Graves, cemeteries and historical memorials

Graves, cemeteries and historical memorials

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Visiting cemeteries, graves, and memorials is a great way to learn about the island’s history and its cultural figures while also being an opportunity for you to pay your respects to someone you might admire. Plus, exploring these sites often leads you to some interesting and educational off-the-beaten-path destinations!  

Irish cultural figures, and where they are buried:

Saint Patrick. Ireland’s patron saint’s reputed burial site is to be found in the grounds of Down Cathedral in Northern Ireland. Believed to have died in 461, a large granite stone now marks the spot of where his buried remains are traditionally thought to be. The history and legends surrounding Saint Patrick can be further investigated by following in the Saint’s footsteps across the island.

W.B. Yeats. This literary giant, best known for his poetry and plays during the early 20th century, is buried in Drumcliff Churchyard, County Sligo. Sligo itself played an important part in shaping Yeats’ work, serving as inspiration for some of his best known poems. If you’re interested in finding out more about the poet and what inspired him, you can follow in his footsteps.

Patrick Kavanagh. The celebrated poet and novelist, best known for "The Great Hunger" and his portrayal of rural Ireland, is buried in Inniskeen, County Monaghan. His grave adjoins the Patrick Kavanagh Centre, where fans of his work will also find the Kavanagh trail, which crosses the drumlin landscape of South Monaghan.

Dolores O'Riordan. The iconic lead singer of The Cranberries, (think hits like "Linger" and "Zombie" especially during the 1990s), is buried in Caherelly Cemetery, Herbertstown, County Limerick. 

Jonathan Swift. If you walk around the graveyard of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, you’ll no doubt come across the grave of prominent satirist and author, Jonathan Swift, whose work "Gulliver's Travels" is world famous.

Luke Kelly & Ronnie Drew. Fans of the legendary folk music group The Dubliners can find founding member Luke Kelly’s grave in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin. Ronnie Drew, another founding member, is buried in Redford Cemetery, Greystones, County Wicklow.

Lady Gregory. Playwright and co-founder of the Abbey Theatre alongside W.B Yeats, and best known for her role in the Irish Literary Revival of the early 20th century, Lady Gregory is buried in Bohermore's Victorian Cemetery, Galway.

Phil Lynott. Another famous Irish musician and singer, the charismatic frontman and bassist for Thin Lizzy, Phil Lynott, is buried in St. Fintan's Cemetery, Sutton, County Dublin.

Arthur Guinness. If you’ve already made your way to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, you might be interested in paying a visit to the grave of the founder of the Guinness Brewery, in Oughterard Churchyard, County Kildare.

Seamus Heaney. Nobel Prize-winning poet, probably best known for his poetry depicting Irish rural life during the late 20th century, Heaney is buried in Bellaghy Cemetery, County Londonderry. The Seamus Heaney HomePlace, located in his hometown, is a purpose-built arts and literary centre, which celebrates the life and work of the late poet, and is also not to be missed.

Rory Gallagher. If you’re a fan of 1970s rock, you can’t miss paying tribute to Rory Gallagher at his burial site in St. Oliver's Cemetery, Ballincollig, County Cork. But Gallagher’s legacy also continues to live on every year at the Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal. 

Tom Clancy. When Irish folk music started to rise to global fame and recognition in the 60s, The Clancy Brothers were to be found at the helm of the movement. You can visit Tom Clancy’s tomb in Ring New Cemetery, Ring, County Waterford.

Arkle. A legendary racehorse from the 1960s, Arkle was initially buried in his field in Bryanstown. However he was later exhumed and his skeleton is now on display at the Irish National Stud.

Cemeteries:

Whether you’re looking to visit a specific grave, or simply interested in exploring some local cemeteries, here are some more interesting and well-known ones to consider:

Glasnevin Cemetery. Probably the most well-known cemetery on this list, Glasnevin Cemetery is Ireland’s National Cemetery, and is known as the final resting place of many notable figures.

Mount Jerome Cemetery. A Victorian cemetery established in the 1830s, Mount Jerome in Dublin, includes some of the finest collections of Victorian memorials, tombs, vaults and crypts in Ireland, and is the resting place of many notable Irish literary and cultural figures. It’s also home to the grave of famous playwright John Millington Synge. 

Jerpoint Abbey. Jerpoint Abbey is a medieval abbey, founded some time in the 1100s, and features some fantastic ancient tombs and medieval architecture together with a variety of well-preserved sculptures and carvings. Moreover, Irish tradition claims that in the twelfth century, local Norman crusading knights stole some relics of Saint Nicholas (who inspired the tales of Santa Claus himself!) and buried them near Thomastown, just a 5 minute drive away from the abbey. A stone slab marks the site locally believed to be his grave. 

Clonmacnoise. The medieval ruins of Clonmacnoise are steeped in history, and were once Ireland’s most famous monastery, visited by scholars from all over Europe. Between the 9th and 11th centuries, it even became a burial site for the High Kings of Tara.

Derrynane Abbey, Kerry. You might come here for a dive into the abbey’s past, but you’ll definitely be staying for the views. The abbey and its cemetery are often associated with the O'Connell family, including Daniel O'Connell, the 19th century politician known as the "Liberator’’, and so is the perfect location to combine history and scenic coastal views. 

Glendalough Monastic Site. This ancient monastery, located in the scenic Wicklow Mountains just south of Dublin, was founded by St Kevin in the 6th century and was to become one of the great centres of learning in early Christian Ireland. You’ll find here its iconic round tower, historic churches and graves, as well as beautiful natural surroundings. 

Memorials:

Titanic memorial, Belfast. The statue, surrounded by a memorial garden in Belfast, honours the victims of the Titanic disaster. Make sure to visit the Titanic Belfast museum to learn even more about the tragic events of 15 April 1912. 

Lusitania Memorial Garden, Cobh. This memorial garden in Cobh commemorates the lives lost when RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat in 1915, some 10 miles (16 km) off the Old Head of Kinsale. The memorial garden features a sculpture and plaques that tell the story of the disaster. If you’d like to learn more about the disaster, you can head to the Cobh Heritage Centre which features a dedicated exhibition.

Irish National War Memorial Gardens, Dublin. The Irish National War Memorial Gardens in Islandbridge, just opposite Phoenix Park, honour the 49,400 Irish soldiers who died in the First World War. The landscaped gardens were designed by architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and feature rose gardens and peaceful tree-lined pathways.

Have you ever visited a famous grave, memorial or cemetery during your time in Ireland, or do you perhaps have plans to? You can also search for more famous Irish graves on the Find A Grave portal here.

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