Athassel Priory is the largest medieval priory in Ireland, stretching over a four acre site. The priory dates back to the 12th century when it was founded by the Augustinians under the patronage of Walter de Burgo, the original buildings were altered and renovated over the next 300 years. The priory was burnt twice, once in 1329 by Brian King of Thomond and again in 1581 by John Fitzgerald of Desmond. A large town had grown up around the priory but was destroyed during the two raids. The Priory was finally dissolved in 1537 and the lands given to Thomas the earl of Ormond who neglected the abbey and it subsequently fell into ruin.
I visited three abbeys in all during this trip to Tipperary and I must say the atmosphere at this one was incredibly unnerving. I had been at Kilcooly Abbey earlier in that day and it seemed like such a peaceful place, however Athassel was in stark contrast to this. There was a sense of being watched quite a lot of the time and I had to overcome some serious nerves to enter one of the unlocked rooms. I know to the majority of people it sounds like superstitious nonsense but it seems my views are backed up by a lot of visitors to the site. I never really research a huge amount about the history of any building I visit prior to actually being there, and my notes from the day mention the sense of foreboding and heaviness, it wasn’t until I started researching the priory online that I saw all the other mentions of how creepy people found this place.
The Priory has to be entered by passing through a farmers field, then crossing a medieval bridge and passing through the gatehouse. When you pass through the gatehouse the priory really opens up and its awe-inspiring. There is a beautiful church and two side chapels, there are also living quarters, sacristy and the remains of some cloisters. There are some very unusual carved stones on the walls, and a statue of St Joseph and a headless boy Jesus!
GPS: 52.47933, -7.98405