Clare County Library
Clare Places: Towns & Villages
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Places of Interest
  • KINCORA, or the palace of "Ceann Coradh", the head of the weir, was situated on the summit of the hill in Killaloe town, now occupied by the Catholic church, the green and the neighbouring houses. It may have been built as a defence against the Vikings as early as the ninth century but it was under the stewardship of Brian Boru that it achieved its greatest glory. He rebuilt and strengthened this ancient Dalcassian stronghold in 1002. In 1016 the Connaughtmen raided and destroyed Kincora. As the O'Briens feuded amongst themselves in 1062 for the crown Aodh O'Connor burned Killaloe, destroyed the rebuilt Kincora and feasted on the two sacred salmon kept in a pool within the walls of the palace. Lanfranc wrote to Turlough, grandson of Brian, and addressed him as "King of Ireland" but twice during Turlough's reign Kincora was burned, first by Rory O'Connor in 1081 and secondly by the men of Breifne in 1084.
    Domnhnall MacLochlainn, King of Aileach, destroyed Kincora in 1088. Murtagh Mor O'Brien who was then High King of Ireland eventually took his revenge for this raid thirteen years later. By then Limerick had become his main base but he retained Kincora as a secondary seat. Murtagh was the last of the O'Briens to be High King of Ireland. In 1107 Kincora was struck by lightning and many of its buildings set on fire. Murtagh must have repaired it yet again because he was in occupation there in 1114. By now Murtagh was in poor health and under pressure from his enemies. In 1116 Turlough O'Connor burned and destroyed Boroma and Kincora. When Murtagh died in 1119, Turlough O'Connor decided to end the O'Brien supremacy by demolishing their ancient stronghold. He raided Kincora once again but this time he levelled the fort and threw the stones and timber of Brian's great palace into the waters of the Shannon.
  • BEAL BORU, sometimes called BRIAN BORU'S FORT and often mistaken for Kincora, stands on a spur of land which commands the point where Lough Derg narrows into the River Shannon. In ancient times cattle designated as tribute for the Dalcassian chiefs were driven across the river at this point. Over 800 stone implements, including stone axes, hammer stones and perforated stone sinkers for lines and nets, have been found in the immediate neighbourhood. Ten stone axes were found within the fort in 1936. So it is quite possible that a Stone Age settlement occupied the site of Beal Boru because of its position on the river, which could be forded at this point or used as a safe harbour by craft. In 1961 Professor O'Kelly's excavations revealed an early ring fort which had been inhabited, abandoned and later built over. The larger structure was never completed, nor does it appear to have been occupied. The first habitation dated from the eleventh century until, possibly 1116 when Turlough O'Connor destroyed Boroma and Kincora. In 1207 the Normans tried to build a castle here, probably a motte and bailey type, but were driven off. Geoffrey de Marisco, the Lord Justice, eventually succeeded in building a castle in Killaloe in 1216. Except for some filling in of the ditch and the planting of trees at the start of the nineteenth century, the fort looks very much as it did during the thirteenth century. Two Hiberno-Norse coins, minted between 1035 and 1070, were found here as well as a decorated piece of local slate, five bronze pins, a tangled stud, 25 large nails, two small shreds of pottery, animal and bird bones and a considerable amount of musket balls.
  • ST. FLANNAN'S ORATORY is named, as is the cathedral, after that saint who became the first bishop of Killaloe in 639. This twelfth-century Romanesque church is occasionally referred to as "Brian Boru's Vault". It had a chancel, now destroyed, at its east end. The Romanesque doorway to the west contains most of the decoration as is common with most churches of this period. The stone roof is supported by the walls of a small loft above the vault.
  • ST. FLANNAN'S CATHEDRAL is a plain thirteenth-century building, built of purple and yellow sandstone, cruciform in plan, without aisles with a low central tower over the crossing. St. Molua founded the original monastery here but Donal Mór O'Brien erected the first cathedral which was destroyed by Cathal Carrach of Connaught in 1185. The Romanesque doorway in the south-western corner belonged to the earlier cathedral. On the floor, in the recess of the doorway, is an ancient tombstone incised with a cross which tradition says is the tomb of Murtagh, the last of the O'Briens who was High King of Ireland. Near this on a pedestal is a unique stone with a Viking runic inscription which reads "Thorgrim carved this stone" and an ogham inscription which reads "A Blessing upon Thorgrim". Close by these, inserted in the west wall, is the twelfth-century high cross brought from Kilfenora in 1821 by Dr. Mant who was then Bishop of Killaloe. Donal Mor O'Brien's cathedral, which had been destroyed in 1185 was replaced by the present building early in the thirteenth century. At the time of the Reformation the cathedral became a Protestant one and its first Protestant bishop appointed in 1570 was Murtogh O' Brien-Arra. He ruled his diocese for thirty-six years and died in 1613. The cathedral is still used for divine worship today, almost 800 years after its erection.
  • ST. FLANNAN'S WELL is situated in the garden of the bank opposite the Cathedral. At one time a pattern was held on St. Flannan's feast day, 18th December. The well is now enclosed. At some stage the area around the well was used as a burial-ground since human bones have been exhumed from time to time.
  • ST. LUA's ORATORY next to the Catholic church stood on INIS LUA, Lua's Island, sometimes known as Friar's Island, until 1929. When the Shannon hydroelectric scheme was inaugurated it was realised that the island and its ninth or tenth century church would be submerged so the entire structure was removed stone by stone, to its present site by July 1930.
  • TOBERMURRAGH, near the pier head, is named after Brian Boru's great grandson who was baptised at this well. It is not a holy well. Murrough's well supplied the town with water before a piped water scheme came into operation. At the end of the nineteenth century the well was enclosed by a red-brick building.
  • THE AILLEBAUN WALK starts almost opposite the bridge which connects Killaloe with Ballina, in County Tipperary. The path rises steeply from here up to where Kincora once dominated the hilltop and surrounding region before descending once again near Tobermurragh. The upper reaches of this walk give the spectator a view of the Catholic church and St. Lua's Oratory. The name AILLEBAUN may be derived from Aille, meaning a cliff, but the Baun in this case is probably referring to a bawn or cattle enclosure rather than "bán" for white.
  • GREENANLAGHNA FORT on the south-eastern slopes of the hill of Crag, Craglea, or Crag Liath, the grey rock, is known locally as the GRIANAN, the sunny spot. Much of the outer ring remains although the southern side has many gaps and the western end has been levelled. Early in the fifth century the Dalcassians crossed the Shannon and conquered Clare.The branch of the Dal gCais that settled here was known as the "Sept of Turlough" or the "Uí Toirdhealbhaigh". The first of their kings, Aedh Caemh, was a friend of St. Brendan of Birr who died in 572. Aedh's grandfather was christianised by St. Patrick which probably made the fort at Greenanlaghna the first christian home in this part of East Clare. Another important Dalcassian chief who ruled this territory which corresponded with the present parishes of Killaloe and Clonlara was St. Flannan's father, Turlough; who gave his name to MAGH UÍ TOIRDHEALBHAIGH, the plain of Turlough, the level part of the parish between Killaloe and Bridgetown. The name MOYS still survives in a townland of that name-a corruption of "Maigh" or "magh", meaning a plain. The fort was abandoned sometime between 840 and 900.