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The monastery of Clonmacnoise (Cluain Mhic Nóis in Irish, meaning Meadow of the Sons of Nós) is situated in County Offaly, Ireland on the River Shannon south of Athlone. It was visited by the Pope in 1979. The site can be visited for a fee, via an Interpretative Centre.
The modern village of Clonmacnoise is beside the monastery on the R444 regional road 7 km north of Shannonbridge, County Offaly.
Clonmacnoise was founded in 545 by Saint Ciarán in the territory of Ui Maine at the point where the major east-west land route through the bogs of central Ireland along the Eiscir Riada, an esker or moraine left by the receding glaciers of the last ice age crossed the River Shannon. Saint Ciarán had been educated by St. Finnian of Clonard and also by Abbot St. Enda of Aran.
Shortly after his arrival with eight companions, Ciarán met Diarmait mac Cerbaill who helped him build the first church — a small wooden structure and the first of many small churches to be clustered on the site. Diarmuid was to claim the title of the first Christian High King of Ireland. Ciaran died about one year later of the yellow plague and was buried reputedly in the building now known as Temple Ciaran; he was in his early thirties.
The strategic location of the monastery helped it become a major centre of religion, learning, craftsmanship and trade by the 9th century and together with Clonard it was the most famous in Ireland, being visited by scholars from all over Europe. Until the 9th century it had close associations with the kings of Connacht and then until the 11th century it was alliance with the kings of Mide. Many of the high kings of Tara and Connacht were buried here. It was attacked frequently, by the Vikings, Anglo-Normans and other Irish forces.
Clonmacnoise CastleAll the early buildings including churches were of wood and have not survived. They were replaced in stone by the tenth century onwards when Clonmacnoise became a bishopric. It also produced many fine examples of Celtic gold and silverware, which is preserved in Dublin museums.
After the 12th century it fell into decline. The English built a castle next to the monastery in the 13th century and the whole settlement was finally sacked in 1552 by an English garrison from Athlone which reduced it to a ruin.
We enjoyed our trip to Ireland immensely. The hotel accommodations were all very nice, including the breakfasts. The locations worked out well, allowing us to walk to some destinations in each town.
One suggestion regarding the car rental: Driving in Ireland was very nerve-wracking, mostly due to the narrow roads (not to mention driving on the "other side" and the roundabouts). We purchased extra insurance, which was a very good idea as I put a large scratch on the side of the car, running into a wall on the Ring of Kerry. We lost the deductible (250 Euros) but it would have been much worse had we not purchased the extra insurance. I would recommend adding that into the car rental cost and giving the customer the option to decline - that way they are at least alerted to the possibility of incurring damage and what it will cost if they do. I am glad that we considered the possibility, but I think others may not. Also, I think the car rental companies should put strip of molding on the doors so that repairing something like a scratch could be done more cheaply. They told us the body work would be expensive as the scratch went across the two doors - but if there had been molding on the door, it would have been much easier and cheaper to repair.
The GPS was very useful. However we were not able to enter the coordinates, which was used for most of the hotel locations. We asked someone at a hotel for help and he wasn't able to enter the coordinates, either. Full addresses for the hotels should be included with the vouchers. We ended up finding the hotels by "trial and error" once in the towns.
I think that's about it for the "ugly". Most of the trip was beautiful and I would recommend your service to others traveling to Ireland.
Attached is a picture of me with the dancers statue in front of the Bru Boru Cultural Centre, near the Rock of Cashel.
Feel free to use it on your website - and let me know if you do.
All the best...Anne Stratton
Anne Stratton, Bethesda, MD, USA