A step through a gateway at the southern end of this straggling town takes visitors back 800 years. In an instant one enters into the stillness of the Franciscan Abbey which was founded in 1302 by Thomas, Lord Offaly, with the help of the de la Hoyde family who were its benefactors.
The Abbey was plundered by Robert Bruce in 1317. Later, in 1541, the friary was suppressed. Only the walls of the church remain, which was originally a long rectangular structure with a doorway, a pair of lancet windows in the west wall and a tower on the south side. The north transept was added to it later and this is probably identical to the chapel of St. Mary built by Thomas, Second Earl of Kildare in 1328. Attached to the ruins of the church is a square building known as the Abbey Castle, which possibly dates from the 15th century and would have served as accommodation for the monks. The ruins are set back from the main road by only two or three feet, which makes it all the more remarkable that they have survived for so long. The solid stonework is well preserved, seeming as secure and strong as the day it was first constructed.
- The key is available from the caretaker’s house next door.