Kilree Round Tower is about 15km south of Kilkenny city, and not far from the Priory of Kells. There isn’t much left of the original monastery here, apart from the tower and a high cross. Very little is known about the original monastic site. It is attributed to a St. Rhuidche but it isn’t known when he lived here. What is known is that the lands once belonged to the Dean of Ossory and were handed over to the nearby Priory of Kells in the 13th century. The tower is in the corner of an old graveyard, bisected by a wall. The nearby high cross, which would’ve been part of the original monastery, is now in the field beside the graveyard.
Although the tower is missing its cap, it is in fine condition. Since my first visit in 2008, it has undergone some repairs. It’s a proverbial curate’s egg, with some good bits and some bad bits. It has a fine doorcase and unusually, it’s not too high from the current ground level. Unlike the Kilkenny towers at Fertagh, Tullaherin and Aghaviller, it hasn’t had its doorcase removed or a new doorway added.
The tower has an unusual plinth at its base, which can be better seen from the field behind. The tower at nearby Aghaviller has the same sort of plinth, suggesting that the same master mason may have worked at both sites.
The windows on the tower, on the other hand, aren’t in quite as good condition. They look like they have collapsed and aren’t as well defined as the door. The top of the tower doesn’t have a cap but has battlements instead. It also has what looks like drainage spouts at the top.
The high cross out in the field is thought to date from the 9th century. It is badly worn but there are a couple of biblical scenes on it. It has a tenon joint on the top, which makes it likely it once had a capstone.
When I visited, work was being carried out on the medieval church beside the tower so I wasn’t able to take a look.
And there you have it really. It’s not one of the must-visit round tower sites out there but it’s worth a trip if you happen to be visiting the nearby Kells Priory
There’s some country road driving involved here but the tower is easy to find. There is a signpost across the road from the entrance to Kells Priory and it’s a short drive from there. Although the road is narrow, there is room to park a car near the entrance Link . To access the graveyard and the tower, you will need to climb over a stile and walk a short distance through a field. There is a Beware of the Bull sign at the stile so be careful of that. On the day I visited, there were no cattle in the field at all.
Date of visit: 15th May 2008/Re-visit 16th March 2022