The 14th century castle in Ballintober village was the stronghold of the leading Connaught family, the O’Conors, whose family line stretches back to the Kings of Connaught. Oliver Cromwell’s English forces took the castle in 1652 and it fell into ruin. It was restored, but then fell to the Williamites after the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
Boyle Abbey in Boyle is a well preserved Cistercian abbey which was founded in 1161 by Monks from Mellifont Abbey in County Louth. The Cistercians had come to Ireland at the invitation of the founder of Mellifont Saint Malachy, and Boyle Abbey was built after they founded Clonmacnoise. Boyle Abbey survived raids by both Norman and Irish chieftains and was turned into a castle in 1659. Many parts of the abbey are in good condition including the church, cloisters, cellars, sacristy and kitchens. The nave of the church has interesting Gothic and Romanesque carving. Tours of the abbey are run in summer.
Stately home of the leading Connaught O’Conor family which has a harp made by the famous blind harpist Turlough O’Carolan (1630-1738) and other items on show.
Boyle is a good base for walking in the Curlew Mountains in the north of County Roscommon. The heathlands and lakes of the Arigna Mountains in the north are also rugged and scenic.
Huge Megalithic dolmen tomb near Boyle
Douglas Hyde Interpretative Centre
The Douglas Hyde Interpretative Centre in Frenchpark tells all about the life of the poet and Irish language playwright Douglas Hyde who founded the Gaelic League with Eoin MacNeill in 1893 to help to promote and revive Gaelic culture and language in Ireland. He became the first President of the Republic of Ireland in 1937. The centre is housed in the former church where Hyde’s father was rector and his grave is in the graveyard.
Georgian mansion built in 1750 for Henry Fry who was invited to Boyle by Lord Kingston, whose house now contains the Kings of Connaught Interpretative centre. Fry was reputed to have been a generous host and was said to have rung a bell every night inviting people to dinner.
Grave of Turlough O’Carolan
The grave of Turlough O’Carolan (1670 1738) the famous blind harpist, composer and poet who was patronised in the big houses of County Roscommon is near the ruins of Killoran Abbey near Keadue in the north of County Roscommon.
Lough Key Forest Park
The large Lough Key Forest Park near Boyle was once part of the Rockingham estate, the largest in Roscommon owned by the Anglo-Irish King family. The family lived in King House nearby before moving to Rockingham House in the park. Rockingham House burnt down and all that remains are stables, a few ancillary buildings and passages built so that the family would not have to see their servants moving around the estate. Rowing boats can be hired on the lake, which is popular for coarse fishing. Trinity Island on the lake has the ruins of a 12th century abbey and there is a 19th century castle on Castle Island. The park also has a caravan and camping site and a caf?.
King House Interpretative Centre
The Palladian mansion of King House in Boyle houses an innovative and fun hands-on exhibition and audiovisual show about the Kings of Connaught. The house was built in 1730 by Henry King whose family became the Earls of Kingston and lived there for 50 years before moving to Rockingham House. It was then used as a barracks for the Connaught Rangers before being restored. The Una Bhan Tourism centre in the grounds of Kings House offers activities including cycling, horse riding and angling tours. It also has a craft shop.
Several ancient monuments including the Rathcroghan ringbarrow are near the village of Tulsk. The ringbarrow is said to have been built by Eochard Fedleach, King of Connaught, who was succeeded by his daughter Maeve (one of the fiercest legendary leaders of Connaught). The site was said to have thereafter been the traditional inauguration site of the Kings of Connaught. There are many other standing stones, cairns and ring forts nearby, but many are hard to find as they are dotted around the fields.
Rathcroghan Archaeological Complex and Visitor Centre
The core of Connacht royalty, the Rathcroghan Archaeological Complex and Visitor Centre. The Centre hosts modern interpretive rooms, chronicling 6,000 years of activity and interaction, and guarantees to awaken an interest in this mysterious landscape, full of rich history and folklore.
The impressive ruin of Roscommon Castle in Roscommon town was originally built by the Anglo-Norman Lord Justice of Ireland Robert d’Ufford in 1269, but it was almost immediately destroyed by the King of Connaught Hugh O’Conor. It was rebuilt in 1280 and features like the 16th century mullioned windows were added over the centuries before it fell into ruin.
Strokestown Park House and Famine Museum
Stokestown House is a grand Palladian mansion built by the famous architect Richard Castles (who also designed Russborough House in County Wicklow) for the Anglo Irish MP Thomas Mahon on a 27,000 acre estate given to him by King Charles II. The owner of the house in the 19th century, Major Denis McMahon, was shot on his estate after being publicly censured for chartering some of the first notorious coffin ships, which carried evicted tenants to America. Mortality rates on the ships were high, while some were so unseaworthy that they sank enroute.