Kells Priory Highlights (4)
The beautiful approach to Kells Priory, along the river walk, suggests that a magical experience awaits and you won’t be disappointed. To get to the Priory is an adventure in itself! A café, small craft area and refreshments await you in the old mill, the foundations of which have stood on this site since medieval times. A working mill wheel and all of the mechanics used to make it turn are usually visible in the lowest level of the building. Follow the river away from the village and you will come to a second, even larger mill, testament to the industrial heritage of the King’s and Nore rivers. Follow the path by the river and the ruins of the priory will soon become visible through the trees. On your way be sure to see if the heron is standing on the opposite river bank and, if you see a flash of a rainbow near eye level, then the resident kingfisher just flew past you! Take a few moments to let the birds sing you a song as you make your way towards Ireland’s largest enclosed monastery.
Kells Priory is one of the largest monasteries in Ireland and its ruins sweep across a huge enclosed area. You can still trace the footprints of most of the original medieval structures here. On what was once effectively an island stands the monastic precinct, encompassing the main body of the priory and its associated buildings. The Prior’s Vill is the large enclosed area just south of the main body of the priory. Walk in the footsteps of the medieval monks – around the central body of the church, the square cloister to the south and the once covered pathway around the cloister.
Amazingly, the defensive walls around the monastery have survived. The entire site was surrounded by these and residents came and went through gateways. You can still see one of those gateways, in the eastern wall of the outer vill. Defences like these were crucial in the turbulent fourteenth century and beyond. Count the large towers on the walls of the outer vill, locally known as the ‘Seven Castles of Kells’.
The Prior’s Tower stands attached to the chancel of the priory. It has been beautifully conserved and boasts new internal wooden floors. Tradition says that this magnificent structure once formed a safe and comfortable residence for the prior or leader of the community of monks here. Don’t miss the collection of medieval tombstones from the site, some with fine decoration, now housed on the ground floor.