Ennis Walking Tours
Ennis Tourist Office
Arthur's Row, Ennis
Contact: Jane O'Brien
Tel : (087)6483714
info@enniswalkingtours.com
www.enniswalkingtours.com

While staying in the historic medieval Irish town of Inis, I had to take one of Jane O’Brien’s walking tours just to find out how nagging women were punished in the 18th century.

As a town known for its richness in history and tradition, Ennis dates back to the 12th century and has over the years developed into a thriving marketplace known for its narrow streets, traditional shop fronts, and lively pubs — many of which I helped to close down (Irish pubs are now smoke free.). Closing time midweek in most Irish pubs is 11:30 p.m. with half hour drinking up time; closing time on Friday and Saturday nights is 12:30 a.m. with half hour drinking up time. Every pub shuts on Good Friday and Christmas Day. Most nightclubs with a full bar will serve drinks until about 2:30 a.m.




The spires of the ancient Franciscan
Friary rise above Chursh Street, Ennis.

Fiery red-haired Jane O’Brien knows her town’s architectural treasures.  We meet in the plaza between the Tower Gate Hotel and the Clare Museum for my tour as a slight rain threatened us.  Jane has a deep background in the history, mythology, legends, murders, and ghosts of ancient Inis — no, that is not a misspelling.  I noticed Inis on many of the Eireann Bus (www.buseireann.ie) routes, and today modern Ennis is still the central hub of County Clare in western Ireland. A major bus/train depot/transfer station is located in Inis. In fact, Ennis is the capital of County Clare, long serving as a trade and commerce cross roads for everything from agriculture and tourism for the other counties to the south and north and east.




Take a tour of the 12th
century abbey (friary).

Inis actually means island in Celt, and at one time the old 12th century Abbey (opening photo) was located on an island in the Fergus River that winds lazily through town.  Ennis is a clean and respectful town, with ancient hand hewn walls, and modern sculptures that are often seen on Jane's walking tour. 

The Abbey is magnificent, even in roofless ruin, and for about 1.25 euros you can tour the grounds during the day.

As an agriculture center Ennis still shows its ritual demeanor on Saturday Farmers' Day. Prior to the Great Famine in the 1840s Ennis was celebrated for its onions. Today, the modern market of Ennis draws crowds from around the county, and it is still reputed for fresh vegetables (including onions) and fruits.





Monument to Daniel O'Connell.

In the old days the market day was often marked with factional fighting and even murders, fueled by the consumption of illicitly distilled potcheen, the darling liquor of the townsfolk.  You can still find potcheen as a legal libation at the Bunratty Winery just down the road from Ennis, or illegally up in the mountains of Connemara to the north.

After a stop at the ancient Abbey, Jane informs me about witchcraft and hangings and riots at the monumental statue of rabble rouser and patriot, Daniel O’Connell, an edifice that can be seen from any view in town.  Many of the most powerful men from Ireland’s past walked the bow-ways or arch ways of ancient Inis, including Daniel O’Connell, Eamon de Valera, and Charles Stewart Parnell. At the base of the O’Connell obelisk Biddy Early was tried for witchcraft, but set free to curse the townsfolk and she is known to return occasionally as a banshee. God, I love this town!




Fergus River dunking
punished nagging women.

With a stop by the Fergus River Jane delightfully informs me that in the days of yore the nagging women were strapped to a stool and dunked into the waters as punishment. Other walking tour stops include a brief pub stop, ancient mansions, and the present city centre.

Jane runs her tours daily (except Tuesdays) at 11:00 and 19:00, May to Oct, from outside Ennis Tourist Office. Group booking are available year around.  Price per person is about 8 euros per adult.

Jane provides a really great insight into the ancient lives and livelihoods of ancient Inis, which still retains its medieval charm, but the town has modern amentities and hotel accommodations, and no place serves the town better than the Queens Hotel, set center stage as a longtime Inis landmark.




Irish novelist James Joyce stayed
at the Queens Hotel when in Ennis.

Adjoining the ruins of the ancient Abbey the Queens Hotel is located on Church Street and is just 15 km from Shannon International Airport, which is served with international flights by AerLingus and other carriers.

The Queens Hotel is most proud of its reputation as a warm and friendly gathering place. (After my first round of coffee, the wait staff knows exactly how I like it and the java instantly appears while sitting in the sunny lobby.)

Next door to the Queens the company also operates the famous Black and White Pub of the Year, Cruises Pub and Restaurant. The first person I meet in Ennis is Tony, the local antique dealer, who offers me a pint of Guinness and a pub sandwich, and proclaims, “I buy junk and sell antiques”. I feel like I am right back in the Middle Ages with characters reincarnated with mirthful smiles and twinkle-eyed tales to tell. Tony then proceeds to detail the rules of the popular game of Irish hurling — and just because we are in a pub, it doesn't mean anything about quaffing down too much beer!.

