Clonmacnoise, County Offaly
Clonmacnoise (pronounced in Irish: Cluain Mhic Nois, “meadow of the sons of Nos”) is a monastic site overlooking the River Shannon in County Offaly. The extensive ruins include a cathedral, castle, round tower, numerous churches, two important high crosses, and a large collection of early Christian grave slabs (the last two on display in the excellent site museum).
Clonmacnoise was founded in 548 by St. Ciaran, the son of a master craftsman. The settlement soon became a major center of religion, learning, trade, craftsmanship and politics, thanks in large part to its position at the major crossroads of the River Shannon (flowing north-south) and the gravel ridges of the glacial eskers (running east-west).
The settlement was also situated between the two provinces of Meath and Connacht, and benefited from the patronage of powerful provincial kings. Clonmacnoise was originally associated with Connacht, but from the 9th to 11th centuries allied itself with Meath. In the late 11th and 12th centuries, allegiance reverted once again to Connacht. The last high king of Ireland, Rory O’Connor, was buried in Clonmacnoise’s cathedral in 1198.
Religion was the central focus at Clonmacnoise, but it always had a large lay population and thus looked more like a town than a monastery. The houses and domestic buildings were made of wood and have not survived, but there is a reconstruction of one such building in the site’s museum. The earliest churches at Clonmacnoise were also made of wood, but from the 10th century onward they were built of stone.
Like nearly all monastic settlements in Ireland, Clonmacnoise was plundered on several occasions by invaders, including the Vikings and Anglo-Normans. It then fell into decline from the 13th century onwards until it was destroyed in 1552 by the English garrison from nearby Athlone.
Clonmacnoise was designated a national monument in 1877 and is now overseen by the Office of Public Works (OPW). Don’t miss the excellent on-site museum, which includes a visual timeline of the site, the original high crosses from the site, and a fantastic collection of early Christian gravestones dating from the 8th through 12th centuries. Guided tours are available and audio visual presentations.
Add to Custom Tour
Create your very own Ireland tour with our Tailor Made Tours section. Once you've created an account and logged in, you can add your favourite attractions, accommodation and activities. And, when you're happy with your choices, just send them on to one of our Ireland experts and we'll design a custom itinerary and quote tailored just for you.
Ancient Ireland Self-Drive Tour 8 Days
Uncover the secrets of Ireland's ancient past.
Starting from $1,008 pps
Irish Gold Escorted Bus Tour 8 Days
The best of Southern Ireland
Starting from €1,303† pps
Castles of Ireland Self-Drive Tour 8 Days
Enjoy the best castles in Ireland
Starting from $1,369 pps
The Gathering Tour Self-Drive Tour 8 Days
Gathering your best of Ireland
Starting from $988 pps
Ancient Ireland Chauffeur Drive Tour 8 Days
A unique tour of ancient Ireland with a driver/guide.
Starting from $2,831 pps
Traditional Pub & Folklore Chauffeur-Drive Tour 6 Days
Relax and enjoy the culture.
Starting from $2,223 pps
Best of Ireland Self-Drive Tour 8 Days
History, heritage, breath taking scenery. An unforgettable tour.
Starting from $1,028 pps
Best of Ireland South Chauffeur Drive Tour 15 Days
Traverse the south in style.
Starting from $5,403 pps
Honeymoon Self-Drive Tour 12 Days
Romancing the Emerald Isle and each other!
Starting from $1,786 pps
Traditional Pub & Folklore Self-Drive Tour 6 Days
Get acquainted with Ireland's culture and traditions.
Starting from $874 pps
Best of Ireland Chauffeur Drive Tour 8 Days
Sit back, relax and enjoy the best of Ireland.
Starting from $2,947 pps
Best of Ireland South Self-Drive Tour
Take in Ireland's south at your own pace.
Starting from $1,545 pps
Ancient Ireland Self-Drive Tour 11 Days
Jump back in time and walk in ancient footsteps.
Starting from $1,143 pps
Traditional Pub & Folklore Self-Drive Tour 8 Days
Awaken your Celtic soul with Irish music and traditions.
Starting from $977 pps
Clodagh's Irish Food Trails Tour 8 Days
Enjoy a tasty tour with Clodagh McKenna's Irish Food Trails!
Starting from $1,029 pps
Scottish & Irish Gold Escorted Bus Tour 15 Days Gla/Dub
The best of the Celtic Worlds
Starting from €2,813† pps
Traditional Pub & Folklore Chauffeur Drive Tour 8 Days
Enjoy the best of Irish tradition.
Starting from $2,834 pps