Well signposted off the R476, the O’Dea Castle was the stronghold of the O’Dea branch of the O’Brien clan until 1691. Nowadays it houses an archeological centre and is the best starting-point for a history trail leading across fields to Dysert O’Dea. St Tola founded a monastery here in the eighth century and there are several later religious remains, including a twelfth-century Romanesque church, extensively rebuilt in the seventeenth. This features a finely carved doorway and gargoyle-like carvings of human faces and animal heads. Nearby stands a round tower, badly damaged by Cromwell’s guns, and the twelfth-century White Cross of Tola, which bears elaborate patterning and several impressive carvings, including a Crucifixion scene set above a powerful-looking bishop. Dysert O’Dea witnessed a major battle in 1318 when Sir Richard de Clare’s army was defeated by the O’Briens, quelling attempts to enforce Anglo-Norman sovereignty over Clare – it would be another two centuries before the county succumbed.
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