Kells Heritage Town
Kells Heritage Town
Site of monastic settlement
The Monastic World of Saints and Scholars
The circular monastic enclosure protected St Columba's Church, the Round Tower and four of the towns five crosses. From this point, a circular street pattern radiates which is still evident today. Nearby, St Colum Cille's House is strategically positioned at one of the highest points in the town. It is thought that it housed some of the Saint's relics and that the 9th century Book of Kells was completed here. A facsimile copy of the Book of Kells the single most significant artefact associated with the town is on display at the Kells Civic Offices in addition to the Headfort Arms Hotel and the Church of Ireland.
Kells or Ceanannas Mór, meaning Great Fort, was known to be a royal residence before St. Colmcille established a religious settlement in Kells in 550. The monks from his community on the Scottish island of Iona fled to Kells in 806 in order to escape savage Viking raids and it was here that they completed their illuminated manuscript of the Four Gospels, the Book of Kells. While the original is housed in Trinity College, facsimile copies can be viewed in the Kells Civic Offices, the Headfort Arms Hotel and in the Church of Ireland.
A new Kells Historic Trail was launched by the Cathaoirleach at the time Cllr. Conor Ferguson in 2010. This trail features panels and plaques at 14 historic points around the town. The trail commences outside the Kells Civic Offices whereby you can pick up a map (weekdays). The walking trail in the town will bring visitors to numerous monuments in Kells. St Columcille's House, built in the 10th century is a ancient oratory with a step stone roof and early barrel vaulting. St. Columb's Church and HighCrosses are among the finest of the High Christian era. The illustrations on the crosses were probably used to spread the faith. Kells Round Tower dates from Viking times, each of the five windows pointing to one of the town's gates in anticipation of an attack from the Norse raiders.
A monument of more recent times, the Spire of Lloyd is an 18th century folly in the form of a lighthouse erected to the memory of the Earl of Bective by his son.
Nearby, Teltown also know as Tailte in the Gaelic form, was the site of the Aonach Tailteann, an Olympic games type of sport, recitations, music and dancing in honour of pagan gods. Pagan rites, such as swimming horses through the river at dawn were observed as well as an interesting ritual in marriage whereby a young maiden stuck her finger through a hole in a door. If admired by any of the men on the other side, he took hold of it and the maiden became his bride. However the marriage was only valid for a year and a day and if the couple disagreed they were free to return and try their luck at the next festival.
Kells Courthouse Tourism and Cultural Hub
Tel: +353 (0) 46 9247508
The Courthouse was built in 1801 on the commission of Lord Headfort. It was designed by the prominent Irish architect, Francis Johnston who also designed the General Post Office, Nelson’s Pillar, Townley Hall and the East Gate entrance to Slane Castle. When first built the downstairs was used as a courthouse and upstairs for entertaining local residents. In more recent years it was a local library.
Today it has a much more modern interior with Interactive multimedia touch screens, with video engages to inspire visitors to the exhibition to explore Kells and the surrounding Boyne Valley. A facsimile copy of the Book of Kells, a replica of the Kells Crozier (an elaborately decorated staff that was a symbol of the office of a bishop or abbot), and the Kells town model are all on view and Boyne Valley Tourism staff are on hand to give advice.
The exhibition is FREE to visit and fully accessible to wheelchair users. Drop in for free brochures, information and a friendly chat.
- Tues- Fri: 9:00am – 5:00pm (closed for lunch 1:30-2:00pm)
- Saturday: 9:00am – 4:00pm (closed for lunch 1:30-2:00pm)
Walking tours of Kells
Free walking tours are available in Kells.Please click here for more details.
St. Colmcille's House
St. Colmcille's House is also open for visitors, subject to availability (please contact the Courthouse beforehand to arrange a visit and give 24hrs notice)