Clonmel is the county town of County Tipperary jointly with Nenagh; in 2016 it had a population of 17,140. It stands on the River Suir, which forms the boundary with County Waterford, though the boundary swings south opposite town to include buildings on the other bank within County Tipperary. In Irish Clonmel is Cluain Meala, "honey meadow", presumably referring to the area's good farmland. The town was defended by the river and by stout walls, withstanding a siege by Cromwell for a time before surrendering. Clonmel is mostly modern but has several antiquities worth seeing.
- '"All their armye is within a myle to the towne . . . Wee expect nothinge else but bee besieged every houre they having nowe noe other place to ayme at but this."
- - the town garrison sought reinforcement against the approach of Cromwell in 1650.
The valley of the River Suir is a natural transport route, and Cromwell had to come this way to subdue the area. The walled town held out for three weeks then surrendered, but the garrison snuck away by night to Waterford.
The river is tidal as far up as Carrick, so freight barges used to ride up and down on the tide from Waterford. Navigation was possible further up to Clonmel, but involved hauling the barges, not worth the bother once the roads improved. The island in the river made Clonmel an obvious bridging point, so the town continued to be a transport hub, with Bianconi founding his coach network here (see below). Still transport across the sprawling county of Tipperary was tedious so in 1838 it was divided into two Ridings, with Nenagh the county town of the north and Clonmel of the south. The Ridings were abolished in 2014 but county administration is still divided between those towns. This means that Clonmel has a lot of public sector employment; its other trades are engineering, pharmaceuticals and brewing cider.
One penny-farthing a mile
Carlo (aka Charles) Bianconi (1786-1875) was born near Como in Italy. He came to Ireland aged 16, working as a print engraver in Dublin. At age 20 he set up his own print shop in Carrick-on-Suir, moving to Clonmel in 1815. John Anderson's stagecoach company collapsed that year; Bianconi took up the business and expanded it. His first route, Clonmel to Cahir, took two hours by one of his coaches, less than half the time it took by riverboat, and for only a penny-farthing per mile. He set up a network of routes and coaching inns across Ireland, and when the railways arrived from the 1850s he still prospered, by offering coach connections from the main stations. He was twice mayor of Clonmel. He and his family are buried at Boherlahan near Cashel.
There is no direct bus from Dublin. Take Expressway 4 from the airport or Busaras to Waterford, 2 hr 30 min, and change.
Bus Éireann 245 runs from Cork via Glanmire, Sallybrook, Watergrasshill, Rathcormac, Fermoy, Kilsworth and Mitchelstown to Clonmel, two hours. M-Sa it's every three hours (hourly between Cork and Fermoy) with only two buses late on Sunday.
1 Clonmel railway station has two trains M-Sa from Limerick Junction (for Dublin, Cork and Limerick city) via Tipperary and Cahir, continuing from Clonmel to Carrick-on-Suir and Waterford. There are no facilities to collect online tickets at Clonmel.
By car from Dublin follow M8 to Cahir then N24.
Everything in town is walking distance.
- 1 Main Guard, Sarsfield St, Clonmel. Apr-Sept Tu-Su 09:00-17:00. Fine former courthouse and market house with a loggia of open arches, completed in 1674. It's named for the town barracks previously here, wrecked by Cromwell's forces after the siege of 1650. From 1810 the elegant design became obscured by an accretion of shop fronts, but these were removed in the 1990s. Free.
- 2 Tipperary Museum of Hidden History (County Museum), Mick Delahunty Square, Clonmel, ☏ . M-F 10:00-16:00. Small museum of local history within civic centre. Free.
- 3 Old St Mary's Church, Mary St, Clonmel. First built circa 1204 but what you see nowadays is from 14th-16th century, with 19th century restoration. It remains in use by the Protestant Church of Ireland.
- 4 Westgate on O'Connell St was built in 1831 in retro-Tudor style to recreate the medieval west gate of the walled township. Nothing remains of the north or east gates. There were no walls on the south side of town, where the River Suir is a natural moat.
- County Courthouse on the corner of Nelson St and Wellington St was built in 1802. This is where the "Young Irelanders" of 1848 were tried and sentenced to transportation to the colonies.
- The Franciscan Friary[dead link] on Abbey St behind Main Guard is an RC church completed in 1886. The original friary was founded in 1269; it was suppressed at the Dissolution but the friars were able to maintain a presence in town. They regained the site and in 1828 opened a church here which proved too small, so the present church was built.
- Suir Island in the river across Bridge St once had watermills (hence the weirs) and fine homes. Hughes Mill has been turned into apartments and small businesses, but otherwise only scraps remain. You can picnic on the bosky river bank, where the sign "Lady Blessington's Bath" is a memento of the lurid Marguerite Gardiner (1789-1849), Countess of Blessington. She was born in Clonmel but left young into an arranged marriage with a violent drunkard. It's most unlikely she ever bathed here, but she found much steamier circumstances to plunge into in Italy, and became a travel writer and confidant of Byron. She died in Paris, alas 20 years too early for Manet (or was it Monet?) to paint her riverside picnic arrangements.
