Armchair Archaeology: Ireland’s only inland lighthouse

Published: 26 Jun 2020

Welcome to the eleventh edition of Armchair Archaeology! In this series we look at the famous and the less well-known sites in the Boyne Valley. As restrictions ease and we plan on where to explore once again, let Boyne Valley Tourism take you on a virtual tour of some of our favourite sites.

This afternoon we are visiting the medieval town of Kells, and just outside it is a remarkable landmark; the Spire of Lloyd.

 

This inland lighthouse was designed by Henry Aaron Baker designer of the King’s Inn, Dublin for Thomas Taylour, First Earl of Bective, in memory of his father (also Sir Thomas Taylor) in 1791 and provided work during the time of a local famine. As a large monument visible from miles around, it was also a symbol of Lord Headfort’s wealth and power.

The plaque reads: 'This pillar was designed by Henry Aaron Baker Esq. architect was executed by Mr. Joseph Beck stone cutter Mr. Owen Mc Cabe head mason Mr. Bartle Reilly overseer Anno 1791'.

At 30m (100ft) high, on the summit of the Commons of Lloyd, from 428 ft above sea level one can see magnificent views of the surrounding countryside as far as the Mourne Mountains in County Down, Northern Ireland on a clear day.

(Image: Mick Langan)

The Spire is said to have been used to view horse racing and the hunt in the 19th century (although the Kells racecourse itself wasn’t built until after the tower) Inside there is a 164-step spiral staircase, with a central protective cage. The plaque on the east side of the Spire carries the Headfort Coat of Arms with the family crest – Consequitur quodquinque petit -(‘He follows what he seeks’).

The spire stands on the site of an Iron Age ring fort but evidence is mounting to show that the site dates further back to the Bronze Age. Recent geophysical scans of the hill show a massive hillfort of concentric ditches ringing the summit of the hill.

(Image: Mick Langan)

The hill was known as Mullach Aiti, which graduates to Mulloyde and to the current day Lloyd. The Hillfort guarded the approaches from the Kingdom of Bréifne (Cavan) to the ancient Kingdom of Midhe (Meath).
The legendary Queen Maeve (Medbh) was said to camp here with her armies on her way to steal Ulster's prize stud bull in the story of Táin Bó Cúailnge ("The Cattle Raid of Cooley").

Edward Bruce, brother to King Robert Bruce of Scotand, also camped here following his victory at the Battle of Kells in 1314, as part of his abortive invasion of Ireland.

During the times of the Great Famine, destitute people lived on the hill. The community park (The People’s Park) includes the - Paupers Graveyard - in which many victims of the mid-19th century famine lie buried. On visiting the Spire - one can also take the Ringfort and Blackwater River Looped Walk, or enjoy the playground beside the carpark.

The spire is open to visitors on bank holiday Mondays (during normal times), please contact the Kells Courthouse Tourism and Cultural Hub for more advice and information.