Ross Errilly Friary-Headford, County Galway, Ireland


This is one of those stories that show the importance of being spontaneous when traveling. We had never even heard of Ross Errilly Friary when we first saw it in the distance as we were traveling to our next hotel in Ireland. It certainly was not on our agenda.

I said to Dave, “Quick. We have got to go there. Turn us around!” Now he wanted to keep going to our hotel but he indulged my whimsical nature and he turned us around: past a few homey looking come-on-in sort of bars, past a dozen or so Irish cows ripping shoots of new green grass from the earth, and eventually following a small narrow road through the outskirts of Headford. As we came closer the enormity of the place became exceedingly apparent. This place is HUGE.

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As we parked and left the car walking towards the Friary we became engaged in a conversation with a gentleman who was removing out-of-place looking fence posts from the place. ¬†Seems a movie had just been shot using the location less than a week ago. Unfortunately, he couldn’t remember the name.

Ross Errilly is a medieval Franciscan friary and is considered to be one of the best preserved monastic relics in the entire country of Ireland. It is believed that the friary was begun somewhere between the mid 1300’s to the mid 1400’s but when the first stone was laid is a mystery to this day.

The sheer size of the bell tower is the first thing that captures your attention as you walk through a small courtyard-like area.

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A small well preserved central cloister with recent burials contained within its walls. The sun reflecting and resulting shadows make this area magical and mysterious. There is also a second cloister located on the grounds.

At the north area of the complex you will find a huge kitchen complete with a water tank which once held live fish for the evening’s supper and enormous ovens. A massive dining room is nearby.

Huge altars dot the inside of the yard and many gravestones can be found littering the walkways, on walls and covering those altars. One can just imagine those movie actors brandishing swords and jumping from stone to stone as they dueled to the end.

Due to political and religious upheaval the Franciscans were forced to abandon the abbey many times during its history but by the end of the 18th century the friary was all but a neglected ruin. By 1866 it has become a well-known site where locals left the remains of the dead without proper burial and mounds of skulls and bones were could be found littered throughout the place.

Today it is operated by the Office of Public Works and is open to the public free of charge.

This one was of the best ruins in Ireland and for some reason it really spoke to my heart. When we arrived it was raining but as soon as we exited the car it stopped and didn’t begin again until we arrived back and hour later. Obviously, ¬†history was kind to us that day and so were the Gods. I am thankful for the discovery it all.

 

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