Old Leighlin, County Carlow

The stubby, crenelated tower of the 13th century St Lazerian Protestant Cathedral stands at Old Leighlin. And nearby is the site of a 7th century monastery and Lazerian’s Well – a place of pilgrimage that after 13 centuries still attracts offerings of medals, crucifixes and rosary beads. The monastery played a major role in the history of Irish Christianity. It once had 1500 monks, and a synod was held there in 630 to decide the date of Easter that year. St Lazerian, who died in 639, was the Pope’s delegate to Ireland. The only relics of his monastery are St Lazerian’s Cross and Well. The Cathedral, refreshingly simple inside, has a Gothic doorway and details from the 13th and 15th centuries. It houses two fonts: a plain one thought to be 11th century, and a 13th century one with only fluting for decoration.

The Carey family, who run the public house across the road from the Cathedral, say theirs is the oldest single family pub in Ireland – a claim hard to refute, since they have been the publicans since 1542. One of their forebears, Denis Carey, was executed after the 1798 Rebellion, and his gravestone is in the churchyard. On his way to execution, after he had refused under flogging to inform against any of his comrades, he asked his wife what would become of her. ‘God and the good neighbours will look after myself and the children,’ was her steadfast reply. ‘Make no other widows but me’.

Old Leighlin is a real hidden gem and is worth a visit for a pint in the oldest single family pub in Ireland.