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More than 8,500 visitors to friary since June opening

A view of Ennis Abbey which is open to the public. Photograph by John KellyTHE restored Ennis Friary continues to be a massive success, with more than 8,500 visitors welcomed to the attraction since it reopened its doors in June.

 

The historic 13th century friary has been ranked as the top tourist attraction in Ennis by website tripadvisor.ie. The travel review website has put Ennis Friary on top of its list of seven attractions in Ennis.

Reviews by visitors to the friary have described it as “a gem” while another stated, “It is one of the best things that Ennis has to offer”.

Mary Kearns, supervisor at Ennis Friary explained that the re-opening of the attraction, which is free to visitors for the remainder of the tourist season, has been “going fantastic”.

“We’ve had 8,754 visitors to the friary since June 18. It’s been a real mixture of tourists. Right now, it’s the peak of the tourist season but we are still getting a lot of Irish people and their families, as well as people from other countries,” she said.

She added that the restoration work has been received very favourably by visitors to the site. “They like the restoration, they are very pleased with it. They think the roof looks very well, it was roofed mainly to conserve what was there and they like the overall presentation. There is a temporary exhibition in the friary at the moment but next season, that will be improved upon and the guides have been getting very favourable reviews, they are excellent.

“We are thrilled with the numbers of visitors here. It is now free for this season and next season, there will be a nominal fee and hopefully by the time we open for next season in April, the OPW will have completed the rest of the works.”

The 13th century Franciscan friary had been closed to facilitate major renovation and conservation works by the OPW.

Ennis friary, founded by The O’Brien’s of Thomond, who once ruled much of north Munster, dates to the early 13th century and is home to a unique collection of stone panel carvings dating to the 15th century. Since care of the friary was vested in the OPW in the late 19th century, concern was expressed about the vulnerability of the stone carvings.

Following the preparation and presentation of a conservation plan and extensive public consultation in 2009, the OPW drew up plans for maintaining the historic site and improving visitor access.

The project proceeded with the analysis of the damaged and decayed carved stonework by a stone conservation specialist. The stonework was then removed to the National Monuments depot in Athenry for consolidation and repair. The site of the 18th century church, which was built within the walls of the medieval nave, has been chosen as the most appropriate location for the protection and presentation of these medieval sculptures. Following essential conservation works, the design of the modern roof reflects the original profile of the church and its lightweight structure has a minimal impact on the original walls; the materials used externally match the fabric of the adjoining historic buildings.

The medieval carved objects are mounted on display plinths accompanied by information panels; parts of the McMahon or Royal Tomb form some of this display. Further medieval fragments will be incorporated in the display as they are conserved.

The Creagh Tomb is still undergoing conservation work and will be accessible to the public later in 2012. Visitors to Ennis friary can also see the sacristy, an impressive structure with a ribbed, barrel-vaulted ceiling.

Ennis friary is open daily from 10am to 6pm until October 31. The last admission is 45 minutes before closing. For more information, contact 065 6829100 or email ennisfriary@opw.ie.

As part of Heritage week events, Ennis Friary will have an introductory talk on The Early Medieval Brooch Pins of Ireland, including some examples from Clare and their perceived social value by our guide information officer Brendan Kelly, who is a postgraduate student of NUIG.

The talk will take place at 2pm this Sunday.

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