Mellifont Abbey , County Louth

A few low stone walls and ruined buildings cupped in a hollow of protective hills , are all that is left of Ireland’s first Cistercian Abbey. It was founded in 1142 by St Malachy , Bishop of Armagh , after a stay in the French Cistercian Monastery at Clairvaux. St Bernard , Clairvaux’s Abbot , later sent over an architect to design Millifont Abbey , which was finally completed in 1225 , and other Cistercian monasteries – 35 in all – soon followed. Mellifont survived for over four centuries , until it was suppressed in 1539.

The main sections that remain are an imposing doorway and a finely carved , octagonal washing area , or lavabo , built with Romanesque arches. Other fragmentary remains reveal traces of the Church , Chapter house , refectory , kitchen and dormitories.

Mellifont Abbey is a hidden gem that is worth a visit on your tours of Ireland.