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The seaside village of Ardmore, 20km southwest of Dungarvan, is an enchanting place, rich in religious history and relics, mainly associated with St Declan who established a monastery here some thirty years before St Patrick came to Ireland. There's a kilometre-long sandy beach at the foot of the village, hemmed in by long, grassy headlands and flanked on its western side by St Declan's Stone. According to legend, the saint's luggage was miraculously transported by this boulder when he travelled from Wales (and thus presumably avoided excess-baggage charges). Heading up the hill towards the western headland leads past St Declan's Well, where the saint apparently conducted baptisms in the early fifth century, and where he later retired to a small cell for greater seclusion. From here there's a breezy five-kilometre cliff walk, with stunning views, around the headland, which will bring you back to the top of Main Street.
Above the town (and near the end of the cliff walk), on the site of Declan's original monastery, stands a solid-looking twelfth-century Romanesque cathedral and a willowy, conically capped round tower. The cathedral has lost its roof but its walls are impressively buttressed. Its west wall features an arcade from a previous building, embellished by remarkable carvings of Biblical scenes, while two carved ogham stones can be seen inside. In a corner of the graveyard is St Declan's Oratory, which possibly dates from the eighth century; the pit in the floor, once covered with a flagstone, is where he was supposedly buried.
Ardmore's hotel is the welcoming family-run Round Tower, College Road (Tel:024/94494, email@example.com; Price: 120-150), offering restful en-suite rooms, a bar and restaurant in a former convent, as well as traditional-music sessions in the attractive garden on Sunday afternoons in summer. There are a few B&Bs scattered around the area, including Cush (Tel:024/94474, firstname.lastname@example.org; Price: 60-90; April– Sept), a pleasant house overlooking the bay. An Tobar near the front has filling barfood and live-music sessions, sometimes traditional, on summer weekends. Nearby, the Old Forge is a spruce café-restaurant with pleasant outdoor tables, which operates in the daytime in winter, until 9pm in summer; on offer are tasty cakes, soups and unpretentious meals such as lasagne and salmon with lemon butter. Further up Main Street, White Horses Restaurant (Tel:024/94040; closed Mon all year and Oct– April Tues– Thurs) is a more sophisticated and expensive place with an interesting menu that stretches to dishes such as crispy duckling with caramelized orange and kumquat sauce. Ardmore Diving (Tel:058/46577, Web: www.ardmorediving.com ) offers diving trips and the basic range of PADI courses.