or souterrains which are located to the west of the ruined church. These are of uncertain origin but most probably date back to the monastic period. They are extensive and comprise a network of passages ranging in height from 3 to 5 ft. joining more extensive chambers. Their purpose is understood to have been for the storage of grain and a place of refuge in time of danger. They have been discovered, forgotten and rediscovered several times over the centuries, the most recent discovery occurred in 2005 when construction machinery was operating on the site in preparation for development.
The condition of the caves is unknown and it remains for some future archaeological assessment to investigate and document the structure.