30 Jun Ardmore , County Waterford
The village of Ardmore , southwest of Dungarvan , is steeped in history and full of character and worth a visit on any tours of Ireland.
The 5th century saw the arrival here of St Declan , at least 30 years before St Patrick arrived in Ireland , and the surrounding area of the Old Parish is so called because it is supposedly the oldest parish in Ireland.
In Ardmore itself , a medieval cathedral and round tower stand on the site of the saints original monastic foundation , commanding stunning views over Ardmore Bay. The long, low 12th century cathedral has massive buttresses , its stoutly rounded doors and windows confirming the proud – albeit now roofless – Romanesque solidity of the building , while the slender round tower , tall and fine with a conical roof , stands alongside in poignant contrast.
Inside, there are stones with early ogham inscriptions , but the most exceptional carvings are on the west external wall. Here , Romanesque arcading , originally from an earlier building , has been set beneth the window , with boldly carved scenes showing the Weighing of Souls ; the Fall of Man , the Judgment of Solomon and the Adoration of the Magi : truly impressive , and unique in quality and design.
St Declan’s Oratory , supposedly his burial site , also stands in the graveyards.
Earth from the saint’s grave is believed to protect against disease.
Myth has it that when St Declan arrived here from Wales , his bell and vestments were magically carried by the large stone that now sits on the beach.
Walking through the village up the hill a path leads you to the ancient St Declans Well and a steeply gabled oratory. It is an atmospheric spot , with fresh water springing beside three primitive stone crosses , where pilgrims used to wash , and a stone chair.
A real hidden gem for any Ireland tours.