Wedged in between counties Kilkenny and Wexford at the very southern tip of County Carlow and located between the Blackstairs and Mount Brandon on the banks of the River Barrow, St Mullins is a national treasure.
‘Tigh Moling’ as it is more properly called in Irish, was founded by the great Irish saint, Moling.
The monastery was founded in the 7th Century and thankfully substantial sections are still clearly evident today.Trinity College Library is home to the priceless ancient Book of Moling in which there is a plan of the monastery – the earliest known plan of an Irish Monastery. The ‘Gobán Saor’, a legendary Irish craftsman is said to have assisted in the building of the monastery which consisted of four churches, a round tower and numerous crosses. It was a very important early Christian site that was twice plundered by the Vikings travelling inland along the River Barrow in their long boats.
The graveyard contains the graves of many United Irishmen who died in the 1798 rebellion which are often marked with green shields.
Just below the Church on the eastern side is St Moling’s Well and people came here for a cure during the Great Plague.
St Mullins also has a most impressive Norman Motte and Bailey which would have used for protection of the village below.
St Mullins is traditionally on of the great pilgrimage sites in Ireland and people came here on the annual Patter Day which is the first Sunday before 25th July to take of the waters’. There used be two pattern days, 17th June and 25th July (feast of St James). The Pattern still attracts huge crowds and pilgrims drink the healing waters of the well after the blessing by the priest and then a procession to the cemetery for mass at the Penal Altar. It’s a great social occasion too and there are many stalls and amusements to entertain the visitors.
Leaving the village and heading in the direction of Carrigleade is another important site associated with St Mullins that celebrates one of his great achievements, Teampaill na Bo. It was a small church built in thanksgiving to Moling who freed the Leinster men from paying an unjust tax, The Borumean Tribute, to the High King of Ireland. This was an oppressive tax consisting of 5,000 cows, 5,000 hogs, 5,000 sheep, 5,000 vessels of bronze and to cap it off 5,000 ozs of silver! The site has a sad past too as it was used to bury unbaptised children. It is a very spiritual place to drop in to and say a prayer for those poor unfortunate children.
St Mullins is one of my favourite cycling destinations and I usually reach it by cycling along the Barrow Way. I have included a route from St Mullins in my book, ‘Cycling South Leinster’ called ‘On the Trail of the Saints’ which starts in St Mullins and visits Inistioge, Graiguenamanagh, Ullard and Borris. St Mullins is also on the longest route in the book, ‘Follow Me Up to Carlow’!
Here is a link to a great local history that i have just come upon: St Mullins a Local History