Geographically closest to Britain and Europe, Ireland's East Coast has always been the country's most densely populated region. So it's perhaps no surprise that the East also boasts the greatest number of religious sites. Here, the centuries have produced countless places of worship, interment and sanctitude to serve the larger regional population.
On this page, we have picked out some of the best and most popular spiritual and religious destinations from across the ages.
A visit to Glendalough comes as a part of the following tours:
This is the second tallest cross in Ireland, after Monasterboice in County Louth. The base and upper section were found in the graveyard of Moone Abbey in 1835, they were joined together in what was then though to be the full structure. In 1893, the middle section was discovered and added. This brought the total height of the cross to 5m or 17.5ft.
Monasterboice was an early Christian settlement founded by St Buite in the 5th Century. On the grounds stands two churches, a sundial and a graveyard. What the settlement is most famous for is what many call Ireland's most spectacular high cross, the Muiredach's High Cross is a 5.5m tall, 18ft, cross encompassing biblical carvings of both the Old and New Testaments. It is Ireland's tallest cross. A copy of the cross is housed in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
The East Cross, known also as the Unfinished Cross as it is missing the top section of its ring, is a 3.1m, (10ft), high cross found in St. Columba's Church in the village of Kells, County Meath. The village of Kells is most famous for the Latin Gospel Work, the Book of Kells, which is currently housed in Trinity College, Dublin.
The Cross of the Scriptures was erected by Abbot Colman in honor of King Flann at the begining of the 10th Century. The cross depicts biblical scenes and today is surrounded by ruins, mostly from 12th century.
This is the earliest cross on Clonmacnoise. Dated to the early 9th century, only the shaft and part of the base have survived. The shaft is made of limestone and the base, which has only recently been exposed through excavation, seems to have been a former Millstone.
The South Cross is a little less spectacular looking than Cross of the Scriptures but is no less intricate. The ringed cross is held by a shaft of interlacing patterns and spirals. The cross dates from the 9th Century and is currently housed inside the Clonmacnoise visitor centre.
Found in the ancient monastic site of Glendalough, standing at 2.5m, (about 8ft), tall and carved from a single stone of granite, St. Kevin's Cross is a tribute to how Christianity turned the pagan people into believers. The cross is combined with a circle representing the sun and the moon, in reference to the pagan peoples worshipping of celestial bodies.
Rock of Dunamase is believed to have been first settled, by Christians, in the 6th century. Invaded by Vikings in 842 and left vacant during the 10th and 11th century. The castle, in ruins on the site today, was built in the second half of the 12th century.
Dating back to around 3000 BC, during the Neolithic era, the Proleek Dolmen was used as a tomb where cremated remains and tools, pottery and beads were kept. According to local legend, if you can land 3 stones on the roof of the dolmen you will be married within a year, or granted 3 wishes.
Dating back as far as 4000 BC, Loughcrew Cairns is home to a collection of megalithic tombs. It is one of the four main passage tombs of Ireland and is a protected National Monument.
The Hill of Uisneach is an ancient ceremonial site in County Westmeath. It was thought, at the time, to be the very centre of Ireland, geographically it is just slightly North East of this. There is evidence of occupation at The Hill of Uisneach during the Middle Ages (from the 5th to the 15th century).