KELLS HISTORIC TRAIL
1. The Old Courthouse now the Tourist Office & Cultural Hub was built in 1801. It was designed by the prominent Irish architect Francis Johnston. Johnston also designed the General Post Office and Nelson’s Pillar in Dublin, Townley Hall, County Louth and the front entrance to Slane Castle.
2. Market Cross The famous 9th century Market Cross, the “Cross of the Gate” was originally located at the Eastern Gate of the monastery. It signified that a fugitive could claim sanctuary once inside the boundary of the monastic area. It currently stands outside the old Courthouse. Damage to the cross is attributed to the 17th century army of Oliver Cromwell. Local belief has it that the cross was also used for hanging Irish rebels after the 1798 rebellion. (The rebels were referred to as Croppies, or Croppie Boys, because of their agrarian roots, or possibly for their fashion of cutting or cropping their hair short in the then new revolutionary French fashion).
3. St. John’s Cemetery The name of this cemetery relates to the Kells priory of the Hospitallers of Saint John of Jerusalem at Kilmainham, Kells, of which only a ruined wall remains. The Hospitallers were founded in Italy in 1113 to protect and shelter pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem. The priory was founded by Walter De Lacy, son of Hugh De Lacy (first Norman lord of Meath) in 1199. Of interest in the graveyard is a medieval grave slab depicting a figure wearing a linen wimple and carrying a “tau” stick in the right hand. The figure is known locally as “the Abbess”.
4. Kells Town Hall Kells Town Hall was originally designed as a bank in 1853 by William Caldebeck. It became the town hall in 1974. Here you can view a copy of the Book of Kells.
5. Parnell Garden This is where Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-1891) addressed the people of Kells about land rights for Irish tenants on 11th April 1975.
6. Oliver Usher’s Auction Rooms Originally a brewery where Ireland’s first lager, Regal, (“Lager” spelt backwards) was brewed in the 1930s. It was later rebranded as Harp
7. The Monastic Site At this medieval site, located at the centre and highest point of the town, are the round tower and three high crosses. There is also a belltower and sundial. There are interpretative panels inside the church.
8. St. Columcille’s House This is a stone oratory dating from the 10th century, to house the religious relics of the monks. Access can be arranged through the Tourist Office.
9. Churchyard Wall This wall marks the boundary of the original monastic site and was rebuilt in 1714.
10. Bective Square In the centre of the square stands a bronze sculpture of an oak tree, by local artist Betty Newman-Maguire. It symbolises St. Columcille’s love of the oak.
11. Presbyterian Church One oft he two Presbyterian churches in Meath, this was built in 1971 on lands donated by Lord Headfort. Most of the original members were Scottish families working on the Headfort Estate.
12. St. Columcille’s Well A patron day is held annually on the eve of St. Columcille’s feast day, June 9th. Why not sit and enjoy a quiet moment. Throw a coin in the well, make a wish or say a silent prayer. 5 minute drive from Kells
13. Spire of Lloyd This inland lighthouse was designed by Henry Aaron Baker (designer of the King’s Inn, Dublin) in 1791 for the First Earl of Bective in memory of his father Sir Thomas Taylor. The spire stands on the site of an iron age ring fort. The community park (The People’s Park) includes the “Paupers Graveyard”, in which many victims of the mid-19th century famine lie buried. It is 30m high. On a clear day one can see magnificent views of the surrounding countryside as far as the Mourne Mountains in County Down, Northern Ireland. In the 19th century the Spire was used to view horse racing and the hunt.
14. Kells Victorian Era Waterworks Kells Victorian era waterworks (1897), supplied water to the town and was recently restored by local volunteers and re-opened in 2009, winning many awards since then. It is the only hydropowered pumping station in Meath. T +353 (0) 46 924 1284