I visited Clonmacnoise in mid August. The weather was sunny with a chilly breeze blowing in from the nearby river. The site is situated in beautiful surroundings, on the lush green banks of the River Shannon. On approach Clonmacnoise with its round towers and high crosses is spectacular. It is hidden away in a pretty much unspoiled area making it easy to imagine how it might have been in the past.
Clonmacnoise is an Early Christian site founded by St. Ciarán in the 6th Century AD. The site includes buildings from many different eras. There are ruins of a cathedral, several churches and two quite impressive round towers. There is also a graveyard that dates back to the time of the Early Christians, with its high crosses (replicas as the originals are house in the visitors centre), and grave slabs from the same time. One of the main attractions is the 'Whispering Arch' which one person speaks in a low voice at one end and can be heard as clear as day by the person at the other. It works!
The attraction has a tourist centre, which an audio visual tells the history of Clonmacnoise, there are also exhibitions of the local flora and fauna along with the original High Crosses. There is a cafe and a picnic area, weather permitting.
I took the official tour which was a little laden with facts and figures. It was a bit more tailored for specialists than the general public, however there was a few interesting stories, which lightened it somehow. My overall impression was that it was a pleasant enough attraction, however it was more for people who are interested in history and the Early Christian Era, but everyone can appreciate the beautiful scenery!
There is a nominal fee of €6 and concessions for students, seniors and groups. As it is a little out of the way it is best accessed by car or if you are starting from Athlone it is worth checking with Viking Tours, who sail from Athlone, however they do not go to Clonmacnoise on a regular basis. It is well worth checking this one out as it is a great family day out! There website is www.vikingtoursireland.ie
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