Kilconnell Abbey and Castle Athenry
Traveling from Athlone to Galway we stopped at Kilconnell Abbey in Kilconnell. The town is just north of the M6 on R348. Unlike most ruins in Ireland we didn't find any signage guiding us to this abbey. I had read about it and thought it would be a good place to stop. Was it ever. The day was overcast and a bit drizzly but that didn't deter us from exploring. Kilconnell Abbey is Franciscan and dates to 1353. The site was in use until about 1780 when it was finally abandoned. It lies at the North end of the quiet village of Kilconnell and is accessed by a gate leading to a long gravel path to the Abbey.
The site is quite large consisting of a tower, Chancel, Nave, Choir and a Transept with some living quarters as well.
There is the remains of a cloister where the monks used to take exercise. These were usually grassed in the center and the cloister walks were roofed.
It was a joy to wander these large ruins discovering medieval treasures as you walked.
The doorways and remaining walls are finely carved. As in most ruins we visited there is a mix of ancient and modern graves. Some are very recent and some ruins are still being used for burials.
The delicacy of the stone work was remarkable. We were so glad we took the time to visit. I don't think you will find many tourists at this site but it is well worth the detour.
The Abbey is quite bleak on a cloudy day. It gives you pause as you approach it from the long, gravel path.
After leaving Kilconnell Abbey we went to Athenry Castle. This is another OPW site off of the M6 before reaching Galway. It is a busy town and the entrance to the Castle is well signed. The OPW's Mission is to restore some of these historic sites and to educate those who visit them. We had a wonderful tour given by a local graduate student studying castles in the area. She was very informative and funny and answered all our questions about the castle and the area. Also steered us to a great place for tea around the corner from the castle.
Although the morning had been overcast and dry, by the time we got to Athenry it was absolutely teeming down rain. We weren't really able to take any photos of the outside the whole time in Athenry. Just too wet. Even so, it was a great visit.
This was another stop where we were able to use our Heritage Pass. The card paid for itself several sites ago. Great investment.