Trip Idea: Discover where legends come to life

An exhilarating 4-day adventure through a fabled land

Castles that look like they've dropped out of a movie, walking trails that twist and turn like the words of a poet, and slices of life laid bare… it’s all on this journey through legendary lands

After your arrival in Dublin, soak up glistening waterfronts, pass through pristine green fields and even search for leprechauns around counties Louth, Monaghan, Cavan, Westmeath and Meath.

Ireland's Ancient East from Dublin

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Eastern promise

Take the road that hugs the Irish Sea, and head up to the Wee County – Louth – with its towns and villages that lay bare their Christian heritage.

Drogheda Church

A rather grisly relic

Be warned! There's a gruesome relic on show at St Peter's Church Drogheda. The preserved head of St Oliver Plunkett, who was hung, drawn and quartered in 1681, resides inside a vast gilded shrine. Outside in the town of Drogheda, which was once one of the largest walled towns in medieval Ireland, draw your eyes up to the handsome structure of St Lawrence's Gate; while Millmount Martello Tower is where the Normans established a fort in the 12th century.

If you have more time

Inside Scholars Townhouse, paintings depicting the Battle of the Boyne adorn the ceiling, and are to be admired while you dine on scrumptious local produce, including Coolattion cheese, Stagrennan farm apples and homemade ice creams.

Image © Andrea Patroni

An icon of Christianity

Founded in the late 5th century by Saint Buite, Louth's Monasterboice was an important religious centre in Ireland until the founding of nearby Mellifont Abbey. It remains full of beautiful religious iconography: check out Muiredach's High Cross, adorned with 124 figures; or the nearby round tower, one of the tallest in Ireland.

If you have more time

A beautifully preserved icon of another age, Beaulieu House and Gardens was built in the 17th century and has seen no less than 11 generations of the Tichbourne family pass under its roof. A tour is a must!

Poetry in motion

Let the gentle lands of Louth, Monaghan and Cavan weave their magic, as you enter Ireland's Ancient East overlooking glistening Carlingford Lough.

C driving 35 mins
Carlingford Lough

In the company of giants

Carlingford Lough is a land of magic and myths – this twinkling expanse of water is said to have seen the footsteps of giants and Celtic heroes like Fionn MacCumhall, and the woods nearby are rumoured to be filled with leprechauns. Just ask local Leprechaun Whisperer Kevin Woods! You can also go boating or take a walking tour with a local guide to learn about the area's rich Viking heritage – all under the watchful gaze of the Slieve Foy Mountain.

If you have more time

Enjoy a seafood lunch at PJ's  and then, as you're in the neighbourhood, take a trip into County Down for an adventure at Castle Ward – the filming location for Winterfell in HBO's Game of Thrones®!

D driving 15 mins
Patrick Kavanagh Centre

A way with words

In a converted church, amongst the beautiful Monaghan landscapes that inspired so much of his poetry, the Patrick Kavanagh Centre pays homage to one of Ireland's great literary figures, and Inniskeen's most famous son. Don't stop there, though, take to the Kavanagh Trail and discover the town's Norman motte, Augustinian monastery and Billy Brennan's barn, immortalised in the poem Inniskeen Road. It may well inspire some prose of your own!

Carrickmacross Workhouse

Turbulent times

In County Monaghan, Carrickmacross is a town of two tales. Once the producer of fine couture lace worn by celebrities and royalty, it was also badly affected by the Great Famine between 1845 and 1852. Remember both of these defining periods at the Carrickmacross Lace Gallery and the Carrickmacross Workhouse. The latter is also a heritage centre run by local volunteers who have incredible knowledge of the area and its history. So if you have them, bring your ancestry queries to its dedicated genealogical centre.

If you have more time

Enjoy culinary delights at The Courthouse Restaurant, or stretch your legs by running with the wild hares at the Dún na Rí Forest Park.

Millennia of marvels

Get back to nature with ancient treasures around Monaghan and Cavan, where ancestral dynasties and rural delights take centre stage.

F driving 1 hr 30 mins
Castle Leslie

A fascinating lineage

The owners of Castle Leslie Estate have quite the family tree. Traceable all the way back to Atilla the Hun, it's also full of poets, painters and war heroes. Drop in for afternoon tea, explore the grounds on horseback, or simply absorb the 1,000 acres of rolling parklands and lakes. Find your way to the Famine Wall, built in the 1840s to thank Christina Leslie, who had helped locals in times of hardship. Or delve further into the area's history on the Glaslough Heritage Trail.

If you have more time

Visit Snaffles Restaurant in Castle Leslie and indulge in chilled crépes with Kilkeel crab, or sea bass and squid ink risotto. Delicious.

The Cavan Burren

A tale of two giants

Romancing giants once roamed the lands at the Cavan Burren Park. If legends are to be believed, two young giants, Lugh and Lag, challenged each other to jump a gorge to strut their stuff in front of a female giant. Lag, sadly, fell to his death – and that's how the Giant's Leap chasm was formed. The geology, though, is equally as fascinating. Millions of years ago, this area was bathed in tropical seas, before being carved out during the Ice Age. As part of the UNESCO Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, you'll find Neolithic tombs, a promontory fort and ancient rock art to examine as you stroll this vast landscape.

If you have more time

Treat yourself to dinner at one of the island's most famous restaurants, MacNean House. Run by chef Neven Maguire, taste his award-winning quail, halibut and pumpkin dishes for utmost decadence.

The passage of time...

Ancient mysteries and lush pastures, this part of our trip skips between elegant gardens and the relics of our ancestors in Westmeath and Meath...

H driving 1 hr 36 mins
Tullynally Castle

Glorious gardens

Occupied by the Pakenham family – Earls of Longford – since the 17th century, Tullynally Castle is one of the largest houses in private hands on the island of Ireland. It's best known for its 12 acres of stunning gardens, which include everything from a walled flower garden and a grand avenue of yew trees to a llama paddock and a Tibetan garden. After you've exhausted yourself discovering the secrets of these impressive grounds, you can take a tour of the castle itself – the Great Hall is particularly magnificent.


The hill of the witch

At Loughcrew in County Meath, local folklore tells the story of a magical woman, Garavogue – some say a witch, some say a goddess. She would pass over the land, shaping the rocks and the soil. But as she flew over Loughcrew, casting stones down, she fell from the sky – and the rocks she dropped became what is known as the Goddess' Throne. The area is filled with tales like this. Discover them on a nature walk, or time your visit for the spring or autumn equinox to catch the sunlight illuminating the passageway at the Carnbane East megalithic tomb – an ancient feat of engineering that must be seen to be believed!

If you have more time

Although this would be a lovely way to finish your journey, there’s still plenty more of Ireland’s Ancient East to explore. So let's keep going.

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This is a suggested trip idea and should be used as a guide only.

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