About Ennis

Ennis (from the Irish: Inis meaning “island”) is the county town of Clare in Ireland. Situated near the mouth of the River Fergus, it lies north of Limerick and south of Galway in Ireland’s mid-west region. The “Inis” name is a shortening of the original Inis Cluain Ramh Fhada (“long rowing meadow island”).

The name Ennis comes from the Irish word “Inis”, which means an island formed between two courses of the River Fergus and on which the Franciscan Abbey was built.  Enshrined within its foundation is a tradition of hospitality.  It was at the invite of the ruling Donnchadh Cairbreach O’Brien that a group of visiting Franciscan friars established Ennis Abbey in the 13th century.  The atmospheric, winding medieval streets of this historic market town reveal intriguing characters and stories that shaped its history.

History

The past of Ennis is greatly associated with the O’Brien family, who were descendants of Brian Boru.  During the 12th century the O’Brien’s who were Kings of Thomond, left their seat of power in Limerick and built a royal residence at Clonroad on the then island.  In 1240 King Donnchadh O’Brien ordered the construction of an extensive church grounds which he later donated to recently formatted followers of St. Francis.

The centuries which followed bore great activity.  The Friars keep was expanded and students came in great flocks to study at the theological college.  The Friars, who were free to move about, met the spiritual needs of the local population.  Because it never had town walls, Ennis became a location for many Catholic merchants from Limerick – when Catholics were forbidden to reside in the walled towns by the Penal Laws, and much of its past prosperity is attributable to this influx.

The Town contains several old British military barracks, which were built over the centuries.  The Clare Road and Clonroad areas contain terraced cottages, built in the early 20th century to house soldiers.  On Station Road, once stood a prison.

The River Fergus runs through the middle of Ennis, and at one time small sailing boats made their way up river from the Shannon and berthed in the centre of the town at Woodquay.

Heritage and Economy

Clare became a county under rule of Elizabeth 1 and Ennis was chosen as its capital because of its central location and it because of the great influence by the Earls of Thomond.  Ennis got a grant to hold fairs and markets in 1610 and some years later a Charter for a Corporation with a Provost, Free Burgesses, Commonalty and a Town Clerk.

Clare is a romantic county in the heart ofIreland’s Shannon Region, a place of stunningly beautiful, unique landscapes and seascapes with adrenaline-pumping activities to match.  The magnificent scenic coastal route with its necklace of pretty villages is spectacular.  Wonderful views of the Irish coastline are everywhere and jaw-dropping sights of the eternal jousts between theAtlanticand the coastline abound at every turn, such as some of nature’s classics, at the Last Bridge of Ross and the Cliffs of Moher.

A hike through the serene countryside around Ennis brings you a rich and diverse cultural history.  The ageless stone-built monuments which abound whisper of a civilization whose architecture was ancient by the time the Egyptian pyramids were even conceived.  Farming practices such as winter grazing on the limestone hills and the keeping of goat herds have helped to shape the immense variety of building styles found in the stone architecture of Clare. It is literally a monumental land.

Ennis continued to expand in the following centuries in a slow but steady fashion, mainly as a market town and later as a manufacturing and distributing centre.  Many commodities were then conveyed by river to nearby Clarecastle for shipment abroad.

Ennis is an historically important market town.  The market square today is still home to market stalls but with the rise in the town’s commercial retail sector in recent years, the market has shifted its traditional trading from agricultural produce to mainly textiles and home hardware.  The market has added an vibrant organic farming element over recent years.

The Town Centre consists of medieval narrow streets and laneways, which are overshadowed by simple elegant structures built over the last 1000 years .  Of the main thoroughfares, Parnell Street has been pedestrianised, while the others, O’Connell Street, Bindon Street and Abbey Street are one way.  The Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul is situated on the fringe of the old town centre.

Ennis serves as a major regional hub for County Clare.  Among its emergency services, it contains the Ennis Regional Hospital, the HQ of the Clare Divisional Garda, the Clare Fire Brigade and Civil Defence.  Ennis also includes many relief organisations, such as The Samaratans, Clare Care and St. Vincent De Paul.  Among its civil services, it contains Clare County Council, Ennis Town Council, Clare Revenue Commissionairs, as well as Social and Family Affairs.

Ennis has been a centre for Irish traditional Music, and for 40 years has hosted the Fleadh Nua each year, the second largest traditional music festival in Ireland.

Transport

Ennis is served by both bus and rail links to all major cities and towns in Ireland.  The main bus depot is adjacent to the town’s train station and both are located close to the town centre.  Bus services are provided to Shannon Airport, Galway, Limerick, Cork, Dublin and all routes in between.  Shannon Airport is 15 minutes (12 miles) from Ennis, providing daily flights to European and US destinations.

Rail services are provided to and from Limerick City, from where connecting rail services are available to both Dublin and Cork.  The Western Railway Corridor north of Ennis (to Athenry and Galway) reopened in 2010.

Education

Primary Schools in Ennis include Ennis National School, established in 1897 (Formerly Boys National School), Cloughleigh National School, Gaelscoil Mhicíl Cíosóg, Holy Family School, Bunscoil na mBraithre Criostai or Ennis CBS, which was founded in 1827, and the multi-denominational Ennis Educate Together National School which opened in 1998.  There are several secondary level schools located in Ennis, including Rice College, Ennis Community College, Colaiste Mhuire, St Flannans College, and Gaelcholaiste an Chláir.  The Ennis Business College is one of Ennis’s 3rd level facilities.

Culture

Ennis is a stronghold of traditional music with many musicians in residence and regularly playing locally.  There is a thriving Rock music scene in Ennis with bands playing at The Glor Irish Music Centre and pubs around the town.  The town is host each May to the annual Fleadh Nua, a traditional music festival.

Sports and Leisure

To watch or play a game of hurling or football is to take in an experience of the lifeblood of Gaelic culture.  Cusack Park, the main county GAA playing grounds is situated in the Town Centre.  Be sure to take in a match during your stay, and feel the passion, witness the artistry of ancient pastimes going back 3,000 years.

International Relations (Twin towns & Sister cities)

A sister city of Ennis is Phoenix, Arizona.  This progrmme is facilitated by the Ennis-Phoenix twinning committee with support from Ennis Town Council and Ennis Chamber Of Commerce.

Ennis is also twinned with the town of Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet, in Southern France while Clare is twinned with Clare Valley in South Australia.

Information Age Town

In September 1997, Ennis became Ireland’s first and only Information Age Town, in a competition which was funded by Eircom (formerly Telecom Éireann).  The town was greatly enhanced by the project’s IR£15 million ($25 million) investment, which saw 4200 computers provided to residents, a computer lab for every school and a computer in every school classroom.  Elderly residents were given the chance to become computer users also and edited and produced an online publication, The Sunset.  The Information Age Town project also gave Ennis Ireland’s first high speed ISDN line infrastructure, which connected all the town’s businesses together.  Ennis was also used as a test site for VISA Cash, which allowed users to top up a chip and pin card with petty cash and purchase goods in local stores.  As Ireland’s Information Age Town, Ennis attracted international attention and interest while the impacts of the technologies on the town and its residents were studied worldwide

From Shannon Airport as the earliest pioneer in Irish tourism when it established the world’s first duty free shop, to Cornelius O’Brien and his famous tower at the Cliffs of Moher or John Philip Holland from nearby Liscannor, who invented the submarine, Ennis and Clare has always been at the forefront of innovation, invention and the knowledge society.