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Last updated : Nov 2009
Midlands Ireland
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County Monaghan

This county lies between Fermanagh to the west and Armagh to the east, and has a beautiful landscape of low, rolling hills. Lakes too, makes this a popular place with coarse fishermen. The central part of the county is hilly but heavily farmed.

Monaghan is a market town, built on a monastic site, with some fine examples of architecture. The Monaghan County Museum on Market Street has among its treasures the Clogher Cross, a sample of early Christian metalwork.

Castleblaney sits at the head of Lough Muckno, the county’s largest lake and a place for excellent coarse fishing. Carrickmacross, south of Ballybay, is famous for its handmade lace. To the north stands Mannan Castle, a 12th-century bailey and motte.

County Cavan

Known to anglers as a place of rivers and lakes and the very best in coarse fishing. Non-anglers scarcely know it at all for this is an undiscovered county, peaceful and unspoilt, an attractive countryside dotted with woodlands and folded into glens that rise to the summit of Cuilcagh at 665m or 2182ft, which it shares with Co Fermanagh.

Cavan, the town is uninspiring, but nearby Clough Oughter, a circular tower castle, tells of a time when this was the base of the O’Reillys, the princes of Breffni. A short way out of Cavan, is a group of standing stones, Finn MacCool’s Fingers, believed to be the place where the princes were crowned. West of the town, Lough Oughter is the name given to a series of lakes, part of the River Erne system, and a major coarse fishing area.

County Longford

Like Co Cavan, Longford holds appeal for anglers. It sits in the middle of Ireland, and lies in the catchments of the River Shannon. Lakes abound, Lough Gowna in the north and Lough Kinale in the east. Today, Co Longford is primarily farming.

Along the River Camlin, Longford Town grew up around a fortress of the O’Farrells. The towers of Cathedral of St Mel dominate the town. A few miles west, Cloondara is worthy of a visit: an attractive village on the Royal Canal. During the summer months, music is performed in the teach cheoil (Irish music house). Ballymahon is famous for Oliver Goldsmith, author of ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ and the classic poem ‘The Deserted Village’.

County Westmeath

This county has an air of beauty, being a place of lakes and wooded countryside, and a large area of untamed bogland, producing a unique habitat for flora and fauna. Old-fashioned pubs and ruins dot the landscape, and make Westmeath a great place to explore.

The former garrison town of Mullingar is now a main centre for angling, and one of the most agreeable market towns in Ireland, with an atmosphere that is lacking in other towns in The Midlands. Hunting, shooting and fishing are the main activities here.

In Crookedwood, at the foot of Lough Derravaragh, stands St Munna’s Church, like a fairytale, complete with 15th-century tower and battlements and a lakeside setting. At Castlepollard are the beautiful landscaped grounds of Tullynally Castle, the family seat of the earls of Longford.

Counties Offaly and Laios

Unaffected by mass tourism – the counties of Laios and Offaly lie at the heart of The Midlands. Co Offaly is bordered to the west by the River Shannon, offering cruising tours, as does the Grand Canal that runs through the middle of the county. Co Laios (pronounced Leash) is a place of attractive villages with nice homes. Co Offaly shares with Co Laios the beautiful glens of the Slieve Bloom Mountains, which in spite of a low elevation and a boggy feel about them, nevertheless convey a sense of grandeur and remoteness.

One of Ireland’s holiest places, Clonmacnoise, was founded in AD 548 by St Ciaran at a strategic crossing point of the Shannon. During medieval times, it developed into a seat of learning, acknowledged by kings. Using a track bed built for the transportation of peat, the Clonmacnoise and West Offaly Railway is the key to the natural history of bogs, as it fashions an 8.8km or 5.5-mile course around the Blackwater Bog.

Birr is an pretty town of Georgian streets and buildings. The grounds of Birr Castle are superb but the castle is not open to the public. Here, too, is the Historic Science Centre, that houses a large reflecting telescope, in its day the largest in the world.

Emo Court, west of Kildare, is an neo-Classical building constructed in 1792. Not far from Mountrath is Roundwood House, a Palladian mansion, now a guest-house.

County Tipperary

The lack of a coastline does not take away the beauty of this county in any way, as a walk to the top of Slievenamon (the mountain of the fairies), north of Clonmel, will demonstrate. Northwards rises the limestone Rock of Cashel and to the south are the Comeragh Mountains. The countryside of Tipperary is dotted with churches, Norman castles and Stone Iron Age sites.

The town of Clonmel on the banks of the River Suir, dates from the tenth century, but there is considerable evidence of occupation from prehistoric times. Clonmel is the most important town in the county. The County Museum on Parnell Street has a collection of artefacts, including Roman coins and prehistoric items.

The Comeragh and Knockmealdown mountain ranges are large uplands of forest and bog, but easy to explore by car or on foot. Ballymacarbry on the River Nier is also a good base for treks.

Carrick-on-Suir, a market town east of Clonmel is today best known for Sean Kelly the cyclist who had success in the Tour de France. Ormond Castle, just outside the town is an Elizabethan mansion, and well worth visiting.
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