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Although cities and their landmarks are usually the tourists preferred sites to visit, Ireland offers alternatives just as interesting: breathtaking natural scenery and fascinating, silent, stone ruins.
The followings monuments are the sites I visited, a few amongst the many in the unique Irish landscape.
The density and variety of archaeological monuments in the Dingle Peninsula are truly amazing. This mountainous finger of land jutting into the Atlantic Ocean has supported settlers for almost 6,000 years and over 2,000 monuments are still preserved. The “beehive hut” or Clochán is a dry-stone hut with a corbelled roof, commonly associated with the south-western Irish seaboard. The construction date of most of these structures is assumed to be around the 10th century CE.
The Iron Age (to 500 CE) is usually associated, in Ireland, with the Celtic Period. Some of the archaeological information from this period is sketchy, but hill forts, some ring forts, ogham stones, and holy wells date to this period.
The Gallarus Oratory, a small chapel in the shape of an up-turned boat, is an early Christian church located on the Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry. The oratory is built of stone without mortar, using “corbel vaulting”, a technique developed by Neolithic tomb-makers. It is unclear if the site dates back to the 8th or 9th century or the 12th.
Kilmalkedar Church is the most important church site on the Dingle Peninsula. The existing church is a 12th century Romanesque building believed to have been founded by Maolcethair in the 7th century although the site is traditionally associated with St. Brendan.
On the site there is an Ogham stone, possibly connected with an early monastery, bearing the inscription “Anm Maile Inbir Maci Brocann” (the name of Mael Inbir, son of Brocan).
Hore Abbey is a 13th c. CE ruined Benedictine/Cistercian monastery near the Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary. Dissolved in 1540, the property was transferred to James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond.
The Holy Cross Abbey is a restored Cistercian monastery in Holycross near Thurles, County Tipperary. It takes its name from a relic of the True Cross. The relic was last exposed for public veneration in 1632, and following the Cromwellian war, Holy Cross Abbey fell into ruins. Local people used the roofless ruins as a burial place after 1740.
Jerpoint Abbey is a ruined Cistercian abbey, founded in the second half of the 12th century, near Thomastown, County Kilkenny. The abbey continued to flourish until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII. In 1541 it was granted by Philip and Mary to James Butler, the 9th Earl Earl of Ormond.
Kells Priory is one of the largest and most impressive medieval monuments in Ireland. The Augustine priory is situated alongside King’s River beside the village of Kells, County Kilkenny. One of its most striking features is a collection of medieval tower houses spaced at intervals along and within walls which enclose a site of just over 3 acres. The Priory was founded in 1193. During its first century and a half the priory was attacked and burned on three occasions. Dissolution of Kells Priory took place in 1540 when the church and property were surrendered to James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormonde.
Muckross Abbey is one of the major ecclesiastical sites in County Kerry. It was founded in 1448 as a Franciscan friary for the Observantine Franciscans.It has had a violent history and has been damaged and reconstructed many times. The friars were often subjected to raids by marauding groups and were persecuted by Cromwellian forces.
Kilree High Cross, near Kells County Kilkenny, is believed to be of the 8th or 9th century. The weathered sandstone cross stands at 2.75m high in the middle of a field where the Kilree Round Tower also stands within the remains of an old monastic site.
The monastery of Clonmacnoise is situated in County Offaly on the River Shannon south of Athlone. Clonmacnoise was founded in 546 and the period of its greatest growth was between the 8th and 12th centuries, even though it was frequently attached (by the Irish, the Vikings and Normans) during those four centuries. Artisans associated with the site created some of the most beautiful and enduring artworks in metal and stone ever seen in Ireland (the Clonmacnoise Crozier and the Cross of the Scriptures). After the 12th centuries it declined out of existence.
The Rock of Cashel is a historic site located at Cashel, County Tipperary. The Rock of Cashel was the seat of the kings of Munster for several hundred years prior to the Norman invasion. It is reputed to be the site of the conversion of the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century. In 1101 the King of Munster donated the fortress on the Rock to the Church. Few remnants of the early structures survive; the majority of buildings on the current site date from the 12th and 13th centuries. In 1647, Cashel was sacked by English Parliamentarian troops and the Irish Confederate troops and Roman Catholic clergy were massacred.
Glendalough is a glacial valley in County Wicklow. It is renowned for its Early Medieval monastic settlement founded in the 6th century by St Kevin, a hermit priest, and partly destroyed in 1398 by English troops. The main buildings on site today are the 30m high round tower and the St. Kevin’s church (stone roofed).