Meath Main Towns


A vibrant and growing community, Ashbourne was the scene of a notable engagement in 1916 in which British forces finally surrendered to the volunteers led by Thomas Ashe. A memorial by Peter Grant commerates this engagement. 2km south is an 1890 obelisk with interesting panels, to the memory of Charles Brindley of Stafford, for thirtyfive years huntsman of the Ward Hounds. It is from Ashbourne that the Gibson barons take their title.

Athboy is a medieval town and some of its medieval walls still survive in the grounds Church of Ireland as does an interesting medieval table tomb. The birthplace of Father O’Growney, helped to revive the Irish language at the turn of the century. A statue to his memory is at Saint James Church, Athboy. Located 3km from Athboy is the Hill of Ward, one time seat of the High Kings, an Iron Age Fort. In nearby Rathcairn there is a Gaelic speaking community where visitors interested in the Irish language, Irish music and song will find much enjoyment.

Approximately seven miles from Trim and Maynooth, John Bruton leader of Ireland’s second biggest political party, Fine Gael, originates here.

The village is known for the substantial medieval ruins of the second Cistercian monastery founded in Ireland in 1147. The remains are chiefly of smaller 15th century abbey built on the site of the 12th and 13th century early Gothic complex.

Bettystown is a coastal resort situated on a short strip of coastline which is County Meath’s only outlet to the sea. The name of the town comes from Baile an Bhiadhtaigh, which means Town of the Hospitaller. A magnificent sandy beach stretches 10km south of nearby Laytown to the mouth of the Boyne as Mornington. The eighth century Tara Brooch, one of the finest examples of the goldsmith’s art in Early Christian Ireland, was found on the beach at Bettystown in 1850. It is now preserved in the National Monument in Dublin.

The name comes from the Irish, Dun an Oir, meaning Fort of Gold. Beside the village is a new interpretive centre where one can enter the medieval caves of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.

Of similar size to Newgrange, Dowth has, unfortunately, suffered most from the ravages of time. Dowth has two modest chambers facing westwards. Nearby is a memorial to John Boyle O’Reilly, a nineteenth-century Irish american Fenian who was born here. An Interpretative Centre on the Boyne Valley is at present planned for a site on the south bank of the river in the townland of Roughgrange.

17 miles (27 kms) north-west of Kells is the village of Drumconrath, surrounded by small lakes. The small islands in these lakes are mostly crannogs (artificial island) on which people lived from the late bronze Age until, in some cases, well into the 17th century. The village is also renowned as an angling centre.

Translates from the Irish Droim an R?, Hill of the King. Quite a small village, its main feature is Dunsany Castle. Lord Dunsany lived here until his recent death.

Duleek is situated on the quiet valley of the Nanny River which is crossed by a narrow bridge on the outskirts of the village. Saint Patrick founded a church here in the fifth century but nothing now remains. In later centuries the town was frequentlyraided by Norsemen who were based in Drogheda, but somehow managed to survive and indeed at times, flourished. A 9th century high cross has scenes of the crucifixion and Holy Family. One of the O Kelly family founded an abbey here around the 12th century dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1182, Hughde Lacy, to whom the district fell, founded Saint Mary’s Augustinian Priory. Today, many interesting ruins remain in the area.

Dunboyne is an ancient borough. Dunboyne Castle, an 18th century mansion replaced the old castle there as a seat of the Butlers – Lords of Dunboyne. Hamwood, a palladian house, home of the Hamilton family is surrounded by gardens dating from 1764. The village was burned down in the 1798 rebellion. Dunboyne is the home of Mr John Bruton, who became Taoiseach (Prime Minister) in 1994.

Dunshaughlin, named after Secudinus or Seachnall, a disciple of Saint Patrick who founded a church on the site in the 5th century, provides an ideal starting point for ventures into the historic countryside. Ratoath’s street plan follows the curve formed by the characteristic Norman motte. West and south of the motte, the village is characterised by a series of long narrow plots of land, perhaps representing a medieval strip pattern. Southwest of Ashbourne, Fairyhouse Racecourse host regular race meetings, its crowning glory is the Jameson Irish Grand National on Easter Monday. Dunboyne castle is an 18th century mansion, which replaced the original castle there as the seat of the Butlers, Lords of Dunboyne.

The history of Enfield is closely connected to the history of transport throughout south Meath. In the 1790’s, maps denote the site as “A New Inn”, later “The New Inn” and eventually, Innfield. This derives from a mail-coach inn on the 18th century Dublin to Mullingar coach route. The Royal Canal passed through Innfield also, and with the arrival of the Great Western Railway the name became anglicised to Enfield.

Seat of the Gorman family. The old family home is now a boarding school. Local legend has it that foxes would gather on the lawn of the house when one of the family were about to die.

Approximately 2 miles (3.2 kms) east of Navan in the Catholic church is a very fine late 15th-century baptismal font, an impressive relic of the golden age of Norman Meath.

Fragments of crosses are a feature in Julianstown. One 15th century fragment commemorates Sir Christopher Barnewell and his wife Elizabeth Plunkett. Near the old Keenogue Church site is another fragment which featured the Virgin and Child, Saint Lawrenceand the Crucifixion. The 18th century Dardistown Castle is only 5km away.

Kells is a small picturesque seaside area halfway between Glenbeigh and Cahersiveen (off N20). Travelling from mountain stage to Kells Post Office one has a panoramic view of Dingle Bay, the Blasket islands and Kells Bay. You will pass the tunnels at Drung hill and the Gleensk Viaduct, a relic of the Great Southern and Western Railway Line, which ran from Cahersiveen to Farranfore Junction.

