Your oft-mysterious Insider’s Guide is taking you on a side trip that you won’t find in guide books.
Picture this: You’ve indulged in Galway’s great pubs until you feel like an empty balloon. It’s time to recharge. Fall into a slower pace. Irish traveler, we have good news!
Eastern Galway flows smoothly into Counties Offaly and Westmeath. The country becomes softer as you drive inland. You go through farm land that’s dotted with ancient relics, and secret castles. They live quite nicely together. Pull over to the side of the road and breathe. Wander the fields.
Just there, to your right, is the early Christian settlement of Clonmacnoise sitting by a shining river. Its round towers and stone chapel sing to you from the past. Watch. Listen. Breathe in the layers of time as they flow past you.With renewed calm and energy, drive a little farther and you’ll reach Athlone. It’s a vibrant university town with buildings painted so many colors that your senses go on phantasmic-overload.
The ancient monastic site of Clonmacnoise is situated at the crossroads of Ireland in County Offaly and dates back almost 1,500 years. St. Ciaran, the son of an Ulsterman who had settled in Connaught, chose the site in 545 AD because of its ideal location at the junction of river and road travel in Celtic Ireland. The location borders the three provinces of Connaught, Munster and Leinster. The monastery is on the east side of the River Shannon, in what was then the Kingdom of Meath, but occupying a position so central it was the burial-place of many of the kings of Connaught as well as those of Tara. The site includes the ruins of a cathedral, seven churches (10th -13th century), two round towers, three high crosses and the largest collection of Early Christian grave-slabs in Western Europe. The original high crosses and a selection of grave-slabs are on display in the visitor centre. The long and varied history of Clonmacnoise is recounted in an audiovisual presentation shown in the visitor centre. There are also exhibitions that dedicated to the flora, fauna and landscape of the region.
There are coffee houses, historic pubs, and a great marina for hiring a boat. Set your body and imagination adrift, and prepare for an evening of fine music and great companionship.
It’s all waiting for you in on Ireland’s Mystery Road.