- 5 St Patrick's Well is at Marlfield on the west edge of town. A spring bubbles out of the base of the cliffs into an ornamental pond by a ruined medieval church. It's a picnic and pilgrimage spot.
- Ardfinnan Castle 10 km west of Clonmel was built in 1185. It was restored in the 19th / 20th century into a country mansion; it's privately owned and can't be visited.
- 6 Carey's Castle off R671 is the ruin of an early 19th century mansion, built with a bit of every ancient style the owners knew of. You mostly come for the woodland walk.
- Kilcash Castle is 8 km east of Clonmel on N76. It was built from the 16th century but the ruin is now unsafe, so just admire it from the lane.
- See Fethard for Lisronagh Castle (it's just a stump) and the soggy delights of Slievenamon, the mountain to the north.
- 7 Carrick-on-Suir is a small town 21 km downstream from Clonmel where the main sight is Ormonde Castle. This was built in the 14th century but the 16th century Earl extended it with an Elizabethan manor house. The castle is closed to visits in 2021.
- 8 Ahenny is a village on the boundary with County Kilkenny. It has many prehistoric structures, notably the tombs of Baunfree and Knockroe. There are also several early Celtic High Crosses in the village and surrounds.
- What's on? - listen to Tipp FM on 97.1 FM or read South Tipp Today.
- IMC Cinema is on Kickham St.
- South Tipperary Arts Centre, Nelson St, Clonmel, ☏ . Rotating exhibitions, talks and other events.
- 1 Clonmel Racecourse, Powerstown Park, Clonmel. This stages both National Hunt (jumps) and flat races, with the main meetings in Feb and Nov.
- The Greyhound Stadium has races Friday and Sunday from 19:00, adult €10. It's just east of the centre between the river bridge and retail park.
- Golf: Clonmel Golf Club is south on R678. White tees 6366 yards, par 71, visitor round €30.
- Walk the East Munster Way, which follows the river downstream towards Carrick-on-Suir and upstream towards Newcastle.
- The Vee Drive is a scenic tour over the hills into County Waterford. It's usually done as a circuit from Lismore (and described on that page), but you could start from Clonmel.
- Junction Festival is a week-long arts festival in mid-July. The next event is probably 2-10 July 2022 but tbc.
- The Busking Festival[dead link] is held in August. The next event is probably 4-7 Aug 2022 but tbc.
- The main retail mall is Showgrounds Shopping Centre, on Davis Rd east edge of town.
- Niamh's Deli on Mitchell St is open M-Sa 08:00-15:00.
- Mulcahy's, 47 Gladstone St, Clonmel, ☏ . Town centre pub with traditional "Long bar" and "Brewery bar" which has live music Wednesday nights. They have rooms but it's the food that earns admiring reviews: breakfast, lunch and dinner are served daily. B&B double €100.
- Befani's, 6 Sarsfield St, Clonmel, ☏ . F Sa 16:00-21:00, Su 12:00-15:00, 16:00-20:00. Mediterranean and tapas restaurant, great dining, also has rooms. B&B double €90.
- Lemongrass, Market St, Clonmel, ☏ . Tu-Th 12:00-21:00, F Sa 12:00-22:00, Su 13:00-21:00. Reliable Thai restaurant in town centre.
- Town centre pubs include Hearn's Hotel (which has very basic rooms), Phil Caroll's, The Coachman, Sean Tierney's and Liam Daley's.
- Cider: Bulmer's Irish Cider is made at Anneville 3 km east of town; no tours. They're no longer part of the Bulmer's UK cider company, so outside the Republic their brand name is Magner's but the product is identical. Under that name they've sponsored rugby union (the former Pro14, now the United Rugby Championship), Glasgow Celtic FC, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and other events they reckon the Irish might show up for. Their standard cider is "hard" or dry and they suggest serving over ice.
- Fennessy's Hotel, 32 Gladstone St, Clonmel E91 HR27, ☏ . Town centre pub with rooms in Georgian building, standards vary, some noise from bar and street. B&B double €75.
- 1 Hotel Minella, Coleville Rd, Clonmel E91 FY97, ☏ . Upscale hotel and spa in 1863 mansion plus newer wing - these have more space and fittings but the extension is a boxy modern affair. On south bank of river 2 km east of town. B&B double €150.
- 2 Clonmel Park Hotel, Poppyfield Retail Park, Cahir Rd, Clonmel, ☏ . Modern functional hotel on edge of town, clean, convenient for motorists. B&B double €110.
As of Jan 2022, Clonmel has a 4G signal from Three and Vodafone, and 5G with Eir.
- Fethard has a fine 13th century church, and parts of the town's medieval walls still stand.
- Cahir has a castle on a river island, the fanciful Swiss Cottage, and Mitchelstown Cave.
- Cashel is a must-see for the cathedral and other antiquities teetering on its Rock.
- Waterford is a port with a great Viking, medieval and Georgian heritage.
- Lismore south across the hills has several fine mansions and gardens.