Located near Athlone in County Offaly, Clonmacnoise Monastary sits in a pristine location on the River Shannon. Founded in 544 it was a center for learning with ties to the Kings of Ireland many of which are said to be buried on site. The monastery continued to grow over time becoming quite powerful until around the 12th century. With great power and a strong location came Viking and Norman attacks.
Highlights of the ruins at the monastery are the tower overlooking the Shannon, the Cross of the Scriptures including its magnificent religious detail, the North Cross with its hunting and fertility symbols, King’s Church which sits atop the graves of generations of Irish Kings, the Cathedral and its whispering arch, and the Fairy’s Stone.
The interpretive center is well worth a short visit as it houses the original high crosses and other important information. It details relics found on site including the magnificent Clonmacnoise Crozier which is on display at the Irish National Museum in Dublin. The Center even has information on the Papal visit to the ruins in 1979 by Pope John Paul II.
Clonmacnoise is a wonderful stop if you are traveling between Galway and Dublin as it is off the main highway. It is well worth a visit with its stunning views and superb history.