Acha Da Eo (The place of the two yew trees)
Aghadoe Heights, County Kerry

Aghadoe (pronounced Ah-ha-doe), or Acha Dá Eo in the old Irish, means "The field of the two yew trees". Traditionally, just one yew tree was planted in monastic sites. For such a small location, Aghadoe Heights has so much to offer -- from the magnificent views of the Killarney Lakes and MacGillycuddy's Reeks, to the 0th century monastic site and graveyard, to the 13th century tower ruins of Parkavonear Castle -- Aghadoe Heights has something for everyone.

Monastic Site and Graveyard
According to historical documents, the Aghadoe monastic site was very active as early as 939. The stone church was mentioned in later writings in 1044 and again in 1061.

Today, two buildings survive on the site of Aghadoe Monastery - the stone church and the round tower.

The original church was most likely timber, as was typical in Ireland at the time. It was eventually razed to make way for the security of a stone church. The oldest part of the church is on the western side and was finished around 1158 by Auliff Mor na Cuimsionach, a member of the O'Donoghue family. He was eventually buried here in 1166. The Romanesque doorway has survived on this western side. Intricate hand carvings are still well-defined, and the stone colors vibrant.

The eastern side of the church is a later extension that dates back to the 13th century. Two lancet windows survive on the gable end, the top of which still has a

fine example of stone carving. It's possible that this part of the church could have been living accommodation. Today, there are several crypts in this part of the church.

Along the south wall is an ogham stone that has been translated to read "BRRUANANN." It's possible this is old Irish for Brennan, though there is no mention of this character in local history.

Other carved stones can be found around the site, including one of the Crucifixion of Christ, which is also located along the south wall. Three images can be made out on this stone...Christ on the cross, the Virgin Mary and a smaller entity with wings. It's possible there was a fourth image on the stone, but over time it has been obscured.

The stump of the 12th century round tower is on the street side of the church. This was the monastery's bell tower and today stands to a height of twenty-two feet.

The graveyard that surrounds the monastery is still consecrated grounds so is still in use today. There are many striking grave markers in the older section of the yard, including iron crosses, traditional High Crosses and some crypts. The modern section has been enlarged and has more traditional granite markers.

Magnificent Views
From the parkland set on the slopping hillside at Aghadoe Heights, visitors can enjoy outstanding views of the greater Killarney area. Including the town, one can see the famous Lakes of Killarney, which include Muckross Lake and Lough Leane (in Irish Loch Léin), which means "Lake of Learning." On one end of Lough Leane is Innisfallan Island, the home of Innisfallan Abbey. The abbey was founded by St Finian as a center of learning, so the lake was aptly named.

Also seen from this site is the magnificent MacGillycuddy's Reeks, Ireland's highest mountain range. In Irish, it's NA Cruacha Dubha and means "The Black Stacks." The range stretches about twelve miles and includes Ireland's high mountain, Carrauntoohil, which stands 1038 meters, or about 3400 feet, about the same depth as the Arctic Ocean! There are just two other maintains in Ireland of similar height-- Beenkeragh, which stands at 1010 meters and Caher, which stands at 1001 meters.

The Reeks are part of the Armorican Highlands, which are glacial-carved sandstone and make up the backbone of the Iveragh Peninsula of County Kerry.

The range gets its name from the Clan Macgillycuddy who owned the land in this part of the Munster province from the 18th century until the end of the 20th century.

Parkavonear Castle
Between the park and the cemetery is a small round tower called Parkavonear Castle.

Crucifixion of Christ

Iron cross - grave marker

Iron grave marker

MacGillycuddy's Reeks

It's suspected that Parkavonear Castle is of 13th century Anglo-Normal construction. The keep is built on an unusual cylindrical design rather than the traditional rectangle one. The walls are two meters thick, about six and a half feet, and the interior is about thirty feet in diameter.

The current entrance is at ground level and was made in relatively recent years. Originally, occupants would have entered the tower via a ladder to an upper floor, which they would then pull inside in times of attack. This type of construction is the same as monastic round towers, like those at Glendalough and Kilmacduagh. As this tower was completed just after the smaller bell tower at the monastic site, it's quite possible the castle is actually what remains of a monastic round tower rather than a small fortified keep.

While the tower is open to the elements, there is a narrow stone passage way through the center of one side of the keep that connects the ground level with first

Parkavonear Castle

level. It's possible that this tower was purposefully built with just the two levels, as the stairs stop at the first level.

Parkavonear Castle takes its name from the Irish, paírc an mhóinéir, which means the field of the meadow.

Locals refer to this castle as "The Bishops Chair" and "The Pulpit." Probably because of the connection to the monastery across the road.


~ Free attraction
~ Free car parking available
~ Moderate access on gravel paths, old cemetery is mainly rough grassland, castle accessed through grassy park, steep slope down to castle


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