St Declan founded one of the earliest Irish ecclesiastical sites at Ardmore in the 5th century and a short distance away, on the eastern side of the hill, he established a small hermitage for contemplation and reflection. All that remains of the original site today is St Declan’s Well and a much later 13th century church. The church, also named after the saint, stands on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea with beautiful views to the east. Although this is a site of popular pilgrimage this custom did not come about until the 18th century. A pilgrim route named St Declan’s Way begins here and ends in Cashel in Tipperary. This remarkable route, 56 miles in length, crosses the Knockmealdown Mountains by way of a mountain pass at a height of 1,762 foot. The Life of St Declan, a 12th century version being the earliest know copy, tells how St Declan spent half his time at the monastery and half his time alone and in prayer at Temple Dysert, unlike many of the other Irish Hermits known for their austerity St Declan is painted in a different light, happy to break from prayer and welcome those who came seeking help.
A surprisingly casual but breathtaking 5km cliff walk brings you from Temple Dysert to Ardmore Cathedral and Round Tower and I’d thoroughly recommend following that route.
GPS: 51.94802, -7.7123