Trim has some of the most impressive medieval ruins in Ireland. In the twelfth century, the early period of Norman power, the largest castle in Ireland was constructed at Trim as were seven monasteries and three hospitals. This legacy can be seen everywhere throughout the town, from the buildings that still dominate the landscape to the narrow medieval streets. All of the ruins, aside from Trim Castle, can be visited and explored for free!
When arriving in the town look for the car park located beside Trim Castle. It is also surrounded by the Tourist Information Centre and Trim Visitor Centre and makes an excellent base from which to explore the town. Tickets for a guided tour with the Trim Living History Group can be bought at the Trim Visitory Centre. Booking in advance is advised. However, if you prefer to explore on your own there is also an excellent Historic Trail which you can follow.
Start your day at Trim Castle (adult/senior citizen/child & student €4/3/2; 9am-5pm weekends only Nov-Feb, 9am-6pm July-Aug, 10am-6pm Oct-Feb). From here you can wander around the core of the town. St. Patrick’s Church is a French Gothic style church on Patrick Street. Located on the corner of the Fair Green is a Corinthian column which was erected in honour of the Duke of Wellington who once resided in the town. The extant remains Dublin Gate can also be seen on Emmet Street.
Return to the car park and cross the foot bridge. As you stand on the bridge look left towards the stone bridge. This bridge was constructed between 1330 – 1350 and it still carries traffic today! Follow the path towards Sheep Gate, the most upstanding section of Trim’s town wall. From here you can appreciate the views of the castle and the landscape of the town. Beside Sheep Gate is the imposing Yellow Steeple, the bell tower for St Mary’s Abbey. The Yellow Steeple takes its name from the golden colour of the stonework at sunset. It was square in plan and situated at the north side of the demolished Church of St. Mary’s. Today it stands over 40m tall and is thought to be the tallest medieval building in Ireland. Just west of the Steeple Talbot’s Castle (also known as St. Mary’s Abbey), a fortified manor house built in the 13th century. This is a private residence but the architectural features can still be appreciated from a distance.
Head north towards Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on St. Lomand Street. Reputed to be built on the site of the first church which Saint Patrick built in the area, the present church was built in 1802. The tower attatched to the church is 15th century in date. Make sure to check out the medieval graveyard – the continued use of the site is apparent from the headstones from varying periods until the present day. But walk carefully when you wander around the graves, bones may be visible in the earth!
If you are visiting in the Summer we highly recommend making your way to the Blackfriary Dig. In 2010, The Irish Archaeology Field School (IAFS) commenced a long term programme of archaeological excavation at the Blackfriary site. Each year excavation has been carried out by a team including local people from Meath, Irish students from all over the country and international students from all over the world. The excavation work is carried out annually in the summer months and visitors are very welcome to visit the site where an archaeologist may be free to give them a tour. To find the site head north from Saint Patrick’s Cathedral towards Super Valu. The excavation site is located behind the supermarket. Go through the car park and the housing estate until you see the gate to the field on the left. Don’t worry if you get a little lost, the locals will know where it is!
If you head back to Sheep Gate you can follow the riverwalk. This is a very pretty walk that takes you through riverside meadows and offers stunning picturesque views. After walking for about 15 minutes you will come across a cluster of medieval ecclesiastical sites at the parish of Newtown; Newtown Church, Newtown Cathedral, and the Victorine Friary. Simon de Rochfort, first Norman Bishop of the diocese of Meath, founded his cathedral at Newtown in 1206. It was the largest cathedral in medieval Ireland, constructed in an early gothic style. Just beyond the Cathedral remains you can find the small parish church that probably dates to the later fifteenth century.
Located within the church is the late sixteenth century tomb of Sir Lucas Dillion and his wife, Lady Jane Bathe. Known locally as the ‘Tomb of the Jealous Man and Woman’, the effigies portray Sir Lucas and his wife, Lady Jane Bathe, in Elizabethan dress with a sword dividing the couple. The tomb is said to have received its name because the two figures do not touch each other. Instead of signifying the sword of state, the sword actually represents Sir Lucas’ displeasure at his wife for having an affair, forever separating the two. If you examine the tomb you will find that it is covered in pins. This is because it is believed that the tomb possesses a cure for warts and skin complaints. Rub your wart on a pin and leave the pin on top of the tomb, as the pin rusts the wart withers and dissapears. Be warned though, if you take somebody else’s pin off the tomb for your own use you’ll not only keep your warts but you’ll inherit the warts of the pin’s rightful owner!
You can continue along the path through the graveyard and emerge out onto the road. Go over the bridge here towards the Priory and Hospital of St. John the Baptist. The Priory was founded in the early thirteenth century by Simon de Rochfort for the Order of the Crutched Friars (Fratres Cruciferi). As well as being a monastery and guesthouse for pilgrims, the site also served as a hospital. You can still make out sections of the later 16th century enclosing walls that surround the site, and one small corner turret is still standing today in the western side of the field. The priory was dissolved during the Reformation in 1541, and was converted to being a private residence.
If you are ready for a break before you head back towards Trim you can sit down to a pint and lunch at Marcey Reagans Pub, located along the river bank across from the Priory. Instead of walking back along the riverside walk you may prefer to go along the Dublin road. Although longer, you will pass the site of Echo Gate (Shout across the river to the Victorine Friary and your words are returned in a perfectly clear echo) and Maudlins Cemetary, a former leper colony and pauper’s burial ground. This road will lead you straight back to the car park outside Trim Castle.