Since historic sites and Ireland go hand in hand, this is just one of the many reasons that so many tourists visit these shores every year. Among the many highlights are our historic monastic sites, many of which have had a huge impact on generations of Irish men and women for hundreds of years. There are over 100 ancient monastic sites in ruins today, many with a story just waiting to be discovered. Below we look at 10 ancient monastic sites across Ireland that everyone should try to get along to.
10 Irish Monastic Sites Everyone Should Visit
1 Glendalough, Wicklow
Situated in the stunning Wicklow Mountains is Glendalough Monastic Site, one of Ireland’s most picturesque monastic sites. With views of the Wicklow Mountains and Lakes, Glendalough was formed in the 6th Century by St Kevin, and today consists of several ancient ruins including St Kevin’s Church and St Mary’s Church. You can find out more about this early Christian ‘Monastic City’ by visiting the Glendalough Visitor Centre.
View the latest Wicklow hotel deals and plan your trip to Glendalough and Wicklow Mountains today.
2 Clonmacnoise, Offaly
Perhaps the most famous of Ireland’s monastic sites, Clonmacnoise that was founded by St Ciarán in the 6th Century. Like Glendalough, Clonmacnoise has several ruins today that help paint the picture of the vast area this impressive monastic site spanned for hundreds of years. Along with Clonard in Meath, Clonmacnoise became a major centre of religion, learning, craftsmanship in Ireland and, by the 9th Century, was visited by scholars from all over Europe.
View the latest Offaly hotel deals and plan your trip to Clonmacnoise today.
3 Nendrum, Down
Located in the town of Newtownards in County Down, Nendrum Monastic Site is one of the oldest in Ireland dating back to the 5th Century. Perhaps the best example of an early Christian monastic site in Northern Ireland, Nendrum consists of three walled enclosures within one another, with several ancient ruins including a church ruin, round tower and sundial. Nendrum Monastic Site is located on a small island in Strangford Lough, an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Plan your trip to Nendrum and Strangford Lough by checking out the latest Down hotel deals today.
4 Devenish Island, Fermanagh
Another popular monastic site in Northern Ireland is Devenish Monastic Site located in Enniskillen and the Fermanagh Lakelands. Devenish Monastic Site has quite a history, having been formed in the 6th Century, the island was raided by Vikings in the 9th Century and burned in the 12th Century. Take time to explore the ancient ruins located on the island each with their own story to tell from these various periods. The island is only accessible by boat.
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5 Skellig Michael, Kerry
One of Ireland’s most famous monastic sites, Skellig Michael in County Kerry is the only monastic site to be a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Founded in the 6th Century, Skellig Michael has been uninhabited for centuries and today, can only be accessible by boat, but once on the island, the views are simply breathtaking. Few Irish monastic sites will leave an impression on you like Skellig Michael, simply a must visit for every Irish person at some point in their lives.
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6 Jerpoint Abbey, Kilkenny
Jerpoint Abbey is a Cistercian Abbey that was founded in the 12th Century. The abbey is home to chapels, tomb sculptures, a tower and cloister, with Jerpoint Abbey Visitor Centre providing some great insights into the history of the abbey, and some informative exhibitions to help you uncover the story of this impressive abbey. Jerpoint Abbey is one of the most popular Kilkenny attractions with guided tours available for visitors.
Check out the latest Kilkenny hotel deals and plan your trip to Jerpoint Abbey today.
7 Mellifont Abbey, Louth
Another 12th Century Cistercian monastic site, Mellifont Abbey in Drogheda had over 100 monks in its heydey and was one of Ireland’s main abbeys until it closed in the 14th Century. While Mellifont lies mainly in ruins today, this historic abbey is worth adding to your list of Irish monastic sites to visit. Today the ruins of Mellifont are in the care of Heritage Ireland, with an informative Visitor Centre.
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8 Dunbrody Abbey, Wexford
Located in the picturesque Hook Peninsula, Dunbrody Abbey is a 12th-Century Abbey that was founded by Strongbow following the Norman invasion of Ireland. While the abbey has fallen from grace in the centuries that have followed, it is still an impressive structure today, and with a craft shop, tea room and maze all nearby the abbey, it makes for a great day out for all the family.
Check out the latest Wexford hotel deals and plan your trip to Dunbrody Abbey today.
9 Scattery Island, Clare
Founded by St Senan in the 6th Century, Scattery Island is home to an ancient monastic settlement with a collection of ruins including one of Ireland’s highest round towers. Scattery Island has been the location of many battles and invasions over the years, especially from Vikings. Today, the guided tours of Scattery Island help tell the chequered story of this monastic site with boats to the island departing from Kilrush Marina.
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10 Rock of Cashel, Tipperary
While the Rock of Cashel wasn’t originally built as a monastic site, most of the buildings today date back to the 12th and 13th Century following the Norman invasion of this period. The Rock of Cashel is one of Ireland’s most iconic landmarks and home to one of the finest collections of Celtic art in Europe. There are many ancient buildings located at the Rock of Cashel to explore including Cormac’s Chapel, the round tower and the ancient cathedral.
Check the latest Cashel hotel deals and plan your trip to Tipperary today.
Plan Your Irish Monastic Adventure Today
These are just some of the most iconic monastic sites just waiting to be explored around Ireland. Have we missed your favourite? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images via Fáilte Ireland