Monastic Midlands Tour

Kilcormac is at the centre of a wealth of ancient historical sites and artefacts. With those who wish to discover the Monastic Midlands in mind, we have created a tour itenerary to help you plan your trip to these wondrous attractions, with some tips on other activities while you’re here. Now you’ve no excuse!


Suggested Monastic Midlands Tour

Day 1: Birr

Visit Birr Town to see the site of their early monastic site. The site contains a 14th century upstanding church and has signage on site. Access to the churchyard itself is not currently possible unless a private arrangement is made through the Civic Offices. When visiting make sure to visit the facsimile of the MacRegol Gospels, or ‘Book of Birr’ which is in Birr Library. The Library will arrange a tour on request.


Further Site Information:

  • Heart and Soul, A History of Saint Brendan’s Graveyard in Birr by Stephen Callaghan and Caimin O’Brien, published in 2016
  • Stories from a Sacred Landscape, Croghan Hill to Clonmacnoise by Caimin O’Brien, published in 2006.


Getting from Kilcormac:
By main road, a total of 16km. Paid parking in the council car park is available only a couple of minutes-walk from the site.


While you are out:

  • Enjoy the shops, restaurants, bars and cafes of Birr
  • Enjoy a tour of Birr Castle
  • Pay a visit to Birr Theatre
  • Simply amble around the town, enjoying its other monuments or partaking in the self-guided ‘Famous and Notables Tour’.


Day 2: Drumcullen (+ crosses Rath and Kinnity) and Seir Kieran  

Begin with a visit to Drumcullen Church and graveyard, which contains a medieval church (with an unusual priest’s house, as well as an early medieval cross slab and horizontal water-mill stone. You can also view the 12th century Anglo-Norman FitzHenry castle/motte. The site is down a country lane, which is honestly not the best surface, but a car will get down. There is limited parking onsite and an information panel. Post Drumcullen you could visit the High Cross fragment in Rath Church (not sure if this is kept open!), which has a display board and then visit the cross outside Kinnity Castle, which original derives from Drumcullen.

The afternoon could be spent in Seir Kieran, Clareen. This contains a whole host of monuments, many of which are on public land (but some in privately rented land). There is signage here but any visit would still benefit from a guide or good mapping (I can give you the latter if you wish). It may be best to visit Seir Kieran first, so the day can end with lunch or dinner in Kinnity.


Further Site Information:

  • Stories from a Sacred Landscape, Croghan Hill to Clonmacnoise by Caimin O’Brien, published in 2006.
  • The Illustrated Guide to Seir Kieran by Muiris O’ Sullivan, published in 1997.
  • Seir Kieran: Place, Pilgrimage and Tradition in the Monastic Midlands (article by ourselves in Offaly Heritage 10).


Getting from Kilcormac:

  • Kilcormac to Seir Kieran 15km
  • Kilcormac to Drumcullen 10km
  • Seir Kieran to Drumcullen 10km


While you are there:

  • Enjoy lunch or dinner in Kinnity castle
  • Take one of the many loop walks at Kinnity
  • Visit, or picnic in, Knockbarron woods. Only a few hundred meters from Drumcullen
  • Enjoy the amneitites and other attractions of Kinnity, including biking, café, pyramid etc.


Day 3: Lemanghan and Gallen

Lemanaghan could take nearly a full day, to visit to the site and the stone carvings in the school-house, if tied in with the shrine at Boher. There are good community links there and people that might be happy to talk to groups. Alternatively, the day could end at Gallen if the tourists were interested in seeing early carved stone.


Further Site Information:


Getting from Kilcormac:

  • Kilcormac to Lemanghan 20km
  • Kilcormac to Gallen 16km


While you are there:

  • Take in a bit of the Offaly Way (or the canal)
  • Visit to Belmont Mills
  • Evening visit to Athlone


Day 4: Clonmacnoise

Clonmacnoise could be a day of its own, with landscape options a written down in the Landscape of Clonmacnoise by John Feehan. Alternatively tie in with an afternoon visit to Lynally, Rahan or Lemanaghan. Make sure to take in the Dervogilla’s chapel in Clonmacnoise and the Anglo-Norman castle.


Further Site Information:

  • Stories from a Sacred Landscape, Croghan Hill to Clonmacnoise by Caimin O’Brien, published in 2006.
  • Landscape of Clonmacnoise by John Feehan, published in 2014
  • Clonmacnoise Studies 1 and 2 by Heath King, published 1994 and 1998
  • Numerous other publications!!


Getting from Kilcormac:

  • Kilcormac to Clonmacnoise 32km


While you are there:

  • Take in Shannonbridge – lunch or dinner in Lukers or Killeens
  • Visit to Napoleonic Fort
  • Visit to Clonony Castle (by appointment only)


Day 5: Treasures from the Midlands

Trip to Dublin to the National Museum (Kildare St) and Trinity College Dublin to see the ‘treasures from the midlands’, such as the Book of Dimma, Book of Durrow (when it’s back from UK), Fadden More Psalter etc.


Getting from Kilcormac:

  • Kilcormac to College Green 125km; but probably best to take the train/bus


While you are there:

  • Enjoy midland or monastery related displays like ‘The Treasury’ and ‘Kingship and Sacrifice’ in Kildare St.
  • Enjoy Dublin!


Some other Suggestions

Croghan is currently being made accessible for visitors. The site would offer great options for reasons for locating there and the evolution of the site. There is a community hall close by.

Durrow has beautiful crosses but is still a challenge as access off the road is not safe.

Letter Monastery – there is not much to see, but there is signage and it is close to Cadamstown, as well as being on a nice looped walk and close to the Offaly Way.