Watch Kristen flee the Vikings!
(A round tower used by monks to
escape from Viking raids.)

Dysart O’Dea Castle, part of the Clare Archeology Centre, may be a little ways off the beaten path, but it’s very much worth a visit.  While there are castles every which way in Ireland, most of them are closed to the public, since Americans seem so prone to suing people.  Dysart O’Dea Castle, however, is not only open to the public but contains a modest but fascinating museum of local artifacts, as well as a charming film of the history of the place.  The ground floor contains a small gift shop along with a gracious tea room.  When we visited last summer, we had tea and scones – in a castle!  As Americans, that’s quite out of the ordinary.  The tea service was very modestly priced, as was the entrance fee to the rest of the castle/museum.

Beautiful knotwork on a Celtic Cross
gravestone a short walk from the castle.

If that’s not enough, the grounds are packed with history.  The Dysert O’Dea Archeology Trail, despite being only about two miles long, “contains 25 original field monuments [dating] from 1000bc to 1850ad and include two Romanesque churches, the famous 12th century illuminated doorway and high cross of Dysert O’Dea, two 15th century tower houses, 1st millennium stone and earthen forts, holy wells, fulachta fiadh, proselytising schools, landlords houses, medieval roads and many more.”  We did a chunk of this walk, as you can see from the photographs.  The landscape was beautiful, and the monuments absolutely breathtaking.  I’d go back in a heartbeat, and I really can’t recommend this place highly enough for anyone who has any interest in history or architecture.  Check out Dysert O’Dea, and you’ll find history has flown from the textbook pages and is walking along with you.

Part of an archway in a Romanesque church a short walk from the castle.