The most prominent and spectacular building on Devenish is the round tower . This is a superb example and to make it even more special you can climb up to the top! This involves a set of steps up to the door followed by four ladders. At each floor the trapdoor through gets narrower and narrower. There are a couple of windows to light the way and some small lights, but the inside is still very gloomy. It is very easy to get a good impression of what it must have felt like for the monks.
On the top floor you can see out of the four windows, which face the cardinal points of the compass, to both sides of the island. You are also just feet below the underside of the conical stone roof. The beauty of this engineering is tremendous.
I was fascinated by the direction the door faces in. It does not face quite the same version of east as the east-facing window on the top floor. The door and the window above it seem to face true east. This could mean that it is actually built to allow the Equinox sun to rise into it. There must be a reason why it does not face the same direction as the topmost window.
A unique feature of this round tower is the decoration just below the conical roof. Here, around the outside, is a carved beading with a head set above each window.
Next to the base of the round tower is the base of a second one. Was this one ever complete?
Round Towers are found all over Ireland. They are very tall towers associated with early monastic settlements. Their purpose is one of much debate: were they bell towers, look-out towers or were they defensive structures, built to protect the sites relics and books during Viking raids? Maybe they were all three! The high-set doors certainly give the impression that some element of defense was considered in their construction.
Internally they had four or five floors, each accessed via a ladder from the floor below. Not every floor had a window, but the top floor usually had four windows which aligned to the cardinal points of the compass. The one at Kells (County Meath) unusually has five windows on the top floor which point at the five gates to the town.
Not many of the eighty plus examples left are full height these days. Many crumbled and were taken down for safety purposes. Some, however, are still very impressive inded with Kilmacduagh (County Galway) reaching an incredible 35m tall.
Originally all of them would have had a conical roof and those that still possess this feature give the impression of being ready to blast off into space.
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This is an explanation of (and a bit of a disclaimer for) the coordinates I provide.
Where a GPS figure is given this is the master for all other coordinates. According to my Garmin these are quite accurate.
Where there is no GPS figure the 6 figure grid reference is master for the others. This may not be very accurate as it could have come from the OS maps and could have been read by eye. Consequently, all other cordinates are going to have inaccuracies.
The calculation of Longitude and Latitude uses an algorithm that is not 100% accurate. The long/lat figures are used as a basis for calculating the UTM & ITM coordinates. Consequently, UTM & ITM coordinates are slightly out.
UTM is a global coordinate system - Universal Transverse Mercator - that is at the core of the GPS system.
ITM is the new coordinate system - Irish Transverse Mercator - that is more accurate and more GPS friendly than the Irish Grid Reference system. This will be used on the next generation of Irish OS maps.