Kells Priory is one of the largest and most magnificent mediaeval monuments in Ireland. Situated on the bank of the King's River, it comprises a collection of mediaeval tower houses spaced at intervals along and within walls which enclose a site of some three acres.

Kells Priory was founded by Geoffrey FitzRobert in 1193. FitzRobert was brother-in-law to Strongbow and the priory succeeded an earlier church which was dedicated to St. Mary, the Blessed Virgin and served as parish church to nearby Kells village.

During it's first century and a half the priory was attacked and burned on three occasions, firstly by Lord William de Bermingham in 1252, by the Scots army of Edward Bruce on Palm Sunday 1326, and by a second William de Bermingham in 1327. It seems likely then that the walls and fortifications date back to this period of unrest.

In 1324 the Bishop of Ossory Richard de Ledrede paid a lenten visit to the priory. Following an inquisition into a Kilkenny sect of heretics, Alice Kytler and William Outlaw were ordered to appear before the Bishop to answer charges of witchcraft. Outlaw was supported by Arnold de Paor, Lord of Kells who arrested the Bishop and had him imprisoned in Kilkenny Castle for 17 days. This caused great scandal and on his release the Bishop successfully prosecuted the heretics. Alice Kytler fled to England and remained there, Alice Smith also fled, but her mother Petronella de Meath became Ireland's first heretic to be burned at the stake.

Dissolution of Kells Priory finally took place in March 1540 and the chuch and property were surrendered to James Butler, Ninth Earl of Ormonde.