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A Guide to Visiting The Historic Ennis Friary In Clare

A Guide to Visiting The Historic Ennis Friary In Clare

A visit to Ennis Friary is one of the more popular things to do in Ennis in Clare.

Known for incredible Renaissance carvings, the Franciscan Friary is a must-see historical site if you’re having a wander around this lively little town.

Located within walking distance of Ennis town centre, the 13th century abbey is a National Monument of Ireland and open for visitors. The friary is home to exceptional sculptures and carvings in local limestone which are now protected by the renovated nave.

In the guide below, you’ll discover everything you need to know about visiting the incredible Ennis Friary. 

Some quick need-to-knows about Ennis Friary

Ennis Friary from the outside

Photo by Borisb17 (Shutterstock)

Although a visit to the Franciscan Friary in Ennis is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

Ennis Friary is conveniently located right in the middle of Ennis town on Abbey Street in County Clare. 

2. Opening hours

The Franciscan Friary is open every day of the week from 10am to 6pm. There are masses held at the friary at 10am and 1pm on weekdays, 10am and 7.30pm on Saturdays and noon on Sundays (see latest opening hours here).

3. Admission and parking

There is free parking available around the abbey with an admission fee for entry. It’s €5 per adult and €3 per child, with a family ticket available for €13.

Ennis Friary history

visiting the Franciscan Friary in Ennis

Photo by Patrick E Planer (Shutterstock)

The history of this Franciscan Friary is long and colourful, and I won’t do it justice with a couple of paragraphs. 

The history of Ennis Friary, as outlined below, is intended to give you a taste of what to expect when you visit yourself.

Ennis Friary origins 

Ennis Friary was originally financed by the O’Briens of Thomond, who offered shelter to the Franciscan Order in the 13th century. The friary continued to grow in the 14th and 15th century, with a sacristy, refectory, cloister and transept being added during this time. The belfry tower was added in 1475.

Suppression under King Henry VIII

King Henry VIII ordered the suppression of all monasteries in his kingdom during the 16th century. During this time, the Franciscans were able to continue operating, mostly in secret for many years under the protection of the O’Briens.

Church of Ireland and Exile

When Connor O’Brien died in 1581, his son, Donogh, took over the abbey. Donogh declared himself an Anglican and worked closely with the English authorities.

During the Nine Years War, he sided with the crown and asked the Church of Ireland to take over the Ennis Friary in the early 17th century as a place of worship.

After the passing of the Penal Laws, the friars were forced into exile in 1697 which effectively terminated the presence of the order at Ennis. 

Repair and reopening

The Church of Ireland opened a new church in Ennis in 1871 and left the original friary exposed to the weather and in disrepair. 

In 1892, reparations began on the friary which culminated with the Office of Public Works taking over to undergo massive restorative work. The Franciscans had returned to the community in 1800 and were finally given back the Ennis Friary in 1969, although it remains state property.  

Things to do near the Franciscan Friary in Ennis

One of the beauties of Ennis Friary is that it’s a short spin away from many of the most popular Clare attractions.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the Franciscan Friary in Ennis (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. Ennis for a feed

brogan's bar ennis

Photo by The Irish Road Trip

While you’re in Ennis town, there are plenty of places to go for a feed and a pint. An Ennis institution is Brogan’s Bar, a must-visit restaurant and pub with smooth pints and great food. See our Ennis restaurants guide and our Ennis pubs guide for more.

2. Quin Abbey

quin abbey

Photo by shutterupeire (Shutterstock)

Located just outside of Ennis, Quin Abbey is another historic Franciscan friary that makes for a great excursion from town. Just 11km east of Ennis, the abbey is free to enter and has a very well-preserved structure with much of its original features intact. The view from the tower also offers an incredible panorama over the countryside.

3. Bunratty Castle

bunratty castle

Photos via Shutterstock

The 13th century Bunratty Castle is located in the middle of Bunratty village. It’s a well-known medieval castle, built in 1250 by Robert De Muscegros. After being destroyed a number of times, it was finally rebuilt in 1425 and restored in 1954 to be opened for visitors. There’s plenty of things to do in Shannon when you’re finished, too!

4. Knappogue Castle

Knappogue castle in clare

Photo by Patryk Kosmider (Shutterstock)

The beautiful Knappogue Castle in the Shannon region was at one time a stately home for noble medieval lords. It’s open for a medieval-style elaborate banquet and accommodation for a fun night out just 13km outside of Ennis town. 

5. Loop Head Lighthouse

loop head

Photo by 4kclips (Shutterstock)

Stretching to the southwest of Ennis, the Loop Head Peninsula extends into the Atlantic Ocean. The peninsula is home to spectacular scenery on the Wild Atlantic Way and is worth the hour drive from Ennis town. At the end of the point, you’ll find the Loop Head Lighthouse which is open for tours and dramatic views across to Dingle and up to the Cliffs of Moher.

6. The Burren National Park

the burren way walk

Photo left: gabriel12. Photo right: Lisandro Luis Trarbach (Shutterstock)

The Burren National Park is a 1500-hectare park area north of Ennis. The incredible, otherworldly landscape features rocks, cliffs, woodlands and plenty of walking trails. The area is home to diverse flora and fauna and is popular amongst hikers, photographers and outdoor enthusiasts. There are plenty of Burren walks to head off on and there’s lots of things to do in Doolin, nearby.

FAQs about Ennis Friary

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from whether Ennis Friary is worth visiting to what to see nearby.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

What is there to do at Ennis Friary?

If you’re fond of architecture, you’ll love wandering around the Franciscan Friary in Ennis. There are fifteenth and sixteenth-century sculptures carved in limestone, a stunning east windown with lancets and much more.

Is the Ennis Friary worth visiting?

Yes! If you have an interest in history and architecture, the Friary is well worth spending some time exploring.

What is there to do near Ennis Friary?

There’s lots of things to see and do nearby, from the Loop Head Peninsula and Bunratty Castle to the Burren and more (see guide above).

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