GPS Coordinates: 53.728235, -6.876946 | View On Google Maps ⇨
The town of Kells has a long history, in the 6th century AD it was inhabited by St Colmcille (Columba) before he was exiled to Scotland. St Colmcille’s followers returned to Kells in the 9th century after their home on the island of Iona was attacked by Vikings. They founded a monastery in Kells dedicated to St Colmcille.
The monastery in Kells flourished and the wealth it produced attracted the Anglo-Norman, Hugh de Lacey. He established an early town near the monastery on the western edge of the Pale. He also built a motte for its protection in 1179. The first known murage grants for the town walls at Kells date from 1326 and 1388. These grants allowed stone walls, 1,650m in length, to enclose 21 hectares of land. The town walls show no evidence of a fosse or ramparts but there were five gateways that led into Kells: Carrick Gate, Maudlin Gate, Dublin Gate, Trim/ Farrell’s/ Suffolk Gate and Cannon Gate. Today there is evidence for only one tower along the town walls, but there were possibly more.
In the 15th century, grants were issued to repair the walls of Kells, but they were expected to be paid back by the residents. This taxation supposedly caused a number of residents to leave Kells in protest. The walls continued to protect the people of Kells who lived on the edge of the Pale but they became obsolete after the introduction of gunpowder and were slowly removed. Now all that remains is one tower and a small portion of the once great wall.
When visiting Kells you must see the remains of the monastery where the famous Book of Kells (now displayed in Trinity College) gets its name. There is also a fine market high cross, St Colmcille’s house and the round tower. You can get a guided tour of the town from Kells Historic Walking Tours who will tell you the full history. Just outside the town is the Ppire of Lloyd also known as Ireland’s only inland lighthouse. The area around the spire is a community park with wonderful walks for all to enjoy.