Fore lies some distance from the town of Mullingar, close to the larger village of Castlepollard in County Westmeath. It’s a part of the country that tourists tend to speed through, but it’s ideal for those who want a quieter, more serene glimpse of real life in rural Ireland.
The ruined Benedictine monastery once housed 300 monks. St. Fechin founded the monastery in approximately 630 AD, and most of the remains there now date back to the 15th century. Although few visitors, including those from other parts of Ireland, are aware of the abbey, locals are well aware of its seven wonders.
- The Monastery Built on a Bog. While today you will see large cows standing on terra firma without sinking, at the time St. Fechin built the monastery the land was apparently bog. Yet the buildings did not sink into the mire.
- Water that Flows Uphill. You had to be there for this wonder. The water is not flowing uphill at the moment, but when St. Fechin commanded it to, it did.
- The Holy Tree that Will Not Burn. The holy tree, also known locally as the copper tree for the coins pushed into its bark, is still there by the holy well, which is reasonably solid evidence that it will not burn. After all, the abbey itself was burned by Vikings a dozen times. No, we don’t know how old the tree is. Next wonder!
- The Water that Will Not Boil. Near the tree is a holy well, and it is said that the water from will not boil. It wouldn’t really do for a cup of tea, so there is no point in testing this one.
- The Stone Raised by Prayers. Spirits raised by prayers are a dime a dozen, but stones? Large lintel stones? That doesn’t happen every day. But St. Fechin had a way with this kind of thing. Please refer to Wonder 2.
- The Mill without a Race. Who would build a mill with nothing to power it? Someone who had some experience giving orders to water, that’s who. Please refer to Wonder 2.
- The Hermit’s Cell. Not a prison cell, but a cozy retreat for religious hermits. We all dream of escaping the hustle and bustle of life, but few of us are serious enough to take a vow and live the rest of our lives in a tiny stone cave. The cell is no longer taking bookings.
The ruins are spread out on both sides of the road into the village, offering stunning views and plenty of space to walk around as your mind wanders back through the centuries. You can enter some of the structures and enjoy an up-close view of their artistry.
Fore is also home to nearly 20 stone crosses arranged along a pilgrim trail through fields and occasionally along the road. Some of the crosses are worn smooth, but others still retain their original carvings.