And Meath Counties
These two counties have much in common: outstanding Celtic, Neolithic
ic and early-Christian history; extensive settlement by Normans;
and a wealth of monasteries, castles, and rich farmland. They also
share the River Boyne; wide, gentle and famous
for the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, when James II tried to regain
the English throne, but was outmanoeuvred by William of Orange.
Drogheda, the harbour town of
Co Louth, holds an important place in the history of the medieval
times of Ireland. It was invaded by Oliver Cromwell in 1649, who
massacred or transported most of the inhabitants. Today, it is a
great base for exploring the Boyne Valley,
with a meandering course between Trim and Drogheda, highlighted
by an extensive list of prehistoric sites.
The prehistoric burial ruins of Brú na Bóinne,
west of Drogheda, number over 40 and predate the pyramids. Among
these, Newgrange is Western Europe’s most
outstanding chambered tomb, built about 5000 years ago. Monasterboice
was a former sixth-century monastery; in the cemetery stand three
of the finest examples of High Crosses in the country.
Dundalk is an industrial, harbour township,
founded in the 12th century, and largely rebuilt during Georgian
times. Bordering Northern Ireland, the Cooley Peninsula
forms a large upland covered by heather, megaliths and pine plantations.
The best way to see the peninsula is by walking, following parts
of the Táin Way, a circular walk from Carlingford and Omeath.
Carlingford is famed for its oysters
and looks across the lough to the Mourne Mountains.
Historical links are found in King John’s Castle, a stronghold overlooking the sea, and Taaffe’s Castle, one of many fortified residences in this
area dating from the 16th century.
County Kildare is bounded by the Liffey and the
Wicklow Mountains. It lies between
the built-up area around Dublin and the boglands of The Midlands.
The county has an enviable reputation for the breeding and exercising
of thoroughbred horses.
is built around St Brigid’s Cathedral, which
houses a number of Renaissance tombs and a timber roof shaped like
the hull of a ship. Nearby is the round tower,
the only tower in Ireland to have an external staircase.
Peatland World, at Lullymore,
25km or 15 miles north of Kildare, is the place to learn about all
things peat. The National Stud
at Tully, just outside Kildare Town was started by Colonel Hall-Walker
and its importance in the racing world is immense. It is open for
guided tours and includes a Horse Museum
Naas (pronounced Nace) is an industrial town
on the edge of the Wicklow Mountains. Once the seat of the kings
of the Province of Leinster, Naas was the centre of the ancient
Irish kingdom of Ui Dunlainge.
Today, it is a good place for shopping, and very much a hunting
and horse-racing locality.
On the banks of the Poulaphouca Reservoir,
20km or 12.5 miles southeast of Naas, Russborough House is a elegant Palladian mansion begun in 1741,
built in Wicklow granite. Here you can view works of art by European
masters like Reynolds, Murillo, Rubens and Poussin.
The beauty of County Wicklow is
famous far and wide. This land of forests, mountains, waterfalls
and lakes takes its name from the tiny county town and the adjacent
mountain range. Wicklow lies between the heavily urban areas of
Dublin and Wexford, and has the Irish Sea to the east. For centuries,
the county was the base of Celtic Christianity, with a focal point
At the northern end lies Bray. A lively seaside
resort with an air of Victorian charm, now a bit faded and heavily
reliant on day trippers from Dublin. A fine beach, with amusement
arcades and the National Sea-Life Centre,
continues to make Bray popular visit. Killruddery House
Gardens, offer beautiful formal gardens, lakes and canals.
James Jameson of the distilling family created
Glencormac Gardens, southwest of Bray. The 18th-century
house at Powerscourt, west of Bray, is very popular,
as are its formal gardens. A nice footpath leads to the Powerscourt
Waterfall, the highest falls in Ireland, formed by the
Dargle River which drops over cliffs 122m or 400ft
The town of Wicklow is a sleepy place bordering a shingle bay. The
main attraction in the town is the Wicklow Historic Gaol,
which recounts the events and unsavoury personalities of Irish history.
The displays of Mount Usher Gardens were set up
in the 1860s by a Dublin linen manufacturer, Edward Walpole, and
this place is a plant-lover’s paradise. Glendalough,
the glen of the two lakes, is a place of holiness and a site of
pilgrimage, where Saint Kevin founded a monastery in AD 570. The
tall round tower is a known landmark,
used as a lookout post, a grain store and a belfry. Today the cathedral
is now in ruins, but is no less attractive for that. Towards the
river is St Kevin’s Church, with its chimney-shaped
The little village of Avoca gained fame as Ballykissangel
in the television drama of that name.