Co Monaghan, aka The Farney County, might be the smallest county in Ulster, but it’s certainly played a significant part in Irish literary history, providing us with one of the country’s greatest poets, Patrick Kavanagh.
This border county was also the birthplace of actor Ardal O’Hanlon, most famous for his legendary character Father Dougal in the hit Irish TV show 'Father Ted.'
County Monaghan is certainly a well-kept secret in terms of the Irish landscape. Monaghan offers forests, hills, and lakes along with historic houses and even a world-class lace industry, producing lace used in the wedding dresses of royalty around the world.
Here are IrishCentral’s top five picks to visit in Co Monaghan:
Rossmore Forest Park
Rossmore forest park in #