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Irish Name: an Mhí - "The Middle"
Nickname: The Royal County
Population: 195,044 (as of 2016)
Area: 904 square miles
County Town: Navan
GAA Colors: Green and Gold
Common Surnames in County Meath
Reilly, Smith, Lynch, Brady, Farrell, Farrelly, Kelly, Brien, Daly, and Maguire.
Famous People with roots in County Meath roots
Pierce Brosnan, Duke of Wellington, Jonathan Smith, Saint Oliver Plunkett, blind musician and composer Turlough O'Carolan.
A brief history of County Meath
The 'Royal County' of Meath, one of the largest counties in Ireland, also has an exceedingly rich history. Meath was home to the ancient High Kings of Ireland. According to Navan History, it is in Meath that some of the earliest traces of pre-historic man in Ireland were found – flints of a hunter from the Mesolithic era uncovered near Randalstown, near Meath’s county town of Navan, from 9,500 BC.
The Hill of Tara, located near the Rover Boyne, which flows through Meath, was the seat of the High Kings of Ireland from the days of the mythological Fir Bolg and Tuatha De Danann into the 11th-century. Tara consists of two linked ring fort enclosures, one from the Iron Age and the other, called Ráith na Ríogh, the Fort of the Kings. At the very center of the Royal Seat is a standing stone, which, according to legend, upon being touched by Ireland’s new king would let out a scream heard throughout the entire island.
Brú na Bóinne, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of the largest Megalithic sites in Europe. The best-known sites within Brú na Bóinne are the passage graves of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. Of these, Newgrange is perhaps the most famous, as each year on the winter solstice the sun lines up to as to fill its usually dark passages with light.
After Christianity came to Ireland with Saint Patrick in the 400s, Meath became home to a number of important monasteries, including Trim, Bective, Duleek, and Kells, which is the origin of the famous illuminated manuscript the Book of Kells, now housed in Trinity College, Dublin.
From 1169, Meath, like much of the rest of Ireland, fell under the Norman influence of Strongbow and his men. To counteract this, in 1171, King Henry II of England placed Hugh de Lacy in charge of much of the area now known as Meath. In this era, towns that remain today, including Navan, were founded. In 1542, the region was divided in two, becoming current day Meath and Westmeath.
Key attractions in County Meath
County Meath is a land rich in the history of the ancient High Kings of Ireland. Essential parts of any visit to Meath are, as mentioned earlier, the Hill of Tara and the passage grave at Newgrange, centuries older than the pyramids and beautifully restored.
Trim Castle, the location for much of the Mel Gibson movie "Braveheart," is another essential stop-off point for those interested in history. The castle is the largest and best-preserved of all the castles of the Norman occupation and provides an insight into the way of life on the island at the time.
Meath has an abundance of leisure activities to offer. There are a number of famous golf courses near Navan and Trim, and fishing of every sort can be found by the River Boyne or along the stretch of Meath's coastline. Equestrian and walking holidays are also very popular here.
Meath has several big towns for shopping and big nights out, especially Navan, the county town.
In addition to being an estate of historic importance, Slane Castle is home each year to the Slane Concert, which has taken place in early summer each year since 1981 and has hosted such famous acts as The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, David Bowie and Bon Jovi.
*Originally published in May 2022. Updated in May 2023.
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