Louth, the smallest county in Ireland, covers an area of only 317 square miles. It runs northwards from the River Boyne to Carlingford Lough, consisting mainly of fertile undulating country with a coastline of wide sandy bays and occasional rocky headlands. In the North, however, between Dundalk Bay and Carlingford Lough, is the mountainous Cooley Peninsula. The territory now known as County Louth figures prominently in the epic tales of ancient Ireland. It was also the scene of important events, and many other chapters of Ireland's history are illustrated by the county's numerous relics of the past.
Louth has great industrial towns like Drogheda and Dundalk as well as sleepy fishing villages. Pictured above is Carlingford Lough, part of a drowned river valley at the base of the Cooley Mountains. The fishing village of Carlingford is the Oyster capital of the country and the oyster festival draws huge crowds every August into the pretty village of white washed cottages and ancient clustered buildings.
Monasterboice, one of the most famous religious sites in the country, was built in the 5th century a few miles north of Drogheda in a lovely secluded setting. With 2 churches, a round tower and 2 High Crosses the treasure is the high Cross of Muiredach. Considered the finest in the country, it is the pinnacle of achievement with sculpted biblical scenes all over the cross, and still as fresh today. Drogheda at the southern most point of the county is built on the River Boyne and by the 14th century was the biggest town in Ireland. Exporting and Importing more goods than any other town. However, it never recovered from a vicious attack by Oliver Cromwell in 1649 and the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 where the catholic king of England, James II, defeated by William of Orange and heralding the fate of the country for the next 300 years.
Ardee, Louth .
A well-preserved tower-house of 15th century date. It has four storeys, and the bottom one is vaulted. There are also some nicely carved trefoil-headed windows. There is a fine 'murder-hole' above the door enabling the defenders to drop things on the heads of intruders. One of the unusual features of the castle are the two turrets, one containing stairs, the other a lavatory, which project from the sides of two diagonally opposite corners.
King John's Castle, Co Louth
This early Norman fortress was named after King John who visited Carlingford in 1210. The western portion of the castle predates this visit and was probably commissioned by Hugh de Lacy c. 1190. A massive curtain wall divides the earlier western courtyard from the eastern wing, which contained the living quarters. The eastern section was constructed in the mid 13th century and has alterations and additions dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. The castle commanded an important defensive position on the Lough but by the 16th century it was described as in a wretched condition and remained so until conservation work in the 1950s.
Termonfeckin Castle and High Cross
Termonfeckin, Louth .
This is a 15th or 16th century tower-house of 3 storeys, and with good trefoil headed windows. its most unusual feature is the excellent corbelled roof (in the same technique as the Newgrange chamber roof, 4,000 years older!) which is on the third storey. The famous antiquarian Ussher lived nearby for some time. It was repaired by Captain Brabazon in 1641. A bawn with rounded turret which belonged to the castle has disappeared. High Cross: In the graveyard of St. Fechin's Church is a small High Cross with a winged figure above the Crucifixion on the east face, and Christ in Glory on the west face; the rest of the cross is covered in interlacing and geometrical patterns. At the foot of the corss is a slab with a Crucifixion scene (probably 16th century) and nearby is the base of another cross. Built into the porch of the church is a stone with an inscription which reads 'A prayer for Ultan and Dubthach who made this stone fort'. The original monastery here was founded by St. Fechin of Fore who died in 664. It was plundered by the Leinstermen and the Vikings in 1013, was plundered again in 1025, and finally in 1149.
Monasterboice High Crosses
Monasterboice, Louth, Louth .