The Queens Hotel and Cruises Pub are owned by the Lyne family, long established business entrepreneurs in the area, and one of the most successful hoteliers in all of Ireland; the family owns the Irish Court Hotel chain (www.irishcourthotels.ie).  Established for over 100 years and earning a reference in James Joyce's infamous 1922 novel, "Ulysses", as “delightful”, the Queens Hotel today provides many modern services in its 52 rooms, while preserving Old World charm.




The Queens Hotel lobby,
with some antiques from Tony.

Sitting next to Tony at Cruises is one of the Lyne sons, Seanny, who keeps a watchful eye on the clientele in his pub, with a closer eye to the attractive Polish bartenders. Under EU employment regulations, any other EU person can work in Ireland.  Am I worried when warned by Seanny about the raucous disco beneath the ancient timbers of my room at the Queens that may keep me up late at night? Nah — I just become one of the raucous revelers; no need for a special occasion to celebrate — this is Ireland.

For traditional Irish fare, including fresh Irish lamb stews, racks of lamb and Carvery delicacies, the recently renovated Queens Front Bar and Brassiere is my dining spot of choice while posted at the hotel.  I must also advise that the front desk personnel at the Queens really knock themselves out in answering guest questions, and serving as ad hoc tourist agents.




World class championship golf courses are near Ennis,
such as Doonbeg along the West Coast of County Clare.


The hotel is ideally suited for the golf enthusiast, with many world class courses in the area, including Doonbeg near the seaside town of Lahinch, Woodstock, south of Ennis, and Dromoland at Dromoland Castle, all within a short drive from Ennis.




Auburn Lodge is located on
the Galway Road on the way to
the famous Cliffs of Mohar.

Even though the Queens Hotel is Mrs. Lyne’s first hotel in her stable of accommodations, her most recent pride and joy is the Auburn Lodge, nestled below the undulating green hills along the Fergus River on the western edge of Ennis.

The 100 bedroomed hotel includes executive and bridal suites and it is a popular choice by tourists pouring off the motorcoaches navigating the narrow road leading to the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren to the northwest.




Spacious, modern rooms . . .



and great dining
at Auburn Lodge.

Each room is complete with bathroom or shower ensuite, satellite TV with video deck, channeled radio, direct dial telephone, hairdryer, and a complimentary tea and coffee tray that is furnished with your comfort in mind. Mrs. Lyne is one of the top entrepreneurs of Ireland I am informed by a magazine piece I discover in the Irish Times newspaper. In fact, she bankrolled the newest newspaper in Ireland and in Ennis, The ClarePeople weekly with the first issue published while I was staying at the hotel. www.clarepeople.com

Most hotels in Ireland offer a breakfast plan with the room and the Auburn Lodge is no exception. The Oyster Restaurant, with its exceptionally high standard of both traditional and continental flair, is a joy to relax in. It offers the freshest of local ingredients, the finest of wines, and great service.

The Auburn Restaurant is trimmed in wood and brick and is very casual, the perfect place to enjoy a meal after a couple of drinks in Tailor Quigley's Pub or Golfer's Bar, both on the premises.





Auburn Lodge staff can arrange
tours to the Cliffs of Mohar.

I meet many locals quaffing the suds in the Auburn Lodge pub. Tailor Quigley's Pub is great for sing-alongs, and one can enjoy listening to many famous musicians nightly during the summer. The pub gets its name from a famous tailor who resided in the area, made famous by the song "Spancill Hill", a small Irish village that also hosts the June Fair held in the locality each year. An all-day Carvery is located within Tailor Quigley's Pub, serving wonderful food buffet style.  It is ideal for guests or people traveling on the N18 road, needing snacks, lunch or light evening meals.

The Auburn Lodge enjoys a superb reputation for weddings with its landscapes, gardens, and magnificent banqueting suites. The Auburn Lodge is the ideal venue for conferences and seminars. It has over the years hosted many National and International conferences (stay@irishcourthotels.ie) or visit (www.irishcourthotels.com).

I stumbled across another delightful hotel near the local tourist office while waiting for Jane's Ennis Walking Tour.  The Temple Gate Hotel is a charming townhouse hotel; residing on the site is the 19th century Convent of Mercy, with an open beam Gothic chamber that has been preserved throughout. 

The Sisters of Mercy moved from the Ennis Convent in 1995 to new premises nearby so the property was sold and turned into the present day hotel with the convent now serving as the Great Hall for banquets and weddings.

Prior to its conversion to a convent, the original houses, Row House and Lifford House, were the property of Charles O'Connell, cousin of Daniel O'Connell, whom I learned about on Jane's tour. Daniel was a frequent visitor to the area, particularly in the years 1827 - 1829, when planning his election campaign.




The former convent serves as the
Temple Gate's Great Hall for banquets.


