Ennis is a characterful, charming and authentic Irish market town, that is not only the recipient of the national award, ‘Ireland’s Friendliest Place’, but is also blessed with a rich culture and history. It punches way above its weight in terms of its part in the political history of Ireland, and so too for its undimmed passion and reputation for keeping Irish traditional arts alive, even through Ireland’s darkest days.
When it comes to immersing yourself in the history and curiosities of Ennis, walking is your only option. A number of walking tour guides operate in the town centre, there’s an App offering a series of walking trails around the town to suit special interests or time considerations, while the Tourist Office in the town centre/ next to the coach park offers free maps of Ennis with highlighted walking routes.
Walking the fascinating winding streets, lanes and alleys that lace, weave, twist and turn is a discovery in itself: there is so often a surprise around the next corner. Unlike other historical towns in Ireland, Ennis is not a walled town and neither is it planned – it is best described as a Gaelic Medieval town. While the original Friary dates to 1242, most of the town centre buildings date from the 18th and 19th century. To walk through the alleys, cobbled streets and narrow walkways is to enjoy a fascinating glimpse of Medieval Ireland. From Diamond shaped Jacobean chimney stacks to period street furnitiure including Jostle Stones strategically placed on laneway corners (to ensure that carriages didn’t crash against the buildings!), Ennis provides the walker with a living history experience that is wholly genuine.
If you like to wander and explore in your own time, stopping off as you go, then one of the Ennis Walking Trails is for you. They will literally walk you through the heritage and history of Ennis, as you follow a series of colour-coded directional signs and information boards along designated historic routes. All four trails start and end at the County Museum.
Ennis Walking Trails App, provides an interactive and informative way to get under the skin of this pretty town. The App provides detailed information and photographs for 56 points of interest. Download the App.
Experience the culture and history of Ennis in fascinating art form when you follow this trail of key local sculptures which are placed at different points along the riverside. Each piece is designed to depict a different cultural, historical or sporting event – and there are also some fascinating abstract pieces as well as several creations in metal and wood. ‘Embrace Nature’ by Shane Gilmore is a limestone sculpture that represents the relationship between mankind and nature.
Another local favourite is ‘Weathered Woman’ by Jose Croft – a limestone lady, situated in Barrack Street, it is the final stop on the Seated Sculpture trail, providing a spot to sit and contemplate.
As entertaining as it is informative, here’s a fascinating way to get to grips with the roots, character, culture and people of ancient Ennis – and which truly brings the history of the town to life. Not surprisingly, this tour was awarded the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence and described by Lonely Planet as the best way to appreciate the town. On the tour, a local expert guide will take you through Ennis town centre, telling you all about the people, events and stories that shaped the history of Ennis.
A Jacobean stone chimney stack here… a Medieval ‘bow way’ there – there are lots of historical hot spots to see along the way.
You’ll also find out about the lesser-known but equally fascinating people of the town – along with the myths and legends that surround them. Who doesn’t want to hear about the colourful, serial widow Biddy Early who was tried for witchcraft, or a famous local murder or dramatic rebellion?
Ennis Walking Tours leave from the Ennis Tourist Office near the Clare Museum, at 11 am daily except Wednesday and Sunday. Group and private bookings are available year round.