Clonmacnoise Castle Ruins:  So Much More Than a Rock on a Hill!

Right in the heart of Central Ireland are the Clonmacnoise Castle ruins, found in Offaly County and Province of Leinster. The drive to Clonmacnoise Castle from the Dublin Airport is typically under 90 minutes, depending on traffic, and it is a straight shot heading west. 

Irish Expressions:  Image of Clonmacnoise Castle

Follow the road signs directing you to the M6, and stay on the highway until you spot the exit signs for the R446 and Clonmacnoise. Frequent signs point the way to the castle and show you where to park to tour the ruins.  

Things to Know About Clonmacnoise Castle Ruins

Here are some fun facts about this amazing Irish landmark.  Hopefully they will entice you to pay a visit in person!

But if that is not possible, you can always use them to impress your friends with your knowledge of one of the most-visited attractions in Ireland.

  • When the Anglo-Normans colonized Ireland in the 12th century, they build a wooden castle in the area now known as Clonmacnoise, in County Offaly.
  • Although the wooden castle burned down, it was replaced by a stone version in the following century.
  • Today, Clonmacnoise Castle is merely a collection of ruins, but they are unique because they are so precariously balanced at the top of a hill that they appear to be falling.

  • It is breathtaking to see this ruined castle among green fields filled with local dairy cows!
  • Clonmacnoise is a well-known landmark in Ireland, but most people aren't thinking of the castle. Instead, they are thinking of Clonmacnoise Monastic Site, an early landmark that dates back to the middle of the sixth century.
  • The castle is just outside those monastic walls. It is well worth a visit, and it has a rich and fascinating history of its own.
  • On top of an earthen mound called a motte, Anglo-Normans constructed the first Clonmacnoise Castle, which was made entirely of wood. After a fire burned down the timber castle, a stone one went up in its place.
  • The stone Castle was erected by Henry of London, the Justiciar of Ireland. The job of the castle was to harness some control over the midlands.
  • The other objective of the castle was to serve as a way to oversee the River Shannon. The castle overlooks the water's edge and is less than 100 feet from the river.
  • Originally, the castle has three stories. Today, that fact is hard to tell because the castle is so twisted, bent and in ruin.
  • The castle has been largely destroyed as far back as the 14th century. Many battles during the Gaelic Resistance took place in the area, damaging English strongholds like the castle at Clonmacnoise.
  • The decline of the nearly Clonmacnoise Monastery also contributed to the ruin of the castle. Local residents began to patronize parochial churches, and monasteries like this one became less popular. 
  • What makes the castle such a popular spot to visit is its unusual aesthetic appeal. The castle is precariously perched on the top of the motte, and it looks like a strong gust of wind could knock it over at any second.
  • Be sure to combine your trip of the castle with a visit to the nearby monastic site. It is home to several religious buildings as well as a number of beautiful and sculptural Gaelic crosses. 

Want More Irish Castles?

It is probably obvious - at Irish Expressions, we love Irish castles!  The Emerald Isle is dotted with hundreds of these incredible structures.  

Sharing pictures and stories about them gives us a deeper sense of connection with Ireland, wherever in the world we happen to be!

We have captured the most amazing pictures and descriptions of Irish castles in an e-book we call "An Illustrated Guide to Irish Castles and Abbeys."

This fun, free guide is available to you to download.  Scroll to the bottom of this page and enter your email to get instant access!

That Was Fun!  Where Can I See More?

Great question! As you can see, exploring the castles of Ireland offers many opportunities for enjoying an Irish experience and expressing your personal Irish side!

For more information of this kind, you might pay a visit to our section on Ireland Sightseeing here!