5 Places Everyone Must Visit Along Ireland’s Ancient East
1. Newgrange, Co Meath
Top of the list, and with good reason, is Newgrange, one of the oldest attractions along Ireland’s Ancient East. Part of the Brú Na Bóinne World Heritage Site, Newgrange is over 5,000 years old, making it older than both Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids in Egypt. This historic passage tomb is located in Boyne Valley in Co Meath and was built by Stone Age farmers to signal the beginning of the New Year as part of the Winter Solstice, a date that is still celebrated in style at Newgrange some 5,000 years on from its creation. Guided tours of Newgrange and Brú Na Bóinne run across the year and be sure to check out the other iconic mounds in the area, Dowth and Knowth.
2. Hill of Uisneach, Co Westmeath
The Hill of Uisneach in Loughnavalley, Westmeath is the historic centre of Ireland, as it was this spot that the five historic counties of Ireland met for centuries. The hill was a place for both inaugurations and burials of ancient high kings, while at the summit you can see out across some 20 counties, taking in all four modern provinces. Guided tours of Uisneach run every Saturday with one of the highlights being a visit to Aill na Mireann, also known as Catstone. Legend has it that the ancient goddess Ériu (whom Ireland is named after), was laid to rest at this spot.
3. Clonmacnoise, Co Offaly
Clonmacnoise is a famous monastery in Co Offaly, founded by St Ciaran in the 6th Century. The monastery today is mainly in ruins, with several buildings dating back to the 10th Century, while Clonmacnoise is also home to the largest collection of Early Christian grave slabs in Western Europe. The monastery became a major centre of religion, learning and craftsmanship that was visited by scholars from across Europe. Many of the ancient high kings of Connacht are said to be buried at Clonmacnoise. You can enjoy tours of this iconic monastery throughout the year.
4. Rock of Cashel, Co Tipperary
Legend has it that the Rock of Cashel originated after a rock was blasted from the Devil’s Bit, a mountain 30km from Cashel after St Patrick banished Satan from the cave. For this reason, the Rock of Cashel is sometimes referred to as St Patrick’s Rock and was once the seat for the high king of Munster. The Rock of Cashel is home to one of the most remarkable collections of Celtic art anywhere in Europe, while the area is also home to an impressive collection of buildings that date back to the 12th Century. A trip to Cashel is one of the undoubted highlights along Ireland’s Ancient East, especially as the sun is setting.
5. Rock of Dunamase, Co Laois
The Rock of Dunamase is a prominent rocky outcrop of land in the town of Dunamaise, a short drive from Portlaoise in Co Laois. The story of the Rock of Dunamase is a famous one as the King of Leinster handed it over to his son-in-law, Strongbow, as a wedding gift. While the Norman Castle isn’t what it once was, it’s still a significant location to visit when visiting Laois and travelling along Ireland’s Ancient East. The view atop Dunamase takes in much of Laois and is well worth trekking when visiting the area.