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Medieval Ireland Meath and Louth

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Louth and Meath, Meath,

Castles, gothic architecture and villages arrived in Ireland towards the end of the 12th century – and stayed that way for the next five hundred years.

Trim Castle is without doubt the most magnificent of all the fortresses built by the Anglo-Norman warlords to impress the people of Ireland. Recently restored and made safe for visitors, it continues to impress natives and tourists alike. The castle, defended partly by the River Boyne and partly by its great curtain wall, stands squarely on a green bawn, where it was built in the 13th century. The town of Trim which surrounds it has several other medieval towers and, a little way down the river are the ruins of a church with memorials to long-departed knights and their ladies. The Hill of Slane, to the northwest, is famous in tradition as the place from which St. Patrick defied the power of the pagan High King of Ireland. Ruins of a monastery mark the spot.

Not far from Slane is Mellifont where, in the 12th century, medieval times in Ireland really began, with the arrival by invitation of Cistercian monks from St. Bernard’s monastery in Clairveaux. The ruins show little more than the foundations of the buildings – but the setting in a secluded valley provides a wonderful sense of peace. North of Mellifont is Ardee, famous in ancient Celtic saga but interesting in the medieval sense in retaining two castles on the main street, both of them still in use – though for civil rather than military purposes.

From Ardee we go to the totally delightful village of Carlingford, originally a seaport created by the Vikings but taken over by the Anglo-Norman invaders who first built a great castle to defend the harbour and then set about developing a town beside it. The harbour was fine for medieval ships – but has been too shallow for more modern vessels. Which may be why the village came to be left to itself and, most importantly, to retain its ancient character of narrow streets, with remnants of some of the original stone buildings and town walls. Tourism has made it a very popular spot again and a hub for seekers of antiques and fine food.