Dysert O'Dea Archaeology Centre
Left Galway this morning and headed to the Desert O'Dea Archaeology Centre. We were interested in visiting the Desert O'Dea Church and another Romanesque Doorway and round tower. It didn't disappoint. We had a perfect sunny day. When you get to the Centre the first thing you see is the authentically restored 15th Century Castle. You can climb to the top of the Castle for a great view of the countryside. They charge a small fee for the castle. The rest of the archaeological finds are free. We opted to walk to the church from the Visitor Center. It's probably a couple of km and you definitely need good shoes.
You access the church by crossing a pretty big field. This is when your hiking boots really pay off. The field is used for cattle so you need to watch your step. A high cross is located in the field. It is badly worn but you can still make out some of the features. Dates to the 12th Century. There is a walking trail that features 25 historical sites that you can take. A brochure from the Visitor Center explains the sites.
We were mostly interested in the Romanesque Doorway. It was similar to the one at Clonfert Cathedral in the intermingling of animal and human carved heads. Clonfert Cathedral was more elaborate. However, we were told that many of the human heads represented former Abbots of the Monestary that existed on this site. An interesting way to commemorate your leaders. The animal heads are from Celtic Mythology and helped to marry the Celtic and Christian religions in early Ireland.
There is also a Round Tower to one side of the Church. It is not complete but still gives you a good idea of how this structure fit into the total Monestary footprint.
You could easily spend a whole day at the Archaeology Centre. We spent several hours and really enjoyed exploring the historical sites. This site is not frequented by many tour buses so you are not overwhelmed by people as you delve into Irish history.