Introducing Dysert O’Dea
You can feel the past as you navigate the narrow tracks with grass in the middle to Dysert O'Dea, where St Tola founded a monastery in the 8th century. The church and high cross, the White Cross of St Tola, date from the 12th or 13th century. The cross depicts Daniel in the lion's den on one side and a crucified Christ above a bishop carved in relief on the other. Look for carvings of animal and human heads in a semicircle on the southern doorway of the Romanesque church. There are also the 5m-high remains of a round tower.
In 1318 the O'Briens, who were kings of Thomond, and the Norman de Clares of Bunratty fought a pitched battle nearby, which the O'Briens won, thus postponing the Anglo-Norman conquest of Clare for some two centuries. The 15th-century O'Dea Castle houses the Clare Archaeology Centre. A 3km history trail around the castle passes some two-dozen ancient monuments – from ring forts and high crosses to a prehistoric cooking site. A further 5km walk along a medieval road takes you to another stone fort.
East of Dysert O'Dea, you can wander along a lovely river in Dromore Wood. This Dúchas nature reserve encompasses some 400 hectares as well as the ruins of the 17th-century O'Brien Castle, two ring forts and the site of Kilakee church.