Abbeylara -- the monastery at Lerha -- located just outside of Grandard, has been called one of the crown jewels of Longford. The abbey is said to have been founded by St Patrick and then refounded in 1210 by the Englishman Richard de Tuit. De Tuit was killed by a stone falling from Athlone Castle shortly after the foundation was laid and so never saw the completion. De Tuit is buried at Abbeylara. The site of the Cistercian Monastery may also have been the site chosen by St Patrick for ecclesiastical foundation, when he visited the area circa 460AD
In 1315 Edward, brother of Robert Bruce, King of Scotland, seized the monastery of Abbeylara and wintered there. The monks returned in 1316. By the fifteenth century the community at Abbeylara had fallen under control of the O’Farrell’s, the dominant local family, and Abbeylara became the burial place of the O’Farrells. The last abbot, Richard O’Farrell, surrendered the abbey with its land and possessions to King Henry VIII when the king 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. Though poor, the community at Abbeylara survived the Dissolution largely because of the protection of the O’Farrell’s. However by that time the church was reported to have been almost demolished, though the tower was still in use.
Today, very little remains. All that remains of the abbey today is the central tower and adjacent walls. There is 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 still intact. The out buildings, now completely demolished, are represented by bumps and hollows in a field to the south of the tower. The ruins can be accessed at all times.
Near the monastery can be found the historic village of Abbeylara, a land of lakes and legend, with meandering streets leading to forest walks.