The monastery at Old Kilcullen is said to have been founded by St. Patrick and left in the care of Mac Táil (Son of the Adze) who he ordained. It is built on top of a hill 2km outside the town of Kilcullen and overlooks some nice rolling countryside. It is also 500m south-east of the Dún Áilinne hill fort which was a significant neolithic site. Perhaps something is to be read into an early Christian site being founded so near a pagan one?
If you have been reading any of these round tower posts, it will come as little surprise to learn that the monastery was raided by Vikings in the 10th century. It was burned again in 1114.
Little remains of the monastery, apart from the tower, the ruins of a 12th-century church and the remnants of 2 high crosses. The tower now stands just 11m high but was taller until 1798. Just like the round tower at Roscrea, it was damaged during the 1798 rebellion. It lost some of its height but not to the extent that the Roscrea tower did. It is believed that this one wasn’t all that tall to begin with. Old drawings and records suggest the tower had no cap but had 4 windows on what would have been its bell floor. This is unusual in the world of round towers but not unique. The towers at Dromiskin, Co. Louth and on Tory Island off the Co. Donegal coast are not that tall either.
The doorway into the tower is quite low too (the door sill is just 1.8 m from the ground) but this is because the ground around it has risen over the centuries. Until the 1990s, it was possible to access the tower but there is now a metal grille in the doorway. Still, it is nice to take a closer look at a doorway that is almost at eye level.
Apart from the tower and the partial high crosses, there isn’t a lot to see here. I’d rate this as one for round tower completists. If you want to see one round tower in Kildare, go for the one in Kildare town. Not only is it complete, it’s climbable!
Getting there. The tower is situated 2km outside Kilcullen, not too far from the motorway or the town. The site is easy to find and there is parking outside the graveyard.
Tower visits May 2009/June 2021