Arched stone bridges remind me of Ireland. Dotted around the countryside, they span Ireland’s many streams and rivers.
I love these old bridges. They seem to tell stories of days long gone, and the many generations who passed over their arches in centuries past.
Engineering from Centuries Past
Enduring testaments to the skills of Irish and English engineers from bygone days, these bridges continue to carry their heavy loads, largely ignored by travelers and locals alike.
These ancient arches have spanned the centuries, with most of Ireland’s stone bridges dating back over 150 years.
Some have stood the test of time through many hundreds of years.
Thousands of Masonry Arched Bridges in Ireland
I was surprised to learn over 18,000 masonry bridges support roads in Ireland to this very day.
That’s a long history of bridge building, and these stony masterpieces have demonstrated amazing durability.
Initially designed to carry horses, carts and carriages, these bridges display formidable inherent strength by carrying heavy traffic loads each and every day.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to launch into arch theories with intricate diagrams of thrust lines, compression points, or inversion and loading configurations.
My brain aches just typing these mathematical terms.
In this post I simply wish to draw attention to these beautiful architectural gems.
Driving around Ireland you might be crossing ancient arches without even knowing it.
Ancient Arched Bridges
Abbeytown Bridge in Boyle, Co. Roscommon dates back to the late 12th century.
This 5-arch bridge could well be the oldest surviving stone bridge in Ireland, with over 800 years of labor under its belt, or above its incredible arches, however you like to look at it.
This ancient bridge has been widened but traffic continues to flow across its span on a daily basis. Simply amazing.
The stone walls bordering this small road are a clue to a hidden gem beneath.
In Ireland, the landscape, the buildings, and even the bridges connect us to the past.
To tell you the truth I’m a bit of a pain as a car passenger. Whenever I see a bridge with rustic looking stone walls, I immediately sense a little bit of history around me. I never hesitate to interrupt our journey.
“Whoa,” I call out at the sight of a river with old stone walls edging the road.
“What is it now,” asks my husband, pulling over to the side.
“Let’s check out that bridge.”
Before you know it I’ve climbed over the bridge wall and am down in a field with camera in hand.
Part of Ireland’s Heritage
These stone arches are part of Ireland’s infrastructural heritage, having served us well over the centuries.
I hope the powers that be will choose to conserve these structures for the future.
As custodians of history, I hope today’s generations will honor the symbolic importance of these bridges. They are part of our cultural inheritance.
And so, as you travel around Ireland, keep an eye out for her beautiful bridges. You never know when you may cross one of these architectural masterpieces.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
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