Discover 800 years of intrigue, drama and romance at the heart of one of Ireland’s most influential dynasties
The Butlers of Ormond were one of Ireland’s most famous and influential dynasties. Learn about their rise to power, from the arrival of Theobald Walter, the first of the Chief Butlers to the King, with England’s Prince John in the 12th Century, to the heights of the Earls and Dukes who help shape Irish history.
The castles, mansions, churches and towns they built have left an indelible mark on the landscapes of Tipperary. Each landmark has its own story to tell of romance, intrigue, frolics, fun, or bitter rivalries. Explore a house built for a queen at Ormond Castle, take a relaxing stroll along the River Suir to the romantic Swiss Cottage, spot the cannonball in the walls of Cahir Castle, or delight in a visit to the restored former courthouse at the Main Guard.
The Butler Trail is the perfect driving route for the whole family.
Download the Butler Trail App & Audio Guide on iTunes or Google Play and immerse yourself in this network of stories told through the landscape of Ireland’s Ancient East. The app includes three audio trails (available in English, French and German) and a travel guide of Ireland’s Ancient East. These trails, that last about 40 minutes each, will guide you around the ancient towns of Cahir, Clonmel, Carrick-On-Suir and Roscrea, revealing a network of stories – set in a landscape stretching out over 5,000 years.
Your journey begins at Cahir Castle, a mighty fortress built on a rock in the middle of the River Suir. You can still see the scars of battles and sieges of long ago. Today it remains one of Ireland’s best-preserved medieval castles, and its beautiful setting has been the highlight of movies such as Excalibur, and the TV series The Tudors. Wander around the castle grounds or take a guided tour and learn about the historic background of the various buildings.
Enjoy a lovely stroll along the tree-lined banks of the River Suir to the exquisite Swiss Cottage. This 19th-century thatched and rose-covered ‘cottage orné’ or folly, was built as an idyllic summer retreat is arguably one of the most romantic cottages in the world complete with hand-made furnishings, and exquisite painted murals and wallpaper. Return to Cahir and savour lunch and views of the castle in the Cahir House Hotel. Or, on a Saturday, sample some of the wonderful fresh local produce at the popular Cahir Farmers Market in the Castle Car Park (9am-1pm).
Set off to travel the short distance to the medieval town Clonmel but make sure and stop at The Apple Farm for some delicious artisan produce made from the luscious soft apples, strawberries, raspberries, sweet cherries and plums grown on the farm. On arrival to the town download the Butler Trail App & Audio Guide on iTunes or Google Play and let it lead you through the streets as you visit the stately Main Guard, and the West Gate, which marks the original western entrance to the town through the fortified walls which once defied Oliver Cromwell himself.
Stay and Eat:
Try the Clonmel Park Hotel or Hotel Minella for great family accommodation. Head out for tapas at Befani’s or a hot-stone steak at The Bunker before savouring a pint in one of the town’s many friendly bars.
Visit Ormond Castle and learn about the Butlers links to England’s Queen Elizabeth I and her ill-fated mother Anne Boleyn. Take a river walk along the same River Suir tow path where merchants from this market town plied their trade for centuries. Discover Carrick-on-Suir’s other rich cultural and sporting heritage on its historic town trail, including former world champion cyclist Sean Kelly and folk music singers The Clancy Brothers.
Wander through the medieval walled town of Fethard and imagine the town as it was in its heyday. Relive the stories of the past and visit ruins of fortified tower houses, the 13th-century Holy Trinity Church and the 14th-century Augustinian Friary. Immerse yourself in the Fethard Horse Country Experience, which tells the interlinked story of the relationship between the people, the land and the horse. Afterwards, head to McCarthys of Fethard for a unique Irish experience. A pub, restaurant and undertakers, McCarthys promises to “wine you, dine you and bury you”.
Your journey through the stories of the Butlers is just a glimpse of the historic treasures of Tipperary, and none is more spectacular than the renowned Rock of Cashel. Once the traditional seat of the kings of Munster, the Rock is one of the foremost pieces of Celtic art and medieval architecture in Europe. Cashel also has a wealth of other wonderful experiences for all the family, including a magnificent collection of historical memorabilia at the Cashel Folk Museum. Nearby you can experience traditional Irish entertainment with a live show at the Brú Ború Cultural Centre, while Rossa Pottery specialises in unique, hand-made ceramics originating from the clays of Tipperary.
Stay and Eat
Stay in style in the heart of Cashel at the boutique Baileys Hotel and gastro bar and bistro. Also in the town is the Michelin starred Chez Hans restaurant and its more relaxed daytime sister eatery, Café Hans. A great stop-off on the way from Fethard to Cashel is Cashel Farmhouse Cheesemakers, home of the renowned Cashel Blue and Crozier Blue cheeses, where you can sample and learn about farmhouse cheese-making in Ireland.
If you have time…
Discover the Butler of Ormonds’ connection with Roscrea and learn how ‘Black Tom’ Butler returned home from England to take control of the town for the family in the 16th Century with a visit to historic Roscrea Castle and Damer House, which was the family’s seat of power on the northern edge of the County Palatinate of Tipperary.
Download the Butler Trail app on iTunes and Google Play. The app includes three audio trails (available in English, French and German) and a travel guide of Ireland’s Ancient East. These trails will guide you around the ancient towns of Cahir, Clonmel, Carrick-On-Suir and Roscrea, revealing a network of stories – set in a landscape stretching out over 5,000 years.