Abbeylara is located in North Longford, three miles from Granard and approximatley eighteen miles from Longford town. Approaching the village of Abbeylara, the first thing to be seen is the ruin of a Cistercian monastery from which Abbeylara gets its name, “Mainister Leathratha”, which translates as ‘Abbey of the half rath or little rath’. The monastery of Lerha at this place is said to have been founded by St Patrick circa 460AD, who appointed St. Gluasacht its first Abbot. It was later refounded for monks of the cistercian order and dedicted to the Blessed virgin in 1205 by Sir Richard Tuite. The Cistercian tableau gives the year of its foundation as 1214, which probably refers to the year in which the monastic buildings were completed. Sir Richard, who was killed accidentally by a falling tower in Athlone in 1211, is buried in Abbeylara. In 1315, Edward, brother of Robert Bruce, King of Scotland, seized the monastery of Abbeylara and wintered there. The monks returned in 1316 and Abbeylara thereafter became the burial place of the O’Farrells, the local ruling family of County Longford. The last abbot, Richard O’Farrell, surrendered the abbey with its land and possessions to Henry VIII when he decreed the dissolution of all monasteries and the confiscation of all monastic property. At the time of the dissolution, the monastery buildings were in ruins, but the monastery property still consisted of 5,000 acres of land. Today, very little remains. There is however a fine arch supporting one side of what was once the church and several smaller arches, all of which are now enclosed. The winding staircase is also still intact.
The parish of Abbeylara is divided into two nearly equal parts by Granard, which intersects it from north to south; the eastern division is situated on Lough Kinale, and the western on Lough Gowna. Abbeylara is an historical rural village with meandering streets leading to the surrounding fields and forest walks. Nearby Lough Kinale and the River Inny are well noted as prime local fishing spots with trout, tench, bream and pike in plentify supply. Annual competitions are held here by the local angling club and a good day’s fishing is practically guaranteed. The river and lakes are also navigable for small boats. Lough Kinale is the location where the Lough Kinale Shrine was discovered in 1986. The shrine, a stunning piece of early Irish metalwork is dated to the 8th century AD. It was reconstructed and restored by The National Museum in Dublin where it is now on display.
Interesting things to note about the parish of Abbeylara, and places to visit in the area include what are the only remains of stone circles in the Midlands of Ireland. These circles are to be found at Cloughernal and Cartronbore and together with the standing stones at Clough, Creevey, Dalystown Lower, Cloughernal and Tromra are all most likely dated from the Bronze Age. The linear earthwork refered to as 'The Black Pig's Dyke' runs for 10km from Lough Kinale to Lough Gowna and has a fascinating and somewhat humourous story attached to its construction. This earthwork most likely originally consisted of a deep steep-sided ditch with a high bank or rampart along the side and possibly acted as a boundary during the Iron Age between the celtic Kingdoms of Midh and Ulster. St Marys Church and Bullys Acre, Mc Nichols Shop which served as the old RIC barracks, as well as the holy wells of 'Tobar Riogh an Domhnagh, Well of the King of Sunday, and 'Tobar na mBan Naomh', Well of the Holy Women, all provide places of interest to visit in the parish.