The Ruins of Burrishoole Abbey

On the carriageway to Achill Island I had passed another place of interest, and went back the next evening to find the sign directing me to Burrishoole Abbey, on another narrow lane heading toward the sea, and not far from Newport.

The roadside sign pointing out the lane to the abbey

It was about 3 kilometers from the main road, and was the ruin of an abbey constructed by an order of Dominican friars in 1470. The  friars first came to Ireland in 1224, eventually establishing 38 friaries in Ireland before they were suppressed by Henry VIII in the mid-1500s. This abbey was dedicated to St. Mary, and was constructed without the blessing of the Pope, leading to the threat of excommunication of the entire community. Finally, the Pope instructed the Archbishop to forgive the friars, and the abbey functioned for more than two centuries before it was abandoned.

These stiles in the stone fencing are common in cemeteries, permitting visitors to enter when the gate is locked, but keeping animals out of the grounds

Approaching the abbey

One of the windows of the church walls, carved from stone

A view out to the back of the abbey, with more markers outside and facing the sea

I walked up the hill through the grave markers to the ruins of the roofless abbey, now filled with graves inside the last standing walls. There, through the arched openings in the back of the church and cloister, I could see the sea at low tide, and nearby islands across a small stretch of water.

A pair of markers viewed through one of the arched doorways of the cloister

Markers and graves inside the church

Carving detail on a flat marker in the cloister

More stone markers outside the cloister doorway

First view outside to a marker with the sea in the background

I walked through the abbey, without a soul nearby, and enjoyed the silence and the solitude. There were a few boats moored out in the water nearby, but not a sign of another person all the while that I was there.

The many markers on the hill leading down to the sea behind the abbey

Setting sun reflecting on the waterway between the abbey and the nearby island

Low tide, with a few boats moored for the night

A small launch to ferry the fishermen out to their boats

One marker, in particular, caught my attention. At first I noticed the detail of the Celtic knots, a Celtic harp, and the chalice carved onto the cross of the marker, located inside the church. I first saw the Gaelic inscription, and then saw that an English inscription was carved into the back side of the marker’s base, so that I could understand who was being honored with such a beautiful stone marker. According to the inscription, the parishioners of Burrishoole put up the marker to commemorate Father Manus Sweeney, a priest who was hanged in Newport in 1799 for his support of the Rebellion of 1798. There, near the base of the cross, was his priest’s hat carved in stone.

A carved marker that caught my eye with its detailed carvings

Detail of the marker, with a chalice in the middle of the cross

The inscription telling the story of a priest hanged in Newport in 1799

The priest’s hat, carved in stone to sit below the cross

The sun was setting, and the light was golden in the hour or so that I spent walking the grounds there. Finally, I left the abbey to return to my room in Newport—and a Guinness waiting for me at the pub down the street.

The rusted iron gate in the abbey wall

Pasture gate between stone walls on the lane leading back to the carriageway

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