Kilmallock , County Limerick

Once the chief town of the Earls of Desmond , Kilmallock still retains much of its medieval past. It is named after the monastery built here in the 7th century by St Mocheallog. A large section of its walls , including the massive Blossom Gate , is still intact. Standing foursquare in the centre of the main street is John’s Castle , a 60ft high peel tower where the defenders of the town could make their last effort to hold out if the walls were breached. Close by , a museum illustrates the town’s history.

To the North of the main street runs the River Loobagh , and on its banks is the ruined 13th century Collegiate Church of St Peter and St Paul. Ivy drapes the walls and the roofless Round Tower looks sadly forlorn , but there is still much to impress , including two elaborately carved 17th century tombs and a richly carved doorway in the South wall.

A footbridge over the Loobagh leads to Kilmallock’s 13th century Dominican priory , a gaunt ruin strangely beautiful in its grassy setting. Its tall , once magnificent tower gapes open at one corner and the gabled stonework is crumbling. However , the channel has a fine though glassless five-light window and the tracery of a 15th century window survives in the South transept.

Kilmallock is a real hidden gem and is worth a visit on your tours of Ireland.