Buttevant doesn’t have museums or large hotels but what it does offer is a personal experience of the past best experienced by getting out of the car and walking around. Begin your walk in the middle of the town at St Mary’s Church. This 18th century neo-gothic building stands beside the ruins of the 13th century Franciscan friary built by the de Barry family. The impressive church still stands albeit without its roof. Inside is some richly decorated stonework. In its basement is the crypt where the de Barrys now reside.
Continue walking south for about 100m and turn left down Mill Lane. You will see the Mill ahead of you, built by Anderson at the start of the 19th century. This large castellated structure was not the first mill located on the site. In the 1334 Pipe Roll of Cloyne a water mill is mentioned. Towards the end of Mill Lane are the gable of the Franciscan friary and a small section of the medieval town wall. Close by is the entrance to the ruins of the Barry Castle. Although the castle and its surrounding grounds are privately owned it is accessible on a select number of days each year (contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details).
Retracing your steps from Mill Lane until you reach Main St turn left and walk south until you reach a narrow lane to St John’s Church and graveyard. Built in 1826 on the site of a medieval predecessor, this elegant church was the starting point for the world’s first steeplechase.
Retrace your steps back to the Main Rd, turn right and follow the footpath at the opposite side of the road. You will see the low but stout remains of the outer defence wall in the field to your left. Continue walking towards the town and you will soon come to the Market House. This Georgian building was erected in 1750 on the site of the original 13th century market house. The playground, in front of the Market House was once the Market Green.
Continue heading towards the town centre of town and on your left you will quickly arrive at the ruins of Lombard’s Castle. It was built in c.1400 by the Lombard’s, a family of wool merchants and tax collectors originally from Italy. At the end of the town and veering off to the left is Military Rd. At the end of this graceful Georgian street you will find the GAA pitch in the grounds of what was the Royal Military Barracks. The limestone wall surrounding the GAA Grounds is believed to have been constructed from the medieval town wall. Take a final stroll, for about 100m, down the road to Doneraile to view the 13th century limestone bridge. The southern side is unaltered. The northern side was widened c.1700 to accommodate a second lane.
You really can’t leave Buttevant without visiting Ballybeg Abbey. Located one kilometer to the south of the town, the impressive ruins contain one of the best preserved dovecots in Ireland. Inside the circular tower, the Augustinians kept 365 birds as an easy source of meat. If you have time to explore further you may want to find the clapper bridge constructed by the monks to reach their mill at the other side of the river.
One of the really interesting things about Buttevant is that it has a couple of pubs that also act as shops. Or if you prefer, shops that act as pubs. Either way it’s possible to let your pint of Murphy’s settle while you buy the eggs and bread. This has nothing to do with medieval heritage but it may be the best thing about the town and the perfect way to end your visit!