Discover History of Killaloe

Experience the history and heritage of Killaloe, Co Clare and Ballina, Co Tipperary!

History of Killaloe, Co Clare

Killaloe, County Clare, Ireland, stands on the River Shannon on the southern end of Lough Derg. It owes its origin to the 6th century monastic establishment of St. Lua, which first stood on a small island in the River Shannon, about 1km downstream from the Killaloe bridge. Later the monks moved to a more spacious ground on the mainland opposite. This monastic centre was called Cill Dálua, (Killaloe) or the Church of St. Lua. Killaloe remained an important centre for many centuries.
The Diocese of Killaloe owes its existence to the efforts of Brian Boru (c 941-1014) who ruled the Kingdom of Ireland from here (1002-1014). Brian was born in Killaloe, the youngest son of Cennedig (Kennedy) who was head of the tribe Dal Cais. Turbulent times abounded in his youth from the Norsemen of Limerick headed by Ivar. Brian developed tactics that led his handful of men to defeat superior numbered Viking forces, which added greatly to his fame. In 976, he became King of the Dalcassians taking the title after his brother was killed by Ivar. With his renowned fleet he was able to establish his power over all of southern Ireland. A feud with Malachy, head of the Ui Neill clan of Tara ended peacefully for a short while in 1002 making Brian Boru "Ard Ri" or High King of all Ireland. The usual place to rule would have been from Cashel, but Brian reigned during this time in his home, Kincora Castle, in Killaloe, thus making Killaloe the "Capital of Ireland" for this 12-year period. Peace did not last long and Malachy, with the help of the Dane Vikings, again challenged Brian's rule at the Batle of Clontarf in 1014. Malachy was defeated, but Brian was killed by a fleeing Viking, Brodir, while praying in his tent after the battle.
Peace and prosperity came to Killaloe after the signing of the Treaty of Limerick in 1691 and the town began to take on its present day appearance. Most of the houses on Main Street and the lower end of the town were built during the 18th century. A whisky distillery was erected at John's Street and Killaloe also had a flourishing woollen and cloth industry in the mill along the River Shannon. The first Post Office was opened in 1793.
The Shannon Steam Navigation Company had their headquarters in Killaloe during the 19th century and Killaloe became a hub for transportation of goods and passengers up the River Shannon from Limerick to Portumna, Athlone, and Banagher. From here the goods were transported by canal boats to Dublin. The company also constructed the present day canal around the bridge to avoid a ridge of rocks. In 1929 the Ardnacrusha Hydroelectric Plant was built and Lough Derg was flooded making the canal redundant. Above and below the bridge were several eel weirs and a salmon fishery adding to the prominence of Killaloe.
Today Killaloe is no longer "Capital of Ireland," but still the Captial of Lough Derg, Ireland's "Pleasure Lake." It is the most important boating and fishing centre within the 3 counties of Clare, Limerick, and Tipperary. Fishing, cruising, boating, sailing and swimming are just part of the many activities on the lake adding to the rich heritage waiting to be explored in modern day Killaloe.  

Killaloe Ballina Bridge and St. Flannan's Cathedral

History of Killaloe