One of the best-preserved Franciscan friaries in the country, Ross Errilly Friary is a National Monument of Ireland that’s thought to have been founded in the mid-15th century. Known as Ross Abbey to locals, inside you can explore its medieval cloisters, halls, and tombs. You’ll also get to wander the medieval kitchen, the old bake house, and dining hall.
Ross Errilly Friary has quite the history: Monastic life was first disrupted in 1538, when the English Reformation act declared that allegiance to the pope was treasonous. Over the next century, the friars were often subjected to imprisonment, eviction, and persecution, and by 1626 only 6 priests and 2 brothers remained at the monastery. In 1698, when the Popery Act declared that practicing the Catholic faith was illegal with dire penalties for anyone involved, the remaining monks became fugitives and moved to a small island a mile downstream. They built simple huts made of wood and stone, and the local community secretly supported the monks with food, fuel, and clothes brought across to ‘Friars Island’ via a wooden drawbridge.
Sixteen miles north of Galway City, Ross Errilly Friary is about 2 miles northwest of Headford — take a left onto Church Road, and look out for the sign for the monastery to the right.