Beside the village of Abbeylara and near the shore of Lough Kinale are the remains of a 13th century Cistercian abbey founded by an Anglo Norman, Richard Tuite. It was plundered by Edward Burke after the sacking of Granard. A semicircular earthwork north of the village is regarded locally as the site of the original church founded here by Saint Patrick about 460. From the shore of Lough Kinale, north-east of Abbeylara, parts of the ancient defensive earthwork known as the Black Pigs Dyke extends north-westwards towards the shore of Lough Gowna. In the parish of Abbeylara there are two well preserved remains of stone circle.
Abbeyshrule is situated east of Ballymahon in a picturesque valley of the River Inny. A Cistercian Abbey was founded here in 1150 and was one of the earliest in the country following the success of the first foundation at Mellifont in County Louth. The Abbey was founded by the O’Farrells and was eventually closed by Queen Elizabeth 1 during the Tudor suppression of the monasteries. The lands were granted to Robert Dillon, Earl of Roscommon. The adjoining graveyard contains part of the only high cross in County Longford. The Royal Canal passes through Abbeyshrule on its way from the Shannon to Dublin. Note the Whitworth aquaduct built in 1817 to carry the Royal Canal over the River Inny. Abbeyshrule is also associated with the Goldsmith Summer School. The only airfield in the midlands is located in Abbeyshrule with its 575 metre tarmac runway and each year its festival is a mecca for flying enthusiasts from home and overseas. Flying lessons are available throughout the year.
The village of Ardagh lies to the south-east of Longford Town and has given its name to the Diocese in which the greaterpart of the county is situated. It is said that Saint Patrick founded a church here in the fifth century and installed Saint Mel as bishop. The ancient ruins of Saint Mel’s Cathedral are near the present Church of Ireland and Saint Mel himself is said to be buried within the walls. Ardagh is a very attractive Estate Village which was largely rebuilt by Lady Fetherston in the 1860’s. The clock and houses are unique in Ireland for their Swiss design. Ardagh has featured regularly in the forefront of the National Tidy Towns Awards. Its distinctive architecture as a planned estate has led to its designation as a Heritage Village. Lady Fetherston’s ancestral home was Ardagh House, now Saint Brigid’s Training Centre run by the Sisters of Mercy. See Goldsmith and Ardagh Hertiage Centre. Considerable archaeological remains have been discovered in the Ardagh region, which have been excavated by the noted archaeologist Liam de Paor.
The village of Aughnacliffe is located to the south-west of the Gowna network of lakes. Attractive views of the lakes and surrounding country side can be seen from various locations. An ancient bronze bell from the Saint. Colmcille monastery on Inchmore Island is preserved in the Catholic Church. The Aughnacliffe dolmen is one of the finest of its type.
This is a picturesque village situated about 12km west of Granard. The village is steeped in history, after the Battle of Ballinamuck in 1798 the English commandor, Lord Cornwallis spent some time in Ballinalee. During this time over a hundred insurgent prisoners were executed here and buried in the old graveyard.
Ballymahon is picturesquely situated on the River Inny near the heart of the Goldsmith country. In 960 Mahon, King of Thomond, defeated Fergal, son of Ruarc, King of Breifne and Conacht, near Ballymahon. The town has a wide main street, and has many association with Oliver Goldsmith. The Ballymahon area is said to have had a seminal influence on Goldsmith and formed the Inspiration for his future works. Ballymahon is also the centre of John Keegan ‘Leo’ Casey country, and the River Inny and surrounding localities feature prominently in the poet’s work. Places of architectural interest include New Castle House, Castlecor House, with its octagonal roof and Ledwithstown House built by Cassels in 1728.
The village of Drumlish is west of a ridge of low hills running north-eastwards from Newtownforbes to Arva in County Cavan. A famous episode of the Land War took place in Drumlish which is documented in the book “The Land War in Drumlish”. The village isthe starting point for the climb of Cairn Hill, it is a pleasant climb and there are extensive views from the summit, which is crowned by a cairn.
