A mere 11 kilometers (less than 7 miles) north of the west Ireland
crossroads community of Ennis lies a little slice of history that's well worth
several hours' exploration. Sites of historic and archaeological significance
aren't scarce in Ireland, but the castle, church, grounds, and outbuildings of
the Dysert O'Dea complex are a worthy combination of natural beauty, manmade
history, and boot-strapped conservation efforts. The sprawling acreage can be
explored by car, but is best explored on foot and makes a great afternoon's
The restoration includes 10 rooms on four floors, several restored in themes
that reflect one of the many historical periods that have passed in the
castle's history. The main floor houses a humble, but imminently hospitable tea
room where you may purchase inexpensive tickets to tour the castle. The tour includes
a homespun, but informative audiovisual presentation on the history and
archeology of the castle and grounds and surrounding area as well as
museum-quality artifacts spanning the half millennium that the castle has stood
upon this site.
Dysert O'Dea's Monastery
One of the most accessible and impressive sites on the property is the Dysert
O'Dea monastery/church, located just across the field where the high cross
stands. A stone stile allows you to climb the surrounding low wall with ease.
One of the best-preserved and interesting features of the church is the
doorway. Carved in the 12th-century Romanesque style, its rounded arches are
decorated in a style typical of the period, and are among the best preserved in
History And Restoration
The castle, grounds, and outbuildings you see today at the Dysert O'Dea
Archaeological Centre are a product of careful restoration by a descendant of
the original family who lived here. In 1970, what remained of the original
castle and outlying properties was purchased by John O'Day, an American who
descended from the O'Dea clan. He helped found the Dysert O'Dea Development
Association and, in 1986, the association began work on restoration of the
castle and grounds. The small fee charged for admission (4 Euros in 2009,
that's just under $6 U.S. Funds) helps maintain the site.
Sally O'Neal, an Irish lass by heritage, writes her "Trailside"
column weekly for sportsmansguide.com. She visited western Ireland and the Dysert
O'Dea complex in May of 2009.