There are many benefits to having an OPW Heritage Card. I particularly love that it encourages you to check out new places on your travels. So, for example, when we were planning a day trip to Kilkenny I took a look at the Heritage Ireland website to see if there were any attractions nearby. Both Dunmore Cave and Jerpoint Abbey looked like they might be worth a visit while we were in the area.
We knew there would be heaps to see in Kilkenny itself, so we decided to visit Dunmore Cave and Jerpoint Abbey first. If we didn’t, we were likely to run out of time wandering the city and then we wouldn’t make it at all. As it turned out, we were very glad we did. I would definitely recommend both of these sites if time allows. We headed to the cave first and that is also worthy of a post of its own, so I will get to that soon! Then we headed on to the abbey.
Located about 2.5km southwest of Thomastown, Jerpoint Abbey is just over 20 mins drive from the city. So it added a little extra to our journey but I was keen to see it so didn’t mind that. It was easy enough to find and there is parking provided outside. There was an exhibition inside the visitor centre but we chose to skip that and just head on outside to explore the abbey.
Jerpoint Abbey is a Cistercian Abbey, which was founded sometime in the second half of the 12th century. Much of the building is still intact, making it one of the most complete cistercian monasteries remaining in Ireland. It is now a national monument, noted for its unique stone carvings including those on the sculptured cloister arcade and on the tomb of Felix O’Dulany, Bishop of Ossory, who was interred there in 1202. The cloister and the tower date back to the 15th century and and the transept chapels contains tomb sculptures dating from the 13th to 16th century.
Guided tours are available and take around 45 mins. I’m not sure why we didn’t do one as I would have liked to know more of the history. I’m guessing we were probably pushed for time! There were only a handful of other people there, so it was lovely to wander around ourselves anyway and take it all in. There are also some rooms within the abbey with interesting artefacts on display. If you are considering a visit, I would definitely say add it to your list and go check it out. I should also point out that all OPW sites are free on the first Wednesday of the month. For regular pricing and opening times, check out the Heritage Ireland website.