Situated in Shannonbridge, west of Dublin in County Offaly, Clonmacnoise is Ireland's most important monastic site. Founded by Saint Ciaran in the 6th-century, on the banks of the River Shannon, it includes the ruins of a cathedral, eight churches (10th to 13th-century), two round towers, and three high crosses. The site is extremely atmospheric, with some beautiful ancient stonework, and it provides the visitor with a real sense of what monasteries must have been like in their day. Everything still feels authentic and the spirit of place has been preserved. The Visitor Centre displays a large collection of grave slabs, hosts numerous exhibitions and provides further interest with an audio-visual show. It is a good idea to start with a browse around the museum to get some historical context before exploring the ruins, many of which are remarkably intact. There is lots to see and explore and Clonmacnoise offers some really glorious photographic opportunities. Although it is ideal to visit in good weather, as you will want to stroll around the whole site, even in mist and drizzle the ancient monastery ignites the imagination. As this is a very popular attraction, visitors may experience queues during the summer months.
Address: 120 miles (200km) west of Dublin in Shannonbridge, County Offaly.
Telephone: 090 967 4195
Opening times: Daily 10am-5:30pm (November to mid-March), 10am-6pm (mid-March to mid-May, and September to October), 9am-7pm (mid-May to September).
Admission: €6 adults and €2 children, concessions available.