The seaside village of ARDMORE, 20km southwest of Dungarvan, is an enchanting place, rich in religious history and relics, mainly associated with St Declan who established a monastery here some thirty years before St Patrick came to Ireland. There’s a kilometre-long sandy beach at the foot of the village, hemmed in by long, grassy headlands and flanked on its southern side by St Declan’s Stone. According to legend, the saint’s luggage was miraculously transported by this boulder when he travelled from Wales (and thus presumably avoided excess-baggage charges). Heading up the hill towards the southern headland leads past St Declan’s Well, where the saint apparently conducted baptisms in the early fifth century, and where he later retired to a small cell for greater seclusion; on the site of the latter, a now-ruined church was built, probably in the twelfth century. From here there’s a breezy four-kilometre cliff walk, with stunning views, around the headland, which will bring you back to the top of Main Street.
Above the town (and near the end of the cliff walk), on the site of Declan’s original monastery, stands a solid-looking twelfth-century Romanesque cathedral and a willowy, conically capped round tower. The cathedral has lost its roof but its walls are impressively buttressed. Its west wall features an arcade from a previous building, embellished by remarkable carvings of Biblical scenes such as the Judgement of Solomon, while two carved ogham stones – one is the longest in Ireland – can be seen inside. In a corner of the graveyard is St Declan’s Oratory, which possibly dates from the eighth century; the pit in the floor, once covered with a flagstone, is where he was supposedly buried.