By Dan Walsh
Founded in 1210, Dunbrody Abbey is one of the finest examples of a Cistercian monastery in Ireland and today the abbey features a modern visitor centre and has plenty to offer visitors at Campile.
Dunbrody Abbey and Visitor Centre is built on the site of one of the most impressive of ruined Cistercians abbeys in Ireland. It was founded by Herve de Montmorency in 1170 on the instructions of his nephew Richard de Clare (also known as Strongbow), after the Norman invasion of Ireland.
Today Dunbrody Abbey retains much of its 13th century church as well as extensive remains of buildings around the cloister garth. The transepts and their chapels are well preserved and beside the aisles, the nave stands complete; the massive crossing tower was an addition of the 15th century.
The abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1536 and granted to the Etchingham family in 1545, at which point part of the church was converted into a residence. A massive collapse occurred on Christmas Eve in 1852, destroying the south wall of the church and some of the monastery.
Next to the abbey lies Dunbrody Castle and a visitor centre opened by the Earl of Belfast, only son of the 7th Marquess of Donegall. The castle gardens feature an intricate yew hedge maze called the Dunbrody Abbey Maze. Made up of 1,500 yew trees and gravel paths, it is one of the only two full size mazes in Ireland.
Dunbrody Abbey and Castle are open to visitors to explore, enjoy walks and have picnics on the grounds. Located in a beautiful stretch of south-west Wexford, the abbey remains a vital and vibrant tourist attraction and a valuable historical resource.
Well worth a visit over the June Bank Holiday weekend! Opening times May to September 11am to 5.30pm. There is ample car parking and disabled access.