Kilmallock Medieval Tour
Kilmallock – ‘The Baalbek of Ireland’
If Kilmallock’s walls could talk, they’d have some intriguing tales to tell. The Normans may have built a castle here in 1206, but nearby ruins, unearthed in 1986, turned out to be Neolithic houses built by locals over 5,000 years ago. To be fair to the Normans, it was they who put Kilmallock on the map, turning it into one of the most important towns in Munster.
For a good understanding of the surrounding region, pay a visit to the heritage centre and local museum. Ballyhoura Heritage Information Centre at Friar’s Gate Theatre & Arts interprets the heritage attractions of the Ballyhoura region through the medium of art.
Open 9.30 am-5.30 pm Monday- Friday or by appointment, Kilmallock Museum takes a more conventional approach, reflecting local life during the 19th and 20th centuries. Scale models of Kilmallock in medieval times and the Stone Age at Tankardstown are especially interesting.
You can also download the free audio guide that leads you on a historical walk around the town. If you prefer to get a guided tour of Kilmallock, contact Kilmallock Museum or one of our local guides such as Giuseppe Giordano.
The Monastic Site
Saint Mocheallóg is believed to have built a church on Kilmallock Hill in the seventh century. A later monastic settlement dedicated to his memory was established on the banks of the Lubagh River. He could not have foreseen the later evolution of Kilmallock into an important fortified town built by the Anglo-Normans within decades of their invasion of Ireland in 1169. The mediaeval town was a creation of the Desmond FitzGeralds and the White Knights.
Kilmallock was fortified in 1375. It had a corporation with the power to raise taxes to fund the building of its town walls and defend the town against attack. Five fortified towers protected the town entrances. As Kilmallock grew in prosperity, so too did the quality of its merchant’s houses, one of which can be seen on the main street.
The best stretch of the mediaeval town wall extends for about 400 metres (by up to six metres in height) from the rear of the Catholic Church to Blossom Gate.
Kilmallock’s Dominican Priory, referred to locally as ‘the abbey’, replaced the church on the hill and is something of a landmark to this day.
Established in 1291 by Gilbert Fitzgerald of the White Knights, who then invited the Dominicans to the monastery, where his clan remained the key benefactors. Maurice Fitzgerald was the main patron of the friary when it was enlarged in 1320. Its community both grew and dwindled over the centuries, mainly due to changing land laws and wars, with friars eventually abandoning the venerable building for good in 1790.
Just as fascinating as the Dominican Priory is the Collegiate Church, dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, which was built between the 13th and 15th centuries. It contains several splendid medieval grave memorials. There is an effigy of Maurice FitzGerald, who died in 1635, and a number of monuments with important examples of coats of arms carved in stone. Of particular interest is the tomb of John Verdon and his wife.
A stroll within the walled town reveals a wealth of historic buildings that chart the changing nature and times of Kilmallock. The 15th-century John’s Castle is a fine example of a Peel Tower, with its wide arched openings prompting speculation that it was originally a town gate.
One thing that is clear is that it’s had a variety of interesting uses, from a citadel to an arsenal, a school to a blacksmith’s forge, and, most recently, the meeting place of Kilmallock Corporation.
In 1690 the town met with more destruction, caused this time by marauding Jacobites under the command of the Duke of Berwick. The devastation had a lasting effect, stifling the growth and prosperity of Kilmallock for almost 200 years. Today a large section of the old town walls are still intact, together with the last surviving town gate, Blossom Gate, located on Emmet Street.
The Stone Mansion is the best surviving example of the medieval merchants’ houses that once lined the streets of Kilmallock.
This house was probably built in the 16th century when Kilmallock was the chief town of the Earls of Desmond. Originally, the house had three stories and is readily identifiable in John Mulvany’s (1766–1838) painting of Kilmallock.
The Fenian Monument - this Celtic cross bears the names of Fenians who died in the Kilmallock barrack attack of 1867, or who died afterwards from the hardships they endured in prison.
