|Lismore Castle, Co. Waterford|
Some of Ireland’s Heritage towns have links back to the ancient Celtic monasteries, or were founded by the Vikings or the Normans. From stunning examples of architecture to fabulous walled gardens, why not have a look at our brief guide for some suggestions…
Lismore, County WaterfordThe first stop in Lismore has to be the Lismore Heritage Centre. The audiovisual display takes you back to St. Carthage’s arrival in 636 right through to modern times. The centre also houses the Robert Boyle Science Room, a room dedicated to the life and works of the father of Chemistry, Robert Boyle. Places of historical interest to see in the town are Lismore Castle and Gardens, St Carthage’s Cathedral, St. Carthage’s Church, the Carnegie Library and the Famine Graveyard.
Cashel, County TipperaryOnce upon a time when Ireland had 4 kings governing the provinces, Cashel was actually the seat of the Kings of Munster. But it is only fair to say that the most famous landmark in Cashel is the Rock of Cashel. Historic events that occurred here include St. Patrick converting King Aenghus, and Brian Boru was crowned High King of Ireland. Other must see attractions to put on your list include, the Bolton Library, the Folk Village and Dominic’s Abbey.
Listowel, County KerryThe market town of Listowel is situated in North Kerry, on the banks of the river Feale. As regards cultural heritage, Listowel has so much to offer. Taking pride of place in the town square is St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, which dates back to 1829. All that remains of 12th century Listowel Castle is two square towers. The Danny lodge dates back to the 19th century and there is also a small stretch of the Lartigue railway to be seen.
Cobh, County CorkCobh in Co. Cork has had a few name changes during the last couple of hundred years. In 1750 it was known as Cove, then when Queen Victoria visited in 1849, it was re-named Queenstown. The foundation of the Irish Free State in 1922 saw it revert to Cobh.
Probably the saddest and most emotional place in Ireland between 1848 and 1950, as it was from Cobh that 2.5 million Irish people departed for a new life in America.
What will you see in Cobh? For a start there is the Cobh Heritage Centre, the statue of Annie Moore and her brothers, the tower of St. Colman Cathedral, and the Lusitania Peace Memorial to name but a few.
Kinsale, County CorkThe historical town of Kinsale has so much to offer, from 17th century military forts, to castles and churches. High on the must see list is Charles Fort and directly across from it, James Fort.
Kinsale Garden of Remembrance is dedicated to Fr. Michael Judge chaplain of the New York fire fighters and to the 343 fire fighters who died on 09/11.
St. Multose Church dates back to 1190 and is still in use today.
Other popular sites include, the Almshouse, the Courthouse and Regional Museum, Desmond Castle and the International Museum of Wine.
Dalkey, County DublinDalkey village in Dublin started out as a Viking settlement and progressed to an important port in the Middle Ages. St. Begnet is the patron Saint of Dalkey.
In Dalkey today, you can visit the Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre. Here you can enjoy a “Living History Tour” of the Castle, provided by local group Deilg Inis Living History Theatre Company. Also on site is a tenth century church and graveyard, heritage museum and art gallery.
Literary and Historical guided walks are available.
Kells, County MeathSt. Colmcille set up a religious community back in 550 in Kells. However prior to this it was a royal residence. Kells today has many examples of ancient and medieval remains, including the Monastic enclosure with the High Crosses, Round Tower, St. Colmcilles House and the famous Scriptural Market Cross (at the entrance to the Heritage Centre).
A visit to Kells Heritage Centre is a must, where you will see a scaled model of a monastic site, replicas from monastic times and enjoy an audio/visual presentation, which puts everything into perspective.
Westport, County MayoWestport town centre is fashioned in Georgian architectural style. Lord Sligo commissioned the planning of the town in 1780. A tree lined boulevard, known as the Mall is one of the main features of the town, along with Westport House Gardens and Country Park, and Clew Bay Heritage Centre.
Forest and Historical walks are also a feature. And you can avail of the opportunity to see the old sport of Road Bowling.
Birr, County OffalyBirr was once known as Parsonstown, because of local landowners the Parsons, who were also the Earls of Rosse. Brendan Parsons, the current and seventh Earl of Rosse resides in Birr Castle. As the castle is an occupied family home, it is only open to the public on special occasions. However the gardens are open to tourists all year round, and while you are there look out for the Leviathan of Parsonstown (a large astronomical telescope).
Kilrush, County ClareCill Rois (the church of the woods) has links back to the 16th century. Like Westport is a planned town, and can owe its layout to the Vandeleur family, wealthy landlords of the 18th century. You will notice that some of the streets today have been named after Vandeleur family members.
Places of interest in the town include the monument to the Manchester Martyrs, the stained glass windows of St. Senan’s church, Vandeleur walled gardens, Millenium Park and nearby Scattery Island which includes a round tower and the ruins of the old Cathedral.
So that’s just a brief run down of our idea of the top heritage towns in Ireland.