Proprietor and whirling ball of energy, Paul Madden, along with his family, now own the Temple Gate, and they are planning more room expansions to the 100 room complex.  Paul is fast winning over return guests because of the bountiful and exquisite dining, superb service, wonderful accommodations  and easy walking location to the shopping, the modern Friary, and to the Clare Museum.




A Junior Suite at Temple Gate Hotel.

The Temple Gate Hotel was the recipient of the 2003 Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association Award for Best Hotel Internet Strategy. In 2004 it was awarded Ireland’s Best Service Excellence Award from Failte Ireland (the tourist board of Ireland). Most recently Paul was presented with an Irish Welcome Awards Certificate of Merit as a mark of recognition for the valuable contribution he has made to the Irish Tourism Industry. 

I really enjoyed the hotel's library that is crammed with Irish history books, but updated with its WiFi capabilities, and most bedrooms are wired, or rather wireless, for Internet access.  The Temple Gate is probably the most modern hotel in Ennis, an inspired choice for business or pleasure.  Be sure to ask about golf packages, the Glór Music Theatre accommodation packages, Murder Mystery packages, and book in advance for the EnnisTrad Festival www.ennistradfestival.com




The Temple Gate Hotel's library is wifi hot wired.


JM's Bistro, a member of the Shannon region’s Good Food Circle and winner of the prestigious AA Rosette for eight consecutive years, is a true endorsement of the quality that the Temple Gate Hotel provides great service.  The open beam ceilings gave the restaurant a feeling of gradiose spaciousness that appears like a schooner keel turned upside down.




JM's Bistro has open beam ceilings and
fine dining with a superb wine list.


JM's Bistro was the spot for all my wonderful evening meals and breakfasts buffet style, but it is also open for lunch, with a great selection of wines and the freshest of brown bread slurped down with even fresher brown brewed Guinness. JM's Bistro opens all week for dinner from 7:00 p.m., and many locals dine here, so reservations should be made in advance. A special Sunday lunch is served from 12:45 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.

I was delighted to find within the hotel the airy and light swashed Preacher's Pub, the hotel’s custom designed traditionally themed pub harking back to the open beam ceilings of the convent and JM's Bistro.  Preacher's Pub often sees the air filled with traditional Irish music sessions.

The pub's painted paneled walls and ceilings, beautiful chandeliers, and generous drapes provide a truly unusual décor, while a variety of snugs or split level seating arrangements with intimate corners ensure a choice of either mingling with others or having a quiet chat with your intimate partner — the spot for a confessional to the Preacher maybe! An



A two room Temple Gate Executive Suite.

acclaimed bar food menu is served throughout the day. Try the wonderful fresh cauliflower soup with a pint of Guinness!

Room types in the two 4-story complexes include Junior Suites, Standard Twin Rooms, Standard Double Rooms, and my Executive Suite windows opened out to the cobblestone courtyard and the scent of spring flowers.


Glór Music Centre
Irish Music Centre
Friar's Walk,
Ennis, Co. Clare.
Tel : 065 6843103

http://www.glor.ie 

The Glór Irish Music Centre provides a forum for Irish musicians and artists to showcase their work to local, national, and international audiences in an environment which respects and supports the traditions and evolution of Irish music. As a regional arts centre, Glór provides artists and the people of Clare with access to excellence in a diverse range of cultural programing in a modern centre. I walked the two blocks from the Temple Gate's back door to the Centre, but no activites were planned, but the café was jammed with locals having lunch, and it was a superb spot to meet the area talent out on the sunny deck.

 
Clare Museum
Arthur's Row, Ennis
Tel : 065-6823382
Fax : 065-6842119
www.clarelibrary.ie
Open weekdays.

The Clare Museum is a major cultural project, incorporating modern day technologies in the form of an interactive media display and a collection of artifacts from days gone by, which are on loan from the National Museum of Ireland, the de Valera Museum in Ennis, and a host of local historical content. The "Riches of Clare" exhibition is a must-see!

Ennis also has a wonderful public library near the Friary, with a neaby historical research center for those wishing to find info about their Irish roots.


Ennis Fri
ary
Abbey Street
Tel : 065-6829100
Open daily
May - Septembe
r

The Franciscan Friary was founded in the 12th Century. It has numerous 15/16th century sculptures, such as the figure of St. Francis, a representation of the Virgin and Child, and the Ecce and Homo.

Sculpture Trail - From Mill Road to Town Centre

Click for Ireland Travel BlogA relatively new addition to the town of Ennis.
The Sculpture Trail has proven to be a particularly beautiful stroll along a section of the River Fergus. At the beginning of the walk there is the wonderfully restored Mill Wheel. The trail ends at Woodquay in the town centre.

Ennis town is without a doubt the best hub for discovering all of County Clare and the Shannon River region.

By Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine.



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