Posted by: mdmusingsie | September 23, 2018


Sometimes when people come to visit from abroad I take them to some of my favorite places, which are also popular tourist spots.  Other times people have their own wish list which includes places I haven’t visited before.  Clonmacnoise is one of those I had heard of but never visited.

Some of the more ancient, sacred sites are not an exit off the motorway.  They may have a sign on the motorway telling you which exit to take, but from there it can be an easy jaunt down a reasonable road, or, as in the case of Clonmacnoise, practically over the river and through the woods.  We exited said motorway, went down a national highway to rural routes, crept along 1+ lane roads in an assortment of conditions, through small towns and villages and finally found our destination.

Clonmacnoise is an ecclesiastical site founded around 548 by St. Ciarán.  Although it is a bit of a trek by modern road, it is situated along the ancient primary east-west land route as well a stone’s throw from the river Shannon.  We saw boats coming and going from a pier a short distance away, so if you don’t fancy the winding, narrow roads, take a boat from Athlone.

The earliest buildings would have been built of timber and only an archaeological dig can locate any remaining post holes.  The stone structures that remain date from the 10th century onwards, and include the main cathedral.  In addition to the cathedral there are a number of other temples or smaller churches, and two round towers.

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What Clonmacnoise is most famous for, at least in modern times, are the high crosses.  To prevent further damage from weather, the three largest and most decorative are housed in the museum.  Replicas have been placed in the original location around the grounds of the site.   There’s an abundance of grave sites and intricately carved grave markers.

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What I find most impressive about these buildings, grave markers, and high crosses is the detailed carving and shaping of stone.  There were no machines banging out these designs, it was people with mallets and chisels working for months and possibly years to create these impressive monuments.

I can’t help but wonder, when looking at the round towers and the cupola/dovecot, whether the monks were having a bit of a laugh with the shapes.


Clonmacnoise – round tower 1


Clonmacnoise – round tower 2


Clonmacnoise – cupola

We were lucky to get some nice sun breaks so we could explore the grounds at leisure as there are plenty of artifacts to explore in the area.


Clonmacnoise – interesting hole


Clonmacnoise – butterflies at play

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