Kells (Ceannas Mor) is a town in County Meath, about 65 km north of Dublin, with a population in 2016 of 6135. "Kil-" or "Kells" denotes the cell or abode of a monk, so it's a common placename, but this is the one that for 800 years housed the Book of Kells. The abbey remains are the chief reason to visit.
Kells lost its railway in 1963. Bus Éireann runs frequently from Dublin:
- - 109 from Dublin Busáras via Drumshaughlin and Navan to Kells, taking two hours, hourly daily 07:00-23:30. At night use the 109A.
- - 109A from Dublin Airport via Ashbourne, Ratoath, Dunshaughlin and Navan to Kells. It runs hourly 24 hours, and 00:30-05:30 it starts from city centre.
- - 109X from Dublin Busáras via Glasnevin and Navan to Kells (90 min), continuing to Carnaross, Virginia and Cavan Town. It runs hourly, daily.
Bus 108 runs from Bailieborough via Mullagh and Moynalty, with 3 M-Sa, taking 30 min.
For route maps and stop locations enter the route number into the TFI route mapper.
Kells doesn't have a bus station. The main stop is called 1 Parochial House on timetables, east end of Kenlis Place. Most buses continue west to the retail strip along Cavan Road R147.
Walk, the town is compact.
Taxis in town are Lynch Taxis +353 87 747 8826, John's Cabs +353 46 924 9353 and Kells Taxi Cabs +353 87 250 4242.
- Kells Heritage Centre, Old Courthouse. Closed ufn. Among the various relics of the town, there's a copy of the Book of Kells. The Market Cross outside is richly decorated. For centuries it stood at the town crossroads - it was used as a gibbet for the rebels of 1798 - but was felled by a reversing bus in 1996. So it was repaired and placed here, beneath an awning that (appropriately) looks like a bus shelter. Adult €4, child €3.
- 1 Abbey of Kells, Cannon St. The Abbey site is now the C of I Church of St Columba. It was founded around 804 AD by monks fleeing Viking raids on Iona, who may have brought the Book of Kells - there are several rival theories about this. Kells also came under attack, and the Book was stolen in 1007, but recovered with its gold and bejewelled covers ripped off. The monastery was downgraded to a parish church at the Dissolution but the Book remained here until 1654, when Cromwell was the threat; it was then taken to Dublin for safekeeping where it's on display in TCD Library. Kells Crozier, of unclear provenance but likely 10th century, is in the British Museum in London. What's still here is a sturdy Round Tower, 30 m high but missing its conical cap so it resembles a factory chimney, and several Celtic High Crosses. Best preserved of these is the Cross of Patrick and Columba by the tower, with inscriptions and Biblical scenes.
- 2 St Columb's House (St Colmcille's House), Church Lane (north side of St Columba's church graveyard). A small stone-roofed Oratory probably from 10th century. An Oratory was where monks chanted prayers for the illustrious dead, such as former abbots and the saint himself. There's a ladder up to a loft, the monks' sleeping quarters. The Oratory is kept locked, ask around for access.
- 3 Spire of Lloyd, Commons of Lloyd (off R163). This tower was built circa 1790 to the memory of Sir Thomas Taylor, 1st Earl of Bective; it's on the hill of Mullach Aiti or Mulloyde. It's a 30 m Doric column with a lantern atop, and you ascend by a 164-step spiral staircase to a viewing balcony, where the gentry watched horse racing and hunting. The tower is often described as a lighthouse, though there's no signal apparatus for the lantern and it's 30 km from the sea. It's also called a folly, but let it not be gainsaid that no ship has been lost in Kells since its construction. The area surrounding has been landscaped as "The People's Park". In the famine years destitute people camped out on the hill, and the Paupers' Grave is a cemetery for many of them.
- 4 Castlekeeran has a walled graveyard on the site of an old monastery, with three High Crosses from the 9th century, plus a fourth cooling its heels in the river. They're specifically termon crosses, marking the boundaries of the inner sanctum; fairly plain but the bosky riverside setting is attractive. The ruined church has an Ogham stone, dedicated to "Cuana son of the people of Luigni" - an 8th century tribe hereabouts. On the main road by the turn-off, a little shrine marks St Ciaran's Well. There have been multiple Keerans or Ciarans but this one was Ciarán the Pious of Bealach-duin, died 770.
- 5 Headfort Bridge on R163 east of town is a fine Georgian multi-arched bridge. It was built in the late 18th century to grace the approach to Headfort House, which is now a school and you can't tour.
- The retail strip is along Cavan Rd R147 leading northwest, with Supervalu after 200 m (M-F 08:00-22:00, Sa 08:00-21:00, Su 09:00-20:00) and Aldi further along (M-F 09:00-22:00, Sa Su 09:00-21:00).
- The Round Tower, Farrell St A82 N9K4, ☏ . M-Th 10:30-23:30, F Sa 10:30-00:30, Su 12:30-23:00. Family-friendly pub serves trad Irish fare.
- Vanilla Pod is within Headfort Arms Hotel, see Sleep; it gets good reviews for quality and selection. It's open M-Th 17:00-22:00, F Sa 17:00-23:00, Su 12:30-21:30.
- The Ground Floor, Bective Sq.
- Cross St into Farrell St is the main pub strip, with Smith's, The Chaser, McGee's, The Sheeney, O'Connor's, Blackwater Inn and The West Way. JJ Maguire and The Carrick House are a little way west.
- 1 Headfort Arms Hotel, Headfort Place, Kells A82 C2D1, ☏ . 45 room hotel with lounge bar, Kelltic Bar and Vanilla Pod restaurant, gets good reviews for comfort and food. B&B double €120.
- Farrelly's Townhouse at 2 John St was renovated in 2021. Double (room only) €80.
- 2 Teltown House, Teltown C15 X302 (6 km south of Kells), ☏ . Welcoming 3-room B&B in converted farmhouse. It didn't open in 2020.
As of April 2021, Kells has 5G from Eir and Three, and 4G from Vodafone.
- Brú Na Bóinne Archaeological Park towards Drogheda is a collection of astronomically-aligned megaliths dating back to 3200 BC.
- Oldcastle is surrounded by prehistoric sites, the best being Loughcrew Cairns.
- Cavan Town to the north is in the drumlin country, with islet-studded lakes.