Two of the Midlands most iconic Visitor Attractions have been named award winners in the influential CIE Tours International Annual Awards of Excellence. Clonmacnoise in Offaly, and Sean’s Bar in Athlone both received Visitor Attraction Merit Awards 2023.
Clonmacnoise, located on the banks of the Shannon in Offaly, is a 6th century monastery which is one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland. Saint Ciarán founded an abbey at Clonmacnoise nearly 1,500 years ago and a number of churches, two round towers, high crosses, and grave slabs remain standing. Try and hug the High cross to see if you have ‘healing powers’ or put your ear to the ‘Listening Wall’ to hear the whispers.
It really is best described as the place where ‘time stands still’ and there is a great sense of peace in the area. The surrounding area of Clonmacnoise is a microcosm of landscapes within the Midlands. These include the Shannon callows, eskers, boglands both preserved and cutaway.
Clonmacnoise is widely recognised as one of the most famous monastic sites in Ireland. Located along the River Shannon between the town of Athlone and the village of Shannonbridge, Clonmacnoise was founded by Saint Ciaran in the mid-sixth century where it became a great centre of religion and learning, visited by scholars from all over the world. Many historical manuscripts, including the 11th-century Annals of Tighernach and the 12th-century Book of the Dun Cow, were written here. His Holiness Pope John Paul visited here in 1979 during his visit to Ireland. Today, the site exists as a preserved ruin under the management of the Office of Public Works and visitors can see three high crosses, a cathedral, seven churches, and two round towers. The beautifully preserved structures of Clonmacnoise Cathedral, Temple Doolin, Temple Hurpan and Temple Melaghlin will impress and leave those who visit Clonmacnoise with an authentic sense of the history of Ireland. To dig deeper into the fascinating history of Clonmacnoise, visit the onsite interpretive Visitor Centre, which displays a number of cross slabs and the 9th-century Cross of the Scriptures. The Clonmacnoise graveyard surrounding the site continues to be in use, while religious services are held regularly on the site in a modern chapel.
Sean’s Bar in Athlone is credited to be Ireland’s oldest bar, dating back as early as 900AD, holding the Guinness Book of Records title as the Oldest Pub in Ireland. Located in the ‘left bank’ area of Athlone Town a minute’s walk from Athlone Castle, it boasts weekly Irish music sessions and a beer garden.
Situated in the heart of Ireland, Sean’s Bar plays host to visitors from all around the world. Whether absorbing the history, listening to music, visiting with friends and family, or simply enjoying the perfect pint, you’ll be charmed by Sean’s.
Listed in both ’25 of the Most Incredible Bars in the World’ and ’50 Bars to Blow Your Mind’ by Lonely Planet, a visit to Sean’s is a must.
Sean’s Bar has a special atmosphere, boasting some of the best live music in the country. Live music sessions take place Sunday-Thursday nights.
The awards are very influential in Irish tourism, with CIE Tours being one of Ireland’s longest established speciality tour operators. In 2022, the first full year of tourism following the global pandemic, the company booked over 250,000 bed nights throughout the country. Employing 100 people, with offices in Dublin and New Jersey, it operates all-inclusive coach tours, custom group and private driver holidays and fly-drive programs in Ireland.