While Ireland’s weather is famously cool, it isn’t the temperature that will give you chills when visiting Clonmacnoise. Rather, it’s the 1,500 years of monastic history that’s powerfully felt in these ruins—where temples, cathedrals, home sites, and graveyards have withstood the elements for centuries. Originally founded in the 6th century, this stone village along the River Shannon prospered for a time as Christian monastery in Ireland’s central plains. Years of outside siege, however, would leave the settlement in ruins, and even though it now sits empty and is a shell of its former self, the stone towers and towering crosses can still move people today. When visiting the ruins at Clonmacnoise, silently stroll past one of the largest collection of Christian gravestones in Europe. Gaze upwards at the brown sandstone that forms the Cathedral’s north wall—a piece of architecture that astoundingly dates to the early part of the 8th century. Once finished wandering the grounds and admiring the 12th-century churches, head inside the Clonmacnoise Museum for its collection of preserved Celtic crosses. Standing over 12 feet in height, the Cross of the Scriptures and the South Cross are both intricately carved, and are some of Ireland’s most famous examples of traditional high Irish crosses.
Clonmacnoise is located in County Offaly between the cities of Dublin and Galway. It’s approximately 90 minutes to Dublin by car, and one hour to Galway. Opening hours vary with the season, and are 9am-7pm in summer, 10am-6pm in spring and fall, and 10am-5pm in winter. Admission is approximately $7 for adults, $2.50 for children, and private car of guided tours are the easiest ways to visit.