19 Dec Kincora, Killaloe, County Clare
Towards the end of the 10th century , a new sept rose to power in Munster. This was the Dal gCais , from the area West of the bend in the river Shannon , and its leader was Mathghamhain. Why not make a stop here on your Ireland tours.
Having defeated the Vikings of Limerick in bloody campaigns , Mathghamhain took the kingship of the province in 968 , but eight years later he was slain by Irish rivals and his younger brother Brian Boru took over. In his youth , Brian had been a brilliant guerilla leader , and now he proved himself an even more accomplished ruler than his brother.
Through a mixture of diplomacy and military action , he managed to wrest the High-Kingship of Ireland from the reigning sovereign in 1002. He was prudent as well as ambitious , and had a great gift for organisation. A patron of learning and monasteries , he signed himself ‘Emperor of the Irish’ in the book of Armagh. In his old age he scored his greatest victory , against a strong Viking army at the battle of Clontarf near Dublin. Towards the end of the battle , however , he was surprised and slain by a fleeing Viking warrior.
Brian had his palace at Kincora , from the Irish Ceann Cora (‘Head of the Weir’) , on the hill to the West of the bridge at Killaloe. That picturesque town itself developed from the little monastery called Cill Dalua (‘Church of Holy Lua’) , situated just South of the bridge. Lua was a saint of the 7th century , and Brian Boru – wishing to perpetuate the memory of that holy man – had a church built and dedicated to him on the site of his monastery. In the 12th century , this was replaced by the fine cathedral of Killaloe which still stands today and is a must see on your Ireland tours.