An excellent sandy beach extends from south of Laytown to Mornington. Good safe bathing is available from every part of the strand. There is a large bee-hive shaped tumulus here, about eight metres high, which is supposed to be the burial mound of Laogh,one of Cuchulainn’s charioteers. Sonairte, the National Ecology Centre, is located near Laytown.

Moynalty is one of Meath’s prettiest villages. A past winner of the Tidiest Town in County Meath competition, the town attracts crowds of up to 20,000 visitors for the Moynalty Steam Threshing Festival. The festival takes place each year on an August Sunday. A temporary museum hosts a vast array of old Irish farm implements and there are antique side shows, amusements and traditional Irish dancing.

Mullagh is a rural parish situated approximately 13km southeast of Loughrea, 24km from Ballinasloe and 24km from Portumna. The city of Galway is 45km away and Athlone is 67km. Carnmore Airport is situated 32km from the parish. Mullagh is mainly in thebarony of Longford but also in the baronies of Leitrim and Clonmacnowen, County of Galway. It is made up of two half parishes of Mullagh (formely Abbeygormican) and Killoran. There are two Churches in the parish at Mullagh and Killoran, two Schools at Mullagh and Coolagh, three Cemeteries at Abbeygormican, Killoran and Finnure. There are presently five shops in the parish, located at Mullagh (2), Gurtymadden, Eskerboy and Springfield. There are two pubs in the parish.

Navan, the county town of Meath, is in pleasant undulating country at the meeting of the Boyne and Blackwater Rivers, with a recently developed industry deriving from mineral deposits. Navan is now one of the major centres for furniture manufacture in the country. Navan is of great antiquity, but it was as a palatine town of the English settlers that it became important. It was walled and fortified by Hugh de Lacy, and became an outpost in the defences of the Pale. Charters of incorporation were granted by English kings down to the 17th century. Activities in Navan include tennis, horseriding, greyhound racing and angling.

Situated around 30 miles from Dublin City, North east of the village of Nobber lies some pretty woodland and rural scenery. There is a Danish Fort located near the town which is well worth visiting. Nobber is well known as the birthplace of Carolan a famous Irish harper, he was born in 1670 and developed blindness from an early age but still went on to be one of the most famous Irish musicians of his time. In this little village in 1670, Turlough O Carolan was born. He was the last of the great Irish harpists.

Oldcastle is a centre for anglers and is about 6.4km from Lough Ramor (County Cavan) and 10km from Lough Sheelin. Sheelin is an excellent lake for trout and Ramor is noted for its coarse fishing. Traditionally, Oldcastle is the home for Irish music and dance and regular sessions, at every level, are held in the ceili house in the town. Loughcrew Demesne, an extensive park, covers a considerable part of the local countryside. The actual birthplace of Saint Oliver Plunkett is a subject for continual argument locally, but it is fairly certain that he was born in a house in the south east corner of the churchyard at Loughcrew. About 3.2km from Loughcrew Demesne is Dromone cross roads. Nearby are the remains of Moylagh church and castle.

Ratoath was one of the four borough towns founded by the Anglo-Normans within County Meath. The name is derived from Rath to ‘Fort of To’ which suggests there was a settlement here prior to the Normans. The village was retained by Hugh de Lacy as a seignorial manor. Close by is Fairyhouse Racecourse, one of the most famous racecourses in Ireland, where every Easter the Irish Grand National is run.

To the south of the village is the Hill of Screen, site of an early Christian Monastery. The word “skreen” or “skyrne” is the equivalent of the English word “shrine”. Skreen is a little Meath village located by the Hill of Tara, Navan is a short drive away.

A beautiful manorial village built around a crossroads, the central focus of the village is the four fine Georgian houses facing each other where the N2 and the N51 roads meet. Slane was planned by the Conynghams. A short distance from the village isSlane Castle, an imposing castellated mansion with towers and embattled parapets, built on a beautiful site overlooking the river valley. It is the home of Lord Henry, Earl of Mountcharles and has become a famous as a concert venue, the surrounding grounds boasting a natural amphitheater of immense size. The castle was ravaged by an accidental fire in 1991.

Summerhill, a small village that has a demesne and ruins of what was regarded as the most dramatic of the great Irish Palladian Houses, accredited to architects Lovett Pearce and Richard Cassells in 1731. The Castle here was destroyed by fire on a number of occasions and was completely gutted during the Civil Was in 1922. There is a car park, picnic site and forest walks available here.

In popular mind and ancient legend, for centuries the Hill of Tara, 10 km north east of Trim, was looked to as the political and spiritual capital of the country. It is only a short distance from Navan, and is best known as the ‘Seat of the High Kings of Ireland’. It has been an important site since the stone age, when a passage tomb was constructed there. Its also, a place where, popular beliefs associates with Celtic myth and legend. The unusual monuments lead the imagination to regard ‘Tara’ as the home of Gods and heroes..not of ordinary humans. It was abandoned in 1022. Now, Tara is a national monument in the car of the Office of Public Works. Tara is open to the public all year round, but from May to October, an audio visual presentation is given and guided tours are available. Tara is one of many sites well worth visiting.

Trim is dominated by the greatest treasury of medieval monuments in Ireland. Prime among them is King John’s Castle, the largest Anglo-Norman Castle in Europe, used as a located in the film “Braveheart”. Steeped in history, Trim also played a part in shaping the lives of such historic figures as the Duke of Wellington and Dean Jonathan Swift. Trim is now a prosperous and busy market town. A five minute walk from the castle will bring you to Trim Visitor Centre and Craft Shop. The centre has an excellent audio-visual show which tells of the history of the town and county while the craft shop holds a large selection of Irish hand made crafts. (Trim – meaning The Ford of the Elder).