With over 300 saints directly associated with the island, Ireland earned the title of “the land of saints and scholars.”
However, from a global perspective, St. Patrick maintains celebrity status among Irish saints…after all, he’s the guy who gives the world an excuse to party every March 17, right?
I thought I’d take a moment to introduce you to a few wonderful places in Ireland that are associated Irish saints:
St Dervla's Well, Bellmullet Peninsula, Co Mayo
Having plucked out her eyes to avoid marriage, St Dervla’s sight was later miraculously restored; and her holy well on the Belmullet Penninsula in Co Mayo is not only a sight to behold, it’s also the go-to place for those suffering from eye ailments.
St Canice's Cathedral and Round Tower, Kilkenny
The town of Kilkenny gets its name from this saint, and at St Canice’s Cathedral visitors get the unique opportunity to climb to the top of the round tower.
Monastery at Clonmacnoise in Co Offaly
Ciaran founded the monastery at Clonmacnoise in Co Offaly which is a popular stop along the Shannon River for those planning a trip between Dublin and Galway.
The city of Derry offers self-guided walking tour of sites associated with their city’s patron saint. He later left Ireland for the island of Iona and also went on to become closely associated with Scotland.
Gougane Barra, Co Cork
It is said that Finbarr built the first church at Gougane Barra in County Cork. Although a popular pilgrimage and hiking destination, the idyllic valley doesn’t see many tourists from beyond the Emerald Isle.
Cathedral at Clonfert, Co Galway
Known as Brendan the Navigator, it’s believed he traveled by sea to North America almost 1,000 years before Columbus. The cathedral at Clonfert, Co Galway, displays a beautiful Romanesque doorway, and Craggaunowen – the Living Past Experience in County Clare houses the boat used by Tim Severin who followed Brendan’s possible route.
Shrines across County Kildare
Ireland’s second most well-known saint, Brigid is likely based on a pre-Christian goddess. Although she’s most associated with Kildare, shrines and holy wells bearing her name pop up throughout Ireland. St Brigid’s crosses which are woven from reeds or rushes often appear in Irish homes.
Glendalough, County Wicklow
The famed hermit lived in a cave in the valley of Glendalough, Co Wicklow. The peaceful spot attracted disciples who built a church, round tower, and monastery. They are now a popular tourist destination that includes beautiful nature walks.
St Oliver Plunket
The head of St Oliver Plunket in Drogheda, County Louth
When canonized in 1975, St Oliver Plunket was the first new Irish saint in nearly 700 years. Executed by Charles II, Plunket’s head is displayed in a reliquary in St Peter’s Church in Drogheda, Co Louth.
High Cross at Monasterboice, County Meath
St Buíthe is known as the founder of the religious settlement at Monasterboice in County Meath. Today visitors explore the church and round tower ruins, which are surrounded by some of the best Celtic crosses in Ireland.
Monastry at Roscrea, County Tipperary
Although he founded several monasteries, his most famous was in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, where visitors can wander the ruins which include churches, a round tower, and high cross.
Kilmacduagh, Co Clare
Spending most of his holy life in County Clare and on the Aran Island of Inishmore, Colman is associated with the monastery at Kilmacduagh, near Gort in County Galway, which is home to a round tower that leans… a bit like the Tower at Pisa.
Along the “Irish Camino” St. Declan’s Oratory overlooking Ardmore beach
St Declan’s Pilgrim Path between Cashel, Co Tipperary, and Ardmore, Co Waterford, has been nicknamed the “Irish Camino.” In Ardmore, the dramatic seaside walk takes visitors to ruined churches, old holy wells, and sacred spots associated with the saint.
Fore, Co Westmeath
With ties to Fore, Co Westmeath, visitors can walk a path celebrating the Seven Wonders of Fore which represent seven miracles associated with the site and St Féchín.
Saints associated with places that aren’t quite holy sites:
Killbeggan distillery, County Westmeath
Founded a monastery in Killbeggan, County Westmeath, which is a town that is home to Ireland’s oldest whiskey distillery and is situated only a few miles from Tullamore, Co Offaly, birthplace of Tullamore Dew.
St Brendan of Birr
Telescope at Birr Castle and Desmense, County Offaly
This Brendan founded a monastery at Birr, Co Offaly. At Birr Castle and Desmense, visitors can visit a science center and view the enormous telescope, which was built in the mid-1800s and held the title of largest telescope in the world for over 70 years.
Trim Castle, County Meath
The Irish saint is associated with Trim, Co Meath, which is home to notable Trim Castle.
* Liam Hughes is a jeweler and Irish Fireside podcast host who splits his time between County Tipperary in Ireland and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the United States. You can follow him @LiamJazz or read more at IrishFireside.com. Originally published July 2014.
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