Monasterboice – celtic crosses and a roundtower

Last updated on May 16, 2024

If you’re travelling in Ireland’s Ancient East, you shouldn’t just drive past Monasterboice…

Monasterboice (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)


The place is small and the chance, that you will discover it by chance is even smaller. You have to consciously want to get there, otherwise it won’t work.

You have to know it beforehand and know that you want to go there. We can deal with the “knowing” in this article and the “wanting” will hopefully come afterwards… :-).

Joking aside, I had heard about Monasterboice that it was supposed to be a bit similar to Glendalough. An early medieval monastery with one of those marvellous Irish round towers and particularly ornate Celtic crosses.

Celtic Cross and roundtower at Monasterboice
Celtic Cross and roundtower at Monasterboice (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

I’m not usually that interested in churches and monasteries, but I’m a big fan of Glendalough and Clonmacnoise. These are both important early medieval monastic sites that had the status of universities in their day. Clergy and noblemen from all over Europe were academically educated here. Both Glendalough and Clonmacnoise are situated in magically beautiful landscapes.

Glendalough is located in the Wicklow Mountains, south of Dublin, and therefore very close to us. We come from Germany, but have lived in Ireland for several years (second home), where we run our motorbike rental business ( and our guest rooms during the summer months.

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So we went to see Monasterboice and had a very nice one or two hours there in the best weather. I would say that it is less spectacular than the other two monasteries because there is not so much left of the monastery. The complex is also smaller and the landscape is beautiful, but not “magical”.

Nevertheless, this is a very authentic and historic Irish place that you should definitely include in your tour if you are travelling north of Dublin. Incidentally, it is also much less busy here than Glendalough, where many excursion buses from Dublin go in the summer. For me, a little more peace and quiet on site is a very charming advantage!

Celtic Cross at Monasterboice
Celtic Cross at Monasterboice (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

Some background about Monasterboice

The Irish monk who founded Monasterboice came from this area, but he had already seen much of the world. Búite mac Bróinagh lived in the 6th century and first travelled through Wales, Italy, Germany and Scotland before settling here and building the monastery of the Iro-Scottish Church.

The round tower and the Celtic high crosses date from the 9th century. The crosses are up to 6 metres high and extremely ornate.

Although the round tower no longer has a roof, it is also very well preserved and is still around 28 metres high. Such round towers can still be found in several places in Ireland, but mainly in monasteries, such as Clonmacnoise and Glendalough. Their function is still the subject of debate, but they were probably safe houses for monks and precious church goods, which could be kept safe in the tower in the event of raids.

At Monasterboice
At Monasterboice (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)

Visiting Monasterboice

The best way to find Monasterboice is via Google Maps. It is located a little south of the village of the same name, Monasterboice. There is a small car park and a small shop where you can buy your ticket, there is also an information brochure and then you can wander around the site.

The cemetery of the former monastery is still in use today. In the centre you will find the high crosses, the ruins of two churches and, at the end, the round tower, which you can see from afar.

See also:

Round tower and Celtic Cross at Monatserboice
Round tower and Celtic Cross at Monatserboice

What else you can see in the area

Here are a few tips for you on what else you can see en route:

Newgrange near Brú na Bóinne

There are several impressive prehistoric sites in the River Boyne valley, including the three World Heritage Sites of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. You can visit Knowth and Newgrange, the largest of the three, as part of a guided tour, which you can – and should – book in advance through the Visitor Centre. See:

The Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre
In 1690, a fierce battle took place near Drogheda on the banks of the River Boyne, in which the English defeated the Irish. At the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre you can find out more about the battle and see lots of period militaria. See:

Stonemason art at Monasterboice
Stonemason art at Monasterboice (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)


This is a very pretty little town on Carlingford Lough, on the border with Northern Ireland. If you’re travelling in that direction, it’s a great place to spend the night. You can find my article here:

The sandy beaches of the north-east coast of Ireland

The east coast has kilometres of sandy beaches. Just drive along the coastal road and take your pick!

Beach near Castlebellingham
Beach near Castlebellingham (photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg)


Ireland’s Ancient East is an interesting area. Here you will find lots of historical sites and monuments. One small but beautiful historical site is Monasterboice.

You can easily combine your visit with other sights in the area, or simply spend the afternoon relaxing on one of the long sandy beaches on Ireland’s north-east coast.

Have fun in Monasterboice!

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Picture credits cover picture: Monasterboice, photo by Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg (

Uli Written by:

Hello and welcome to my blog. Originating from Germany, my family and I now live in Ireland (at least part time). We have travelled this amazing isle many times and know many parts of it very well. In this blog, I would like to share valuabe tips and information for your next trip to Ireland with you. Enjoy the content, yours, Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg