4.4km there and back again (1 hour)
Grade: Class 3
Elevation change: less than 20 metres
Waymarking: green arrows
Dogs allowed on a lead
This historic walk leads from Kilcoole to the parish church of Kilquade. The Mass Path features beautiful views of the countryside, an old walled garden, Kilquade church, and at the turning around point an opportunity to stop at a garden centre café for refreshments.
In ancient times Kilcoole was the parish church, but with the English Reformation the ancient church was abandoned. Catholic worship shifted to the surrounding fields and rural houses in nearby Kilquade. The necessity of attending Mass led to the development of “mass paths” leading from nearby settlements to Kilquade. The path from Kilcoole follows the river Cannistown through farm fields and along a country road to Kilquade. Up until the building of a church in Kilcoole (1968), local families would have made their way along this path to attend church.
In 1938 Sister M. Eithne wrote of three different mass paths connecting to Kilquade church:
There is the “Mass Path” which runs from the Village of Kilcool down Kelly’s field, along by Saint Patrick’s river and Convent garden wall, through Byrne’s field and out thro’ style on to the road. The people wend their way along here every Sunday and Holy day as they did long long before 1798 to Kilquade Church – which is now the Parish Church.
Before and during the time they were re-building Kilquade the priest said Mass (any time he could) in a house on the road between Priestnewtown and Delgany called the “Priory” which still retails the name “Priory” but is occupied by Protistant family named Evans. There is another Mass Path from Delgany which leads over a style right beside the church. This path is used still by people coming from Delgany and Dromin. There is another Path also from the Downs which leads down from Carrigower this is still used.
The two paths to Drummin (Dromin) and Kilcoole still exist and are well used by walkers. The Mass path affords beautiful views of the surrounding countryside and a testament to the many thousands of feet that have trod these paths in centuries past.
In 1949 as the population of Kilcoole continued to grow, it was decided to raise funds and build a church in the village. A considerable sum of money was raised. However when Rev. John Masterson became parish priest in 1950 he was not in favour of a new church. Instead, work was carried out to improve the roadway along the Mass Path to Kilquade. It was not until 1968 that the new church was completed in Kilcoole.
The part of the mass path running from the edge of the large field, through the wood and onto the road, is known locally as Sally Walk – probably from the Irish for willow tree.
The Mass Path starts on Main Street at the stone 1798 memorial bench (next to the filling station). Follow the footpath to Upper Green and past Forester’s Hall, passing through a turnstile. You will first see the primary school on your right, followed by the grounds of old Darraghville House (later a Convent).
Coming to another turnstile you will see the old walled garden ahead. This turnstile was at a crossroads where people from Ballygannon and Pretty Bush came through the convent grounds on their way to Kilquade Church.
The Canninstown River supplied water to the town and you will soon pass over the bridge. This river was diverted into two streams to water the walled garden.
The walk takes you through another turnstile. A previously existing road has disappeared under the grass. When you pass through the field you enter a section of woods known as the “Sally Walk”. When you reach the road, turn left and then right to finish at Kilquade Church. Take care along this section as there is no footpath.
Kilquade church dates back to 1802 and there are records of previous churches having been built on the site going back a further 500 years.
The garden centre near the church has a cafe and gift shop.
Alternative Route: Connect to Kilpedder / Delgany
On exiting Sally Walk to the Kilquade road, instead of turning left toward Kilquade, turn right. After a short uphill walk along the road, a farm gate to the left leads to a path running northwest. This joins the Cannistown River and runs to Farrankelly Road near the N11 motorway. Carefully crossing at the roundabout, then doubling back along Farrenkelly Road toward Greystones, the Mass Path continues northwest through a farm and joins up with Drummin Lane. From here one can walk to Delgany, Kilpedder, and beyond.