This panel highlights the key heritage sites in Rathdangan and provides an overview of the Rathdangan Heritage Trail, from Killamoat Church to Cranreen Cemetry.

Although a small village today, Rathdangan shows evidence of habitation for millennia, with a Bronze Age burial cist discovered near Cranareen Cemetry, a fort dating from the 8th Century or earlier and a Norman ‘moat’ in Killamoat. A survey of the village in 1668 recorded 18 houses, a substantial settlement for that time.

Rathdangan, or Rath Daingin (meaning the strong fort) got its name from a fort or rath 800m east of the village. Sadly little trace of it remains today. Fortunately the physical evidence of Rathdangan’s rich history is supplemented by memories and stories, many of them recorded in a booklet on the Rathdan Heritage Trail which is available locally.

Rathdangan GAA club enjoyed a golden era during the 1920s and 1930s with senior championship successes and a number of league titles. Links with the GAA were reinforced when the local schoolmaster, Hugh Byrne, served as President of the GAA from 1961 to 1964.

Rathdangan is also defined by geography. Lying as it does on the road from Aughrim to Baltinglass, Rathdangan has long been recognised as a gateway between east and west Wicklow. The ground beyond the village rises northwards towards the broad shoulders of Lugnaquilla, Wicklow’s highest mountain. Today the mountains provide Rathdangana with a scenic backdrop but, in severe winters such as 1947, 1963 and 1982, with fewer transport options, this community was cut off for weeks. This hardship instilled a spirit of self-reliance that remains strong in the people of the area.

Points of Interest in Rathdangan

In the late 1700s, there was a church on the site where the hall now stands. The hall was erected in memory of Seamus O’Toole who died in 1922 as the result of gunshot wounds obtained in the Civil War.

This Roman Catholic church, which was built on the site of a smaller church and completed in 1850, features two stained glass windows by the world renowned artist Harry Clarke (1889-1931).

Believed to have been designed by English architect William White, the man who designed Humewood Castle, this large stone house was built in the 1870s. It was a public house for a period up to the late 1980s.

The ‘Moat’ of Killamoat (visible by crossing the road from the church and looking west) is an Anglo-Norman earthen mound dating from the 1500s.  As shown here, there would have been a circular wooden palisade around the top of the mound and inside a wooden tower designed for habitation and defence.

This large flat circular stone inside the bridge wall is a shoeing stone, used to fit iron bands on wooden cart wheels. It was last used in the late 1950s.

In the early 1800s there were hundreds of hedge schools in Ireland. In 1834 Moses Walsh built a hedge or pay school at the junction of Lodge Lane. One wall of the school remains at the lower side of the paddock. There were up to 110 pupils on the rolls whose parents paid a penny a week for each child when they afford it. Moses Walsh later trained as a teacher and was approved under the Nation School system in 1840.

Tubbernashankill, ‘the well of the old church’, is not enclosed. This holy well is simply a recess by the side of a mountain stream, with a continuous flow of water from a crude spout. The well is less than 10 metres upstream from the bridge, on the southern bank of the stream.

Although the earliest headstone is dated 1789, the cemetery is believed to be in use since the early 1700s as there was a church on this site at that time. This is the old church from which Tubbernashankill takes its name. A stone font in the graveyard is reputed never to be dry and it is said that warts fade away if washed in its waters.

An ancient holy well dedicated to St. John, local people believe the water from Toberowen has curative powers. Beside the well stands a monument to John Moore who was hanged from a tree here during the rebellion of 1798 for the murder of Captain William Hume of Humewood.

Built in the 1880s to replace two other schools and cater for the local Church of Ireland population. The school closed in 1963.

This two-storey house functioned as a police barracks from the late 1700s to the late 1800s. An earlier barracks was located on Cornaan Lane.

At one time Rathdangan had three pubs. Byrne’s or Junior’s as it is commonly known, was the first pub in the village and also the first building erected in the village (early 1800s).