From ancient sites to famine museums, Roscommon is full of important reminders of Ireland’s history and fascinating tourist attractions.
The name Roscommon comes from the Irish 'Ros' meaning a wooded, gentle height and 'Coman', the name of the county's famous saint and the first bishop of the see, Coman mac Faelchon, who built a monastery in Roscommon in the fifth century.
Roscommon was officially established in 1585, when the Tudors reinstated the land division of Connacht.
Though Roscommon is a midlands county, it is outlined by water, with Lough Key in the North, the River Shannon and Lough Ree to the East, the River Suck to the West.
The Rossies would love you to stay a while! Here are our top five tourist picks for County Roscommon.
Rathcroghan Royal Site
Legend has it that Rathcroghan, near Tulsk, was the seat of Queen Medb (Maeve), the Kings of Connacht, and later, home to the High Kings of Ireland. It is one of the six ancient royal sites of Ireland. The monuments that still stand today range from the Neolithic to Medieval eras, and include burial mounds, ringforts and medieval field boundaries.
Oweynagat, ‘Cave of Cats,’ also in Rathcroghan, is said to be the home of The Morrigan, the Irish Goddess of War and Fertility, Birth and Death. According to Irish mythology, the cave is a portal to the Otherworld, and every Samhain, The Morrigan, keeper of the Otherword, leaves the gates unguarded.
Visitor information: www.rathcroghan.ie
Strokestown Park National Irish Famine Museum
Strokestown Park House and Famine Museum is an award-winning museum dedicated to telling the story of the great Irish Famine, and it contains some of the most extensive records from the time of the Famine. The Georgian Palladian mansion was the home of the Packenham Mahon family. On November 2, 1847 the patriarch of the family and landlord of the surrounding estate, Major Denis Mahon, was assassinated by several local men in an incident that became infamous across Ireland and Britain at the time. The killing was motivated by the removal of starving tenant farmers from the estate lands during the Irish Great Hunger of 1845.
The Irish National Famine Museum was established at Strokestown Park in 1994 using original documents which came to light when the house was being restored. The museum has a strong educational focus and seeks to create a greater awareness of the horrors of contemporary famine by demonstrating the link between the causes of the Great Irish Famine of the 1840′s and the ongoing spectacle of famine in the developing world today.
Visitor information: www.strokestownpark.ie
Lough Key Forest Park
Lough Key Forest Park, near the town of Boyle (home to actor Chris O’Dowd and his series “Mooneboy”) is one of the most picturesque locations in Ireland. It is comprised of woodland, lakes, islands, a variety of wildlife, and many points of historical and archaeological interest.
The nearly 2,000 acre park, which was once part of the Rockingham Estate and opened to the public in 1972, sits on the banks of Lough Key. The park has a visitor center with a restaurant and a number of nature trails and walks including a tree canopy walk. Other attractions include an ice house, a gazebo, a ruined church, stables, tunnels, the bog gardens, a wishing chair, a fairy bridge, Drummans Bridge and a deer paddock.
Visitor information here: loughkey.ie
The impressive Boyle Abbey ruins are what remain of a Cistercian Monastery founded in the 12th century. Completed circa 1220, it took sixty years to build. The abbey sustained damage when it was used as barracks by the Elizabethans in 1592, and the Cromwellians who besieged it in 1645. Today, the abbey is a national monument. A restored gatehouse of 16th/17th century houses an exhibition.
Visitor information: www.heritageireland.ie
Arigna Mining Experience
The Arigna Mining Experience in Arigna, Co Roscommon, gives visitors an insight into the coal mining life through tours and exhibitions.
A 45 minute tour takes visitors underground to the mines coalface where methods used to extract coal are demonstrated. A history tour tells the origins and history of the Arigna coal mines and its impact on the local community.
The site also has an exhibition area, a coffee shop and souvenir shop.
Visitor information: www.arignaminingexperience.ie
Did we leave out your favorite place to visit in County Roscommon? Let us know in the comment section.