The Catholic parish church, dedicated to Saint Peter and Paul, was opened in 1888. It is one of the finest examples of parish church architecture in Ireland and has been described an ‘a mini-cathedral.’ Notable features of the church include its splendid stained glass windows and carved stonework.
Kilmallock Martyrs - this is behind the Catholic Church in a place known locally as Chrochta (The Hanging Place.) It commemorates three martyrs – Bishop Patrick O’Hely of Mayo and Fr Con O’Rourke who were tortured and hanged there in 1579; the third martyr, Fr Maurice MacEnraghty from Kilmallock, was hanged in Clonmel in 1585. All three were among 17 Irish martyrs beatified in 1992.
More recent history is commemorated in The Famine Memorial Park, or Bully’s Acre, where the remains of countless famine victims, many of whom passed through the Union Workhouse in the 1840s, are now buried. The Famine Memorial Park has a tall stone structure with a large limestone cross. Her Excellency Mary McAleese, President of Ireland, opened the park in 1999.
The workers' cottages date from the 19th century. Each is single storey. A loft, reached by a ladder from a common room, provided the sleeping accommodation.
Culture & Events
Operating since 1997, Friars’ Gate Theatre is a vibrant venue and arts centre in the heart of Munster. Over the past twenty-plus years Friars’ Gate has presented a busy and diverse programme, bringing an eclectic artistic mix and teaching of the highest standards to a wide rural audience.
Saturday's Kilmallock Cottage Market is a friendly local market in the heart of the Kilmallock community and has an impressive and eclectic variety of homemade, homegrown and handcrafted items on sale, produced locally.
Why not treat yourself to a day in the wide outdoors, bringing you back to nature?
Riverside Park is the 1.2-hectare park beside the Lubagh River, gives magnificent views of the most notable historical buildings in the town. It is an ideal picnic area.
Kilmallock is only 10min drive from famous Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Trails which are also a starting point of many of Ballyhoura Walking Trail Loops. Explore a walkers paradise offering a wide variety of walking experiences. To find your trail download our Ballyhoura Trails Guide App available from both Apple & Google Play stores.
Kilmallock Cycling Hub is part of the National Cycle Network with a choice of looped cycle routes which traverse across the Ballyhoura region. Kilmallock is the starting point of those loops.
Animal Magic & Ballyhoura Falconry has probably one of the biggest collections of raptors in Ireland, from the tiny Burrowing Owl to the impressive Golden Eagle.
The Ballyhoura Garden Experience brings together three beautiful gardens of Ballyhoura Country, three plant sales outlets and a local hotel to combine a fantastic day out or weekend for gardening aficionados.
Coolwater in Fedamore a wonderfully, artistically designed, half-acre garden, stepping to the beat of a different drum, has a stunning Water Garden, many alpine troughs containing very choice plants and an almost chimerical West Garden.
Terra Nova Garden is a dynamic space full of the unexpected. Home to an exotic Thai House with tropical plantings, a magical woodland where pixies, fairies and other elementals live in shady places.
Just Roses situated in Josie’s award-winning garden is home to a huge stock of up to 3,000 roses with over 200 varieties. The Ahern Nursery & Plant Centre at Sherin's Cross is a veritable paradise for any plants person.
Base yourself in Deebert House Hotel and explore treasure troves of Ballyhoura gardens.
Food and Accommodation
Take a tour of JJ's Craft Brewery, meet the brewers and experience the passion for the craft and have the opportunity to taste the special malts and smell the hops that combine to produce the award-winning beers.
There are numerous accommodation providers around Kilmallock and they all provide a warm welcome and excellent facilities for visitors. Fitzgerald's Bar and B&B is a family run Bed and Breakfast and Traditional Irish Pub situated directly on the main street of Kilmallock.
Two traditional and cosy cottages situated in the courtyard of Fairyfield House in the quiet countryside just outside Kilmallock. Flemingstown House B&B is a family-run guest house set in a sea of green fields and trees.