Ardmore Round Tower Co. Waterford
Ardmore Round Tower
O.S. Map 82
Location: In the center of an old monastic site on a hillside to the south of the village of
Ardmore, looking out over the bay. About 15 miles southwest of Dungarvan.
From Dungarvan, take the N25 southwest approximately 17km to the SECOND R673 exit. The Regional road
is rough in spots and from the 2nd exit, it is only just over 3 km to Ardmore. The first exit of R673
will take a slightly convoluted route over approx. 8 km of the rougher road to Ardmore. N25 is a very
nice road on which to drive. Ardmore is quite visible as you drive into the village and the side road
to it is posted. Drive past the churchyard up the hill as there are more adequate places to park up there
rather than pulling off to the side of the road near the ruined cathedral.
Dimensions: This is a fine and complete tower. It sits on a base of flat rocks with an offset approx.
8 cm wide and 20 cm above this base. The circumference above this offset is 15.8 m giving it an external
diameter of approximately 5 meters. Because of an exceptional degree of batter (inclination of a wall
inwards towards the top), the external diameter at the top windows is just over 3 meters. The height from
ground level to the base of the intact conical top is about 26 meters. An estimate of the cone of the tower
with it's unusual cross is probably another 3 ½ meters, bringing the entire building close to 30m.
Features: This exceptional tower has the unique feature of three string courses, which are
rounded and project in an unbroken circle approx. 6 meters from ground level for the first course,
11 m above ground level for the 2nd course, and about 17.5 m above ground level for the third course.
Each of these string courses disguises an offset of approx. 5 cm, which gives the tower it's needle-like appearance.
Comments: The tower is composed of very even sandstone blocks, pinkish grey in color and dressed
to the curve. The cap was reset with the original stones in 1856-7. The capstone, story has it, fell
victim to musket balls in the 1860's and so had to be replaced. The original capstone is supposed to
be preserved inside the doorway of the cathedral, but was not observed on the 2004 visit. According to
Barrow, floors and ladders were fitted in the 1840's by the amateur archaeologist brother of the
property owner. The CPW repaired them in 1875-6, but by 1903 they had been removed. In 1841 the
base was excavated and two skeletons were found, indicating that the tower may have been built atop
an earlier burial ground.
Barrow's book reports that the interior of the tower at Ardmore contains a large number of corbels that
project at various levels - 16 - of which at least five have fine carvings of human and animal heads as
well as designs. It has been suggested that the corbels were building aids left when the work was
finished and carved later as practice by workmen who were building the cathedral.
History: Thought to have been founded by St. Declan in the 5th century - predating St. Patrick.
The round tower may be of 12th century origin, but could have been built as early as the 10th century,
though the first known mention of the tower is in 1642 as it and a nearby castle were occupied by Irish
forces. The tower was said to have held 40 men at the time of a battle with English soldiers, so the
logical conclusion would be that floors and ladders existed at that time.
Other Items of Interest: In the same cemetery as the round tower is the
"cathedral", the main
section of which was built in the 12th century. Protected within the confines of the ruin are two
very nice ogham stones and various other bits and bobs of dressed stone and building material. On the
exterior west wall of the cathedral is an arcade of wall sculptures, fairly worn, but still clear
enough to make out Adam & Eve and The Wisdom of Solomon. It is really difficult to make out the
rest of the carvings which glow an orange/gold in sunlight to contrast with the rest of the stonework
on the church. Also on site is
St. Declan's oratory - traditionally the burial place of St. Declan.
It is a small building with a stone-lined vault in the floor, now empty, but the site still attracts
pilgrims on Declan's Feast Day, July 24th. It is possible that most of this small church dates from
the 8th century, though it's upper walls and gables have been rebuilt and the lintelled doorway added.
The building was re-roofed in 1716 by the Bishop of Waterford. The view from here to the beaches and bay
below are magnificent.