After following the towpath of the River Barrow for over 70kms, walkers on the Barrow Way come to their destination and end of their journey in the pretty village of St Mullins.
It might be small in size but Saint Mullins has a big history and you can discover it, layer upon layer, as you wander this scenic village at the foot of the Blackstairs Mountains.
The village is named after Saint Moling, who founded a monastery in the 7th century, and would then go on to become Bishop of Ferns. Along with Glendalough and Clonmacnoise, St Mullins was at that time one of the most important monastic sites in the country. As many other religious settlements, St Mullins was raided by the Vikings on various occasions, in the 9th and 10th centuries, but the remains of the original monastic site give us a good idea of what this monastic city would have looked like back in those days. An abbey was built at a later stage on the same site.
St Mullins and in particular St Moling’s Well have been an important pilgrimage site since Medieval times. Twice a year, on 17th June St Moling’s Day and 25th July St James Day, people would head to the well and pay their respects to the Saint, as water from the well was believed to cure different ailments and diseases.
The first reference to a holy well at St Mullins is found as far back as the 14th century, in the Annals of Friar Clyn. Back then, pilgrims visited St Moling Well in St Mullins to seek protection from the plague, that was sweeping Ireland.
St Moling’s Day or Patron Day was traditionally a day of rest locally. According to legend, a local farmer and his family went to work as usual on St Moling’s Day only to be turned into stone by Saint Moling himself as they were about to tuck into their lunch.
The Normans also left their mark on this tiny village by the River Barrow. The remains of a Norman Motte and Bailey dating back to the 12th century overlooking the river valley are still visible today. The motte would have been topped by a wooden castle and would have been a strategic looking point to protect the village and its dwellers.
In addition to St Mullins monastic and Norman past, the village also played an important role in the 1798 rebellion and it is here where many 1798 rebels from the region are buried. You will find them marked with green shields in the Abbey’s graveyard.
It was also the 18th century when the canals and locks you have seen along the Barrow were built to make the river easy to navigate and help transport grain in barges up the river.
We recommend you visit the heritage centre in the village to learn more about the history, archaeology and folklore of St Mullins.
As you walk the Barrow Way and make your way to St Mullins, you can appreciate its interesting history but also the peace and beauty of the area, the same way pilgrims would have done all those centuries ago.
For more information about hiking the Barrow Way or to book your trip, contact our travel specialists