Clonmel Tourist Information Office Old St. Mary\'s Church Clonmel Tipperary Republic of Ireland
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For a small, quiet town fording the Clashawley River in South Tipperary, Fethard boasts a huge number of medieval ruins. A good portion of its original 14th-century town walls remain intact, and its 2km heritage trail takes about an hour to complete. Fethard’s name derives from ‘Fiodh Ard’ (High Wood), which may refer to the forests that once covered the area, but its settlement history most likely began with Anglo-Normans who arrived in 1208 and built the town’s first curtain of stone walls. An Augustinian Friary was added in 1305, followed by the antiquities still so beautifully visible today.Along the walls, the North Gate is the last remaining of five original gates (remarkably, you can still see marks left by the wickerwork used in its construction). Inside the fortifications, highlights include the Holy Trinity Church, one of Ireland’s finest medieval parish churches. It is almost 800 years old, though the west tower was added in the late 15th century and the roof of the nave was recently dated to about 1489.Fethard Town Hall, in use from the late 18th century as the seat of the Corporation and later Town Commissioners, likely dates from about 1600. It was built by the Everard family as an almshouse for men and was one of the largest in Ireland. The town is also home to several fortified townhouses - including Edmond’s Castle and Court Castle - dating from the 15th century. The castles are three-storey buildings, with upper-tier residences that, intriguingly, cannot be accessed from the ground floor, but rather from doorways at the rear, facing into the churchyard.Another unexpected find in Fethard is its Sheela-na-gigs. These medieval carvings, located at the abbey in a section of the old town wall at Watergate Street, are all explicit portrayals of women, possibly created to evoke fertility or ward off evil. Fethard, known for its links with thoroughbred horse-racing, is also the town where Pete McCarthy enjoyed one of his most surreal pub conversations in McCarthy’s Bar.