Kells Priory

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This fortified Augustinian monastery is the best sort of ruin, where you can amble around whenever you like, with no tour guides, set hours or fees. Most days you stand a chance of exploring the site alone (apart from some nosy sheep); at dusk with a clear sky the old priory is simply beautiful. The ruins are 500m east of Kells on the Stoneyford road; from the car park, head to the right of the walls to find the main entrance.

The earliest remains of the monastic site date from the late 12th century, while the bulk of the present ruins are from the 15th century. In a sea of rich farmland, a carefully restored protective wall connects seven dwelling towers. Within the walls are the remains of an Augustinian abbey and the foundations of several chapels and houses. It's unusually well fortified and the heavy curtain walls hint at a troubled history. Indeed, within a single century from 1250, the abbey was twice fought over and burned down by squabbling warlords. Its permanent decline began when it was suppressed in 1540 as part of King Henry VIII's campaign to dissolve all Catholic monasteries in England, Wales and Ireland.