The ancient town lay upon the eastern bank of the Maigue near a fjord (crossing point) in the region known as Ardshanbally (derived from Ard an tSeanbhaile – ‘high ground of the old town’), about half-a mile from the modern town on the western side. Historically a market town, in the Middle Ages, Adare was a major settlement and boasted three monasteries and a castle (Desmond Castle).
The Augustinian Priory was founded in 1316 by John FitzThomas FitzGerald, 1st Earl of Kildare. The Priory was suppressed in the reign of Henry VIII. In 1807, the church of the Priory was given to the local Church of Ireland congregation as the parish church. In 1814, the refectory was roofed and converted into a schoolhouse. Between 1852 and 1854, a second restoration of the church was undertaken by Caroline, Countess of Dunraven.
The Franciscan friary was founded in 1464 by Thomas Fitz-Maurice, 7th Earl of Kildare and his wife Joan, and completed two years later. It is currently a ruin and is located inside the Adare Manor Golf Club. Every Easter Sunday a dawn mass is celebrated in the Abbey.
Trinitarian Abbey and Monastery
The Trinitarian Order established their only monastery in Ireland in Adare in 1230. The Abbey was restored in 1811 by the first Earl of Dunraven as the Catholic Parish church.
A castle or fortress is said to have first been built by the O’Donovans, rulers of the region into the late 12th century, and afterwards to have passed into the possession of the Kildare branch of the FitzGerald dynasty, who may be responsible for the majority of the remains of the present fortress (which occurred with Croom Castle, also on the Maigue). Desmond Castle, as it is popularly known, stands on the north bank of the Maigue. An extensive renovation has been in progress on the castle since 1996 and supervised tours are offered in the summer months. This is one of a series of significant Desmond properties, which also include the banqueting hall in Newcastle West, County Limerick.