The monastery was founded by an obscure saint named Buite who died in 521. We know that the monastery remained in existence up till 1122, and the Vikings appear to have occupied it for a time until they were attacked by Domhnall, King of Tara, in 9687. One of its most learned monks, Flann, died in 1056. the importance of Monasterboice lies in the fact that it contains two of the finest High Crosses in Ireland, both probably dating to the 9th century. One of these, the Cross of Muiredach, gets its name from an inscription on the base of the west side of the shaft saying that it was erected by one Muiredeach who has not yet been positively identified. On the east face can be seen Adam and Eve, and Cain slaying Abel; David and Goliath, Moses smiting the rock; Adoration of the Magi; Christ in Judgement surrounded by good souls, bad souls and the Archangel Michael weighing the souls, and at the top, perhaps the meeting of St. Paul and St. Anthony in the desert. On the west face are Christ mocked by the soldiers, the Raised Christ, Christ with St. Peter and St. Paul, the Crucifixion and the Ascension, with the Resurrection on the south arm. On the north side are a second mocking scene on the end of the arm, and SS Paul and Anthony breaking bread above it, as well as the Hand of God (under the arm of the cross) and interlacing motifs, while on the south face there is Pilate washing his hands, interlacing and vinescroll motifs. On the base are hunters, animals, interlacing and fretwork. Not far away is the Tall Cross, on which the following panels may be tentatively identified; East face - David kills the Lion, the Sacrifice of Isaac, Moses smiting water from the rock, David with the head of Goliath; Samson topples the temple; Elijah ascends to heaven, the Three Children in the Fiery Furnace and, on the head, David with the Armies of Israel; West face - soldiers guarding the tomb of Christ, The Baptism of Christ, the Mocking of Christ, The Kiss of Judas and the Crucifixion. The nearby Round Tower was burned in 1097 when it contained the monastic library and other treasures. In the graveyard there are also tow medieval churches. Other items of interest include a fragmentary High Cross near the north-east corner of the graveyard with a Crucifixion scene on one face; a sundial and a grave-slab with the inscription 'A prayer for Ruarcan'
Ardee which is the capital town of the rich tillage countryside of mid-Louth takes its name from the Irish, Ard Fhirdia, the ford on the river Dee where Cuchulainn fought and killed his friend Ferdia in the course of the Tain Bo Cuailgne. The foundation of the town is attributed to the Norman knight Gilbert de Pippard, from whom the Pepper families descend, who obtained a grant of the barony of Ardee from Prince John in 1185 and who was responsible for the construction of the motte-castle on the eastern side of the town known today as Castleguard. The town walls date from the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, but only fragments now remain.
Carlingford prospered throughout the 15th and 16th centuries but with the growth of the nearby town of Newry its importance has steadily declined hastened by the early 18th century. Newry Ship canal which enabled ships to by-pass the port in their journeys up the lough to Newry. A modern benefit of this has been the preservation of the medieval character of the place which is now one of the Heritage Towns of Ireland. Since it first won the National Tidy Towns competition in 1988 the local community have embarked on an extensive scheme for the preservation and development of the medieval character of the town while at the same time providing the visitor with all the modern conveniences including hotel and guesthouse accommodation, an adventure centre, a yachting marina, periodic festivals and cruises around Carlingford Lough in the summer season
Situated along the coast north of Drogheda, this is an important fishing village with Port Oriel a harbour and pier constructed in 1885. Southwards from the harbour it is possible to walk along the rocky cliffs of the headland. Half a mile south of the village stands Glaspistol Castle, a 16th century tower house built by the Dowdalls.
The ancient and historic town of Drogheda is situated on the River Boyne, which at this point seperates the counties of Louth and Meath. It is an important industrial centre. Although 4 miles (6 km) from the coast, Drogheda is also a notable port with a fine harbour formed by the estuary of the River Boyne. Home to Oliver Plunkett's head and one of Ireland's finest Samba bands. A bustling town full of young people yet rich in ancient history. Check out McPheals Pub for some lively craic and a guaranteed good night out - Gerry Larkin is a must to see if you enjoy excellent live acoustic music, dont forget the Samba festival during the summer. A map of the area is available: Click
Dundalk, a busy manufacturing centre at the head of Dundalk Bay, is the county town of Louth. Dundalk racecourse is 1 1/2 miles (2 km) to the north. There is greyhound racing twice weekly. Salmon and trout fishing is available on the River Fane and other streams, and there is golf (18) at Blackrock, horse-riding instruction and pony-trekking. Louth Foxhounds and Dundalk Harriers hunt the district. Tennis, squash, dancing, cinemas and other entertainments are available. An international theatre festival takes place every year. The forest park at Ravensdale has walks and nature trails.
