Adare, Ireland

Just south of Limerick is a small town you have never heard of but will never forget after your visit: Adare. You will explore medieval ruins and ancient monasteries while learning about the family dynasties who dominated it during 800 years of Irish history.

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1 Introduction to Adare, Ireland

About ten miles south of Limerick on N21 is the village of Adare. Don’t drive through it. With a population of less than 2,500 people, the town is small, walkable and specializes in charm. First visit the Heritage Centre on Main Street. The delightful staff at this tourist office will explain the town’s highlights. They include thatched cottages plus three medieval priories and a castle dating back to the early 13th century.

The Good Room Bistro Blackabbey, Adare, Co. Limerick, Ireland
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2 Trinitarian Abbey in Adare, Ireland

This was part of a monastery for the Order of the Most Holy Trinity, commonly called the Trinitarians, when it was founded circa 1230. The priory’s nickname was the White Abbey based on the color of the friar’s robes. The main benefactor for building the church in 1272 was John Fitzthomas Fitzgerald, 1st Earl of Kildare. After the Trinitarian Abbey was dissolved in the 1560’s, their buildings suffered a decline until it became a Catholic parish church in 1824. Much of its Gothic Revival appearance is credited to architect Philip Hardwick during a mid-19th restoration. Today, this is the Holy Trinity Abbey Church.

Main St, Blackabbey, Adare, Co. Limerick, Ireland
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3 Thatched Cottage in Adare, Ireland

About a dozen thatched cottages were built by the Dunraven family in the early 19th century. These small, charming structures housed their staff who served them at their palatial estate called Adare Manor. The row along Main Street was a picturesque feature of the village. Tragically, many of them were destroyed or severely damaged during a fire in June of 2015. Several have been restored and now serve as restaurants and shops.

Church View Blackabbey, Adare, Co. Limerick, Ireland
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4 Designations of Praise for Adare, Ireland

Adare was named a Heritage Town because of it historic landmarks. It is one of 30 communities across Ireland who earned this coveted designation by the government. The village also is a past winner of the annual Tidy Town competition. You will quickly agree with this praise as you walk along Main Street while visiting some of the 25 shops, restaurants and bars. Their Irish road sign says it best, “Fáiltre go Áth Dara.” Welcome to Adare!

N21 and Main St, Adare, Co. Limerick, Ireland
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5 English Tudor Row Houses in Adare, Ireland

The wealthy Dunraven family introduced the English Tudor style of architecture to Adare when they funded the construction of the Village Hall in 1911. Since then, a row of similarly designed homes have been built along Rathkeale Road and a street appropriately called The Cottages.

20 Rathkeale Rd The Cottages, Blackabbey, Adare, Co. Limerick, V94 H6PN, Ireland
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6 Augustinian Abbey in Adare, Ireland

John Fitzthomas Fitzgerald, the 5th Lord of Offaly and 1st Earl of Kildare, welcomed the Augustinians to Adare in 1315 with gifts of land in exchange for establishing a monastery. The Adare Friary was known as the Black Abbey based on the monk’s habits. The friars abandoned the property in 1633. During the early 19th century, the Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl funded its restoration. Since 1811, this former Augustinian Abbey has served the Anglican community as St. Nicholas’ Church. In 1814, the St. Nicholas’ National School was added.

N21, Gortaganniff, Adare, Co. Limerick, Ireland
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7 Desmond Castle in Adare, Ireland

Desmond Castle’s history is as intriguing as its reflection on the River Maigue is beautiful. Although parts of it were built during the 13th century, the Fitzgeralds are credited with most of its construction. This was a Welsh-Norman family who became powerful feudal leaders in Ireland and given the title Earls of Kildare during the 14th century. Their reign ended after an unsuccessful insurrection against King Henry VII of England in 1536. The Adare Castle was then transferred to the Earls of Desmond. They in turn launched two unsuccessful rebellions against the crown. Their stronghold was seized by Queen Elizabeth I’s troops circa 1570. Its final demise came in 1657 when it was destroyed by Oliver Cromwell’s army. Sections were restored during the late 1990s. Tours of the medieval castle can be arranged from the Heritage Centre from June through September.

N21 Limerick Road, Gortaganniff, Adare, Co. Limerick, Ireland
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8 River Maigue in Adare, Ireland

Part of the 39 mile course of the River Maigue winds its way through Adare on its journey to the Shannon Estuary and Limerick. Many of Adare’s historic buildings are along the riverbanks a short distance from the village. An example is the former Augustinian Abbey established in 1315 seen in the background. In addition, the best panoramic view of the Desmond Castle is from this 14th century, stone-arched bridge. You can walk there but it is not recommended. There are no footpaths and the traffic on N21 comes dangerously close. The safest way to visit these landmarks is to take a tour bus from the Heritage Centre.

N21 Limerick Road, Gortaganniff, Adare, Co. Limerick, Ireland
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9 Old St. Nicholas’ Church in Adare, Ireland

The former parish church of St. Nicholas’ was built during the 13th century and then rebuilt during the 16th century. It was abandoned when the Anglian congregation moved into the former Augustinian Abbey early in the 19th century. This old graveyard is divided into Catholic and Protestant sections. It stopped accepting interments in 1978. These ruins are located next to the clubhouse of the Adare Manor Golf Course and beside the Chapel of Ease shown in the background.

N21 Gortaganniff, Co. Limerick, Ireland
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10 Chapel of Ease in Adare, Ireland

Adjacent to the old parish church of St. Nicholas’ is the 16th century Chapel of Ease. This term is given to a non-parish church constructed to accommodate parishioners who cannot easily reach the primary church. Buried here are several Quins, commonly referred to as Dunravens because of their titles. The wealthy family started with Valentine Quin in 1822 when he became the Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl. Their dynasty continued in Adare for 160 years until the 7th Earl of Dunraven sold the Adare Manor in 1982 and died in 2011. This chapel is located on the grounds of their former estate.

N21 Gortaganniff, Co. Limerick, Ireland
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11 Franciscan Friary in Adare, Ireland

The Franciscans arrived in Dublin around 1230. During the next 100 years, the Catholic order established more than 45 friaries across Ireland. The first in Adare was sponsored in 1464 by Thomas Fitzgerald, the7th Earl of Kildare, while he was the Lord Chancellor of Ireland (the highest judicial official office). It was dissolve by Henry VIII in 1540 during the Reformation when all monasteries were forced to close. This friary opened again in 1633 but not for long. Several friars were killed when the monastery was destroyed by Oliver Cromwell’s troops in 1646.

N21 Gortaganniff, Co. Limerick, Ireland
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12 Franciscan Friary Curiosities in Adare, Ireland

This view of the Franciscan Friary in Adare shows two curiosities. The first is the square plaque in the foreground. This is where John Wesley, an Anglican clergyman and the leader of the Methodist movement, preached to the people of Adare. The event in 1765 was one of the 42,000 sermons he gave while touring 250,000 miles through England, Scotland and Ireland. The second is the circular patch of grass on the right. That is the 14th hole of the Adore Manor Golf Course. To reach this historic landmark, you need permission from the clubhouse and then the ability to dodge golf balls.

N21 Gortaganniff, Co. Limerick, Ireland
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