Our road trip in Ireland comes to an end from Clifden in the direction of Drogheda, and then on to Dublin. To break up the long journey into the Irish hinterland, we visit the ancient monastic site of Clonmacnoise and its many witnesses of the past, and the elegant and surprising Belvedere House & Garden, a Georgian aristocratic mansion in the heart of County Westmeath. If you want to know more to plan your visit, here's everything you need to know!
After exploring Connemara and the town of Clifden, our Ireland road trip comes to an end. From Clifden, we set off in the direction of Drogheda – on the east coast of the island – and then on to Dublin where our tour began. The drive is over 300 kilometres. So to break up the long journey into the Irish hinterland, we plan two stops at two must-see attractions: the ancient monastic site of Clonmacnoise, with its many witnesses of the past, and the elegant and surprising Belvedere House & Garden, a Georgian aristocratic mansion in the heart of the County Westmeath countryside. In this article we talk about these two destinations and tell you everything you need to know to plan your visit!
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Where to stay in Drogheda
The town of Drogheda is probably not among the best known in Ireland. It doesn’t offer much to visitors but is a perfect starting point for exploring the areas in the north of Dublin, especially the Neolithic necropolis of Brû na Bóinne, the monastic complex of Monasterboice and Old Mellifont Abbey.
In the city, we chose to stay at the Boyne Valley Hotel, a large and elegant business hotel that, after the pandemic, has converted to bed & breakfast for tourist accommodation.
The hotel is comfortable, clean and has ample parking. Breakfast is sufficiently rich.
For dinner, on the other hand, we suggest the Social Bar and Restaurant – in Cross Route – a restaurant with a pleasant atmosphere, courteous staff and excellent cuisine a little outside the hustle and bustle of the city centre.
The monastic site of Clonmacnoise
The first stop on our road trip from Clifden to Drogheda is Clonmacnoise, a monastic site with a truly enviable location, squeezed between a green valley and the course of the River Shannon. The archaeological area is quite extensive and contains numerous ruins of sacred buildings and a cemetery adorned with some of the island’s finest Celtic crosses. On arrival, you will be welcomed by a visitor centre where, in addition to the ticket office, there is a short exhibition and an audiovisual show lasting about 20 minutes. Here, you will also be able to admire the originals of some very old Celtic crosses which, for conservation reasons, have been replaced on the outside by identical copies.
During your visit, don’t miss the cathedral, the largest building in the complex with an elegant Gothic portal, Temple Ciaran, a small church said to be the burial place of St Ciarán (the founder of the site) and O’rourke’s Tower, a monumental cylindrical tower a full 19.3 metres high.
The monastic site can be visited daily, except at Christmas, from 09:00 to 18:30 (last entrance at 18:00) during the summer and with reduced hours at other times of the year.
All the latest information can be found at this link. The cost of the ticket, which can also be purchased online, is € 8.00 per person.
The Belvedere House & Garden
Just over 50 kilometres from the monastic area of Clonmacnoise, the sumptuous Belvedere House amazes visitors with its elegance and the beauty of its grounds and gardens. The interior of the villa is certainly of considerable interest, but what is most striking about this immense 18th century hunting lodge is the large green park surrounding it and the walled garden, in which you can get lost and take long walks. Upon your arrival, you will be given a brochure explaining the visit and showing on a map the itineraries for discovering the park, where, in addition to the greenery, you can also discover other small architectural gems commissioned by the villa’s first owner, Count Lord Belfield.
However, this idyllic place hides a sad family history. We will not anticipate anything. But we can tell you a little curiosity: it is said that Lord Belfield was rather litigious and that, after a quarrel with his brother George, he decided to order the construction of a real architectural folly, a fake ruin called Jealous Wall, in order to hide his brother’s house from view. Even today, the Jealous Wall still stands proudly and will be there to welcome you when you arrive.
Belvedere House & Garden can be visited daily from 09:30 to 20:00 during the summer and with reduced hours at other times of the year. On the official website you will find all the hours in detail.
The ticket, which can be purchased on site or online, costs € 8.00 per person. A free audio guide is available in English, French, German and Spanish.
Arriving by airplane
See the location in Google Maps. Most travelers choose to reach Ireland by plane. The island’s main airports are located in Dublin and Cork – in the Republic of Ireland – and in Belfast – in Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom. However, the island is well connected to Switzerland and the rest of Europe by several flights of the national airline Aer Lingus, Swiss and, of course, the low-cost airline Ryanair. Dublin Airport is located about 11 km north of the city. If you have rented a car, the counters of the major rental companies are located in both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.
Arriving by ship
The monastic area of Clonmacnoise is a monumental property managed by the Office of Public Work (OPW). This means that if you have decided to buy a Heritage Card, you can access it free of charge. However, we suggest that you always check beforehand on the official website whether advance booking is required for your visit!
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