Though now only a cluster of houses, it was once important enough to give its name to the county. St Patrick is said to have built the original church here and to have appointed St Mochta first Bishop of Louth . St Mochta's House, beside the village, is a small building dating probably from the twelfth century. It is in excellent preservation and has a high-pitched roof of stone. The lower storey is vaulted and the upper is reached by a stairway built into one of the walls. Also beside the villages St Mary's Abbey. Built long before Anglo Norman times, it was reconditioned in 1148 by Donough O'Carroll, the Prince of Oriel, who also endowed Mellifont. In 1242 an important synod was held here. The abbey was destroyed by fire in 1312 but rebuilt. The ruins (probably 14th century) are of a large church about 150 feet by 50 feet.
Leaving Carlingford via the road to Newry, the Omeath district is entered at the townland of Ballyonan, stretching thence along the Lough shore to Cornamucklagh and ranging back from the shore along the northern slopes of Sliabh Foy (1,935 feet) to the Long Womans Grave and the northern slopes of Carnwaddy, Clermont, and the Flagstaff Hill standing high above Narrowwater on the west. This area and it's counterpart kingdom of Mourne on the north shore was almost certainly the site of the Viking settlement in Carlingford from whom it gets its name Carlinn Fjord. Later re-taken by the Irish the lands were re-apportioned, the northern side to the Mughdorna (Mourne) and the southern side to the Ui Meith (Omeath) both of the O' Carrall kingdom of the Oirghialla. Well served by a good road system the district can be accessed by car, cycle or on foot and provides panoramic views of Carlingford Lough, the volcanic ring dyke of Sliabh Foy and the mountains of Mourne across the Lough in County Down. Omeath was the last native Irish speaking district of north Leinster where an Irish School was maintained in the earliest part of the present century in what is now the Park Hotel before it was moved to Rannafast in County Donegal. In addition to the Tain Holiday village with its expensive leisure facilities and caravan park the village itself and its surrounding area are well supplied with hotel and guest houses and other catering facilities including pony and trap rides from Omeath.
Formerly the seat and castle of the medieval and later Protestant primates of Armagh until 1656, this was the site of an early Irish monastery dedicated to St. Feckin, only the high cross of which now stands in St. Feckin's churchyard within which is listed the Church of Ireland parish church to a design by Francis Johnston and built in 1792. At the south end of the village is the Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception designed by William Hague and erected in 1883. Termonfeckin Castle is a 15th century tower house associated with the Brabazon family.
Mr Paul McPartland, Carlingford, Louth .
The traditional spirit/grocers family-run old Irish pub conveniently located in Carlingford town (on the beautiful Cooley Peninsula). Renowned for its star attraction (leprechaun in a glass case) attracts tourists from far and wide. Has also been featured on the Late Late Show. Traditional music every Wednesday. Food speciality for this pub is Oysters, homemade soup and sandwiches and a wide selection of cheeses are also available.
County Louth Golf Club
Baltray, Drogheda, Louth .
Established 1892 The course at County Louth, known as Baltray, is reckoned to be one of the best in Ireland. There are two fine opening holes and then a classic 4th, but the 5th introduces players to the first of the four short holes - all greens nestling in the sandhills but the 6th is another par 5, followed by two splendid two-shotters. The excitement of the second nine centres on the holes close to the sea and the Mountains of Mourne.
Requirements: Handicap certificate required and Membership of another club required. Practice ground: Practice ground available. Hire facilities: Trolley hire.