The Monasteries of Long Ago Wicklow to Kildare
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A tour of the principal sites in the East Coast and Midlands Region makes the basis for a marvellous introduction to the beauties of Ireland - quite apart from the beauty of the monasteries themselves.
St. Patrick travelled far and wide throughout Ireland in the 6th century, establishing monastic settlements wherever the situation seemed promising. He was followed by many like-minded holy men and women so that the entire country is liberally sprinkled with the remains of ancient monasteries. A tour of the principal sites in the East Coast and Midlands Region makes the basis for a marvellous introduction to the beauties of Ireland - quite apart from the beauty of the monasteries themselves.
Some have little more to offer than romantic and beautiful settings. Many of the others contain wonderful Celtic crosses, exquisitely sculpted monuments in stone that have stood in their places for a thousand years. Some still show their extraordinary bell-towers, built in stone as beacons for pilgrims, as treasuries and as refuges when the neighbours or Viking invaders attempted to pillage the settlements. Many have romantic ruins, perhaps no more than a few archways or a church tower, often with curiously decorated stonework and always with an atmosphere of ancient sanctity.
All in all a feast for lovers of ancient art and architecture – and for those who simply want to capture the true spirit of Ireland.
The East Coast & Midlands have more than ordinary share of outstanding monastic sites and the rather isolated spot, Clonmacnoise, must not be missed. So this tour is set out in the form of two loops to look at the clusters and a long route to join Clonmacnoise to the others. The full excursion covers 454 km (282 miles). Give it a week to allow plenty of time for all the other diversions on the way.