Monasteries in Ireland make up one part of a very rich past. From World Heritage Sites that are more than 5,000 years old, such as Newgrange, to Dublin historical landmarks such as Kilmainham Gaol, the Emerald Isle is full of history. Religion has played a significant role in Ireland’s past, and this is apparent from the sheer volume of fascinating historical sites that are worth visiting from coast to coast. Often monasteries are found in the most beautiful locations, so not only will you be visiting an important historical monument, but you will most likely be surrounded by spectacular landscapes and countryside.
Clonmacnoise is a popular monastery among visitors seeking historical things to do in Ireland. Located on the River Shannon in County Offaly, Clonmacnoise enjoys spectacular scenery. This monastery was founded in 545 and many of the high kings of Tara were buried there. The most striking element of Clonmacnoise is a round tower that is in remarkably good condition. Wandering around the site visitors also get to see a variety of temples and intricately carved crosses depicting scenes from scripture. This monastery welcomes visitors seven days a week, and the admission fee is small. Hours vary depending on the season, but in general Clonmacnoise is open from 10 am to 5:30 pm, with extended hours in the summer.
Another famous destination is Monasterboice. These historic ruins of an early Christian settlement are located in County Louth, north of the town of Drogheda. If you’re planning on visiting the archaeological site of Newgrange at Bru na Boinne, the two attractions aren’t too far apart and can both be seen in the same day. Monasterboice was founded in the fifth century and is also the site of two churches built in the fourteenth century. However, the most famous component of this monastery is its collection of tenth-century crosses. The best known of these crosses reaches more than eighteen feet in height and is called Muiredach’s Cross; the name comes from an inscription on the cross that has an Irish phrase meaning “a prayer for Muiredach who had this cross made.” Many scholars believe this to be the most beautiful high cross in Ireland, and therefore, many people visit Monasterboice to catch a glimpse for themselves.
The monasteries in Ireland are often found in unusual locations, and Skellig Michael is no exception. The Skelligs are islands located just off the coast of County Kerry’s Iveragh Peninsula, not far from Dingle. Skellig Michael is home to a monastery that was founded in the seventh century. For more than 600 years this island was an important place for Irish Christian monks. UNESCO recognized this significance and made the monastery a World Heritage Site in 1996. The monastery is located at the top of the more than 750-foot-high island. While it is one of the best known monasteries in Ireland, it isn’t easy to reach, and therefore visitors often choose to see others instead.
If you aren’t venturing far beyond Dublin, the monastic settlement at Glendalough is not to be missed. Founded in the sixth century next to two beautiful lakes and not far from the Wicklow Mountains, this site has free entry and opportunities for beautiful walks and hikes. Many visitors bring along a picnic lunch as well to this historical spot. Beyond monasteries, there are many famous religious attractions in Ireland as well. From Kylemore Abbey to St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, your trip to Ireland will be full of interesting religious and historic attractions.