Engaging Ireland – Episode 20 – Top 10 Monastic and Spiritual Sites

Outer wall at Kells

Outer wall at Kells

In the next few episodes, we will be taking a look at our Top 10 lists for Ireland. Seems like everyone is putting together a “Top 10” list these days, so we thought we would share some of our top choices for Ireland. We have chosen our favorites from several categories; for example, we’ll list our top ten favorite towns/cities, our top ten. Why didn’t we limit ourselves to just one list of Top 10 Favorites? It’s too hard! And, while we admit we haven’t seen everything there is to see yet, these are our favorites thus far.

We begin the podcast series with our Top 10 Monastic/Spiritual Sites. Ireland is virtually littered with sites dating back thousands of years. These are the sites we are most drawn to again and again. For more information on any of the sites we mention, please click on the links below. NOTE: Many of the sites are part of Heritage Ireland (www.heritageireland.ie). If you purchase an OPW Heritage Card, you can enter these sites for no cost or reduced cost.

Skellig Michael


Interesting web book entitled “The Forgotten Hermitage of Skellig Michael” by Walter Horn, Jenny White Marshall, and Grellan D. Rourke:


Boat operators to Skellig Michael:



http://www.sacredsites.com/europe/ireland/loughcrew.html (Great Photos)

Loughcrew House, Gardens, and Adventure Course

Rock of Cashel/Hore Abbey




Kells (Co. Kilkenny)

Site with comprehensive information about Kells Priory


Kilree Round Tower and High Cross (just up the road from Kells)




St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral

Hill of Tara/Hill of Slane



Quin Abbey


Brú na Bóinne
(Newgrange, Knowth, Howth)



Sheep at Kells

Sheep at Kells

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

5 thoughts on “Engaging Ireland – Episode 20 – Top 10 Monastic and Spiritual Sites

  1. Good list – especially when it is so hard to have to make a choice about which to leave in and what to leave out. If anyone’s coming up to see Loughcrew (which I highly recommend they do!) – why not visit in the company of Beyond the Blarney – we’re a small tour company based at the foot of the Witches Mountain (Sliabh na Cailli – the group of hills where the Loughcrew complex is).


  2. OK, you knew this was coming! How could you have left out…. Dysert O’Dea!

    Located just around the corner from Quin Abbey, Dysert O’Dea is the site of an early christian monastery with its Romanesque Doorway and round tower dating mainly from the 12th century. The High Cross dates from the 12th century and is one of the finest of its kind in Ireland.

    Nice to have you guys back with a podcast!

    • Thanks for your kind words, Dan! We enjoyed our trip to Dysert O’Dea, but we would not really consider it a “monastic” or “spiritual” site, even though there is a high cross and a ruined church there. The main advertised attraction is the castle…

      The story of the Synge family is definitely an interesting one (which – in case someone reading this has not visited – you can hear about in the A/V presentation at the castle), including Edward not being buried within the walls of the church and cemetery (consecrated ground) because he wasn’t Catholic (though he was a Christian). It is a great place. It’s just not one of our top 10. Sorry!

      Thanks for listening!

  3. Well, Dysert O’Dea is indeed a monastic site. The church stands on what was originally the site of the 8th century church of St Tóla, who founded the monastery. The round tower was built as a belfry and a refuge for the monks. The site may not be “advertised” heavily, but I think that’s part of the reason I enjoyed it – it was not overrun with tourists!

    Good luck with your lists. It must be hard to narrow things to a top 10. I might be able to do a “top 100” Ireland!

  4. Great job on the list… Some of my favorites. 

    If you like the cloister at Quin, you’d also like the one in Askeaton.

    FYI – a visitor centre at the mill at Kells isn’t really moving forward. If there is someone there, you can ask to root around, but it’s a bit of a mish-mash.

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