Halfway to Galway, departing from Dublin, is the Clonmacnoise Monastery. A place that has lived better times but in turn retains a special charm. Strolling through its innumerable Celtic crossings and dreaming about what once was this place, becomes an essential stop on any trip to Ireland.
Clonmacnoise Monastery - Cross of the Scriptures (replica) + Cathedral
Ireland. Clonmacnoise monastery
Clonmacnoise (Cluain Mhic Nóis) which means Prado de los Hijos de Nós, was founded by Santo Ciarán around 545/548 AD along with what was then one of the most important crossroads in the country, which linked the Highway of the Kings (Highway of the Kings) and the Shannon River.
Over the years it became a place where monks from numerous parts of Europe they came to complete their studies. Clonmacnoise had become one of the most important religious points in the country, where literature and art were its strongest points.
So much relevance had that in the year 1198 the last King of Ireland (Rory O'Connor) was buried in the Cathedral. Over the years and after surviving numerous fires and robberies caused by the Vikings, Anglo-Normans and the Irish themselves, the place began to decline until it became ruins in the sixteenth century.
The entrance to the complex costs around € 6 (2013) and entitles you to visit the ruins and a beautiful museum. The latter can be visited in 1 hour and is composed of recreations of life during the height of the monastery. The most interesting are the celtic crosses and stelae extracted from the ruins in order not to erode. Outside they were replaced by replicas.
Clonmacnoise Museum - Cruz del Sur
Two of Clonmacnoise's most important symbols are not precisely here but in the National Museum and the Royal Irish Academy of Dublinspecifically the Staff of the Abbot of Clonmacnoise and the Brown Cow Book (Leabhar na hUidhre) of the twelfth century.
Finally there is a reconstruction of a wooden house where the monks of the monastery resided. Today there is no original left.
The whole of the ruins consists of a cathedral, seven small churches and two towers. Look where we look, we will see many Celtic crosses crowning hundreds of stone tombstones.
Our visit did not follow any established itinerary but we dedicated ourselves to follow the small paths examining each of the things we were seeing. The first thing we saw was the Cathedral, stripped of its roof like almost all the buildings in the area. It was founded in 909 by Flann Sianna (King of Ireland) and hosts under its foundations numerous tombs belonging to the Family Coghlan. Despite not having a roof, there are certain parts that have been restored and with some controversy, such as the Whispering Bow, rebuilt in gothic style (See list of photos).
Clonmacnoise Monastery - Cathedral
We decided to continue towards the side that converges with the Shannon River, where is the Finghin Tower, of the twelfth century. Its dome was shot down by lightning in the same century of its construction, bad luck ... but it was quickly rebuilt by a new one. From here we can pass through a wall and be able to get closer to the river bank and see the pier where the cruise ships from Shannonbridge.
Clonmacnoise Monastery - Temple Finghin
Very close to the tower is the Connor Temple (11th century) and for what seemed its state of conservation was impeccable although its interior was completely remodeled. It is currently a small Protestant church, closed to the public and which is used on certain occasions, mainly on Sundays of each summer.
Clonmacnoise Monastery - Temple Connor
There are many more temples such as Kelly, Clarán, Melaghin, Downling, Hurpan, ..., etc. but what caught our attention are the Celtic Crosses. Its origin is Irish and they are easily recognizable by seeing a circle that borders a Christian cross. As an anecdote these were erected until the fifteenth century and later the tradition was resurrected in the nineteenth century by Irish nationalism.
The truth is that the place can turn into something very sinister the nights where the fog coming from the river completely covers the cemetery. I did not find traces of earthworks so the dead are dead :-D.
To end our visit, we return to the main entrance to enjoy the O'Rourke Tower. Investigating a little, we discovered that it was originally built outside the Monastery, until later the cows were moved and finally placed inside. Like many other towers in Ireland, his name was given by his own builder, a Fergal O'Rourke.
Clonmacnoise Monastery - O'Rourke's Tower
So far we review a bit what it was Clonmacnoise for us. We still have many more places in Ireland to tell you.
The surroundings of the monastery of Clonmacnoise
As a personal recommendation, I would move to Galway after visiting Clonmacnoise. In addition to enjoying walking its streets full of pubs, you can taste one of the best fish & chips of the country in McDonagh's.
When to go to the monastery of Clonmacnoise?
Irish weather is unpredictable and it can rain at any time of the year, but if we have to choose dates it would be from June to September.
How to get to the monastery of Clonmacnoise?
Does not exist public transport to get to Clonmacnoise. There are tours with private buses that run the place or we can choose to rent a vehicle. Keep in mind that in these places the roads are narrow, without a shoulder and that it is possible that there is cattle crossing the road in the most unpredictable places.
Another interesting option is to join the cruise that joinsShannonbridge with Clonmacnoise, through Shannon River, about € 14 i / v and only available in summer.
There is the possibility of hiring a guide directly in the Ruins for a period of 60 minutes. Available only in English. However, there are brochures translated into Spanish, French, German and Italian.
It is also possible to display a audiovisual projection In the small theater. It lasts approximately 20 minutes and is available in English, French, German and Italian.
What to wear
Personally I would wear comfortable shoes and an umbrella. It is a pleasant place to walk and we can shelter in the small bar or in the museum in case of bad weather. Filming / photographing the ruins is not prohibited.
Where to sleep?
The nearest major locations are Athlone and Ballinasloe. I would personally look for a Bed & Breakfast and I would opt for the first town, due to the proximity of the Ree lake, famous for trout and pike fishing in its cold waters.