Edgeworthstown has a proud literary heritage being the home of the Edgeworth family since the early 1500’s. Mr Richard Lovell Edgeworth was an inventor and surveyor. Of his 24 children, Maria the novelist is the best known. She wrote “Castle Rackrent”. Edgeworthstown House formed the centre of the Edgeworth Circle, which included the Earls of Longford, the Chief Justices of Ireland and the Pakenhams. Maria was a friend of Sir Walter Scott. Isolde Wilde is buried in the town also. Today the town is a lively progressive place with a fine hotel, many pubs and an active community group always improving the area.
Granard in County Longford was the home of Kitty Kiernan. She was a girlfriend of Michael Collins. “Black 47” as the Great Famine is sometimes called had its effects on Granard. It is a thriving market town located on the busy North/South Route (N55). Itis a typical Irish market town with a market house and butter markets. Its most distinguishing feature is its Motte, reputed to be the highest motte in Ireland. On the summit of the motte stands a large statue of Saint Patrick. A charter was granted to Granard in 1678, along with the privilege of returning 2 members to the Irish Parliament. In 1315, Edward Bruce, who was refused quarters by O Farrell, sacked and burnt the town. During the War of Independence, Granard was the scene of many engagements.
About 3km (2 miles) north-west of the village of Kenagh on the Ballymahon/Longford road are the ruins of Abbeyderg a 13th century Agustinian Friary (partially restored). There is a well chronicled architectural gem in Kenagh which has recently been restored. This is the pigeon house or the Dovecote at Mosstown Estate. Nothing now remains of Mosstown House. The Dovecote has been recorded and sketched by historian and author Olive Sharkey. She has described it as reminiscent of Scottish Baronial Dovecotes in parts of Fife and Lothian. The interior of the building is very impressive. The redbrick boxes along the walls which were once home to hundreds of fat pigeons are almost entirely intact. The lower floor of the building was used as an ice-house similar to that in Lough Key Forest Park near Boyle. There is a Clock Tower which was erected in 1878 in memory of the King Harman family who were popular landlords of the area. A lime tree avenue forms the entrance to Mosstown Estate which, although only a shadow of its former glory, is still a delightful sight on a crisp morning. The Royal Canal passes near the village.
Lanesboro is situated on the River Shannon at the northern end of Lough Ree. The town derives its name from the Lane family. George Lane took part in the Battle of Kinsale, 1601 and was rewarded with large amounts of land in the area. Lanesboro is linked by bridge to its sister village, Ballyleague in County Roscommon. The first bridge of wattles was replaced by a stone bridge in 1706, a new bridge was built in 1847 and was updated 1970. Activities in the area include fishing, boating and watersports, walking and pitch and putt. Places of interest include Saint Johns Church, Rathcline Castle and Ringdong Pet Farm as well as good shopping and nightly entertainment in hotels and bars during the summer season.
Longford, the county town, is on the south bank of the little Camlin River and on the Dublin-Sligo road. It was named after the ancient castle of the princes of Annaly, the O’ Farrells, who also founded a Dominican priory in 1400. Neither building has survived, but there are slight remains of the castle erected by the 1st Earl of Longford in 1627 incorporated in the old military barracks. During the Confederate Wars of 1641 the castle was captured by the English, and later it withstood a siege of several weeks by Owen Roe O’ Neil. Near the centre of the town is St Mel’s Cathedral, a nineteenth-century Renaissance-style building of grey limestone. The saint’s crosier is preserved in the diocesan museum at the rear of the cathedral. St Mel’s College, the diocesan seminary, contains part of the library of Edgeworthstown House. The County museum containing many artefacts and providing a genealogical service is located in the old post office in the main street.
Moydow is a sleeply hamlet to the south of Longford town.
A picturesque area not found on all tourist maps is Moyne, situated on the Longford-Cavan road, 12 km (7 miles) from Drumlish and close to the Cavan border. Rolling hills, bogland and a myriad of small fishing lakes are features. There is a new Community School opened in 1974 replacing the famous Latin school in which hundreds of missionary priests and a protestant bishop were educated.
Newtowncashel is a National tidy town winner and has panoramic views of Lough Ree. One can enjoy various activities here including fishing, painting, walking, sailing and boating. Barlwy Harbour is an ideal location for boating.
Between the neat village of Newtownforbes and Lough Forbes lies the beautiful demesne of Castle Forbes, seat of the Earls of Granard (private), a fine castellated mansion dating from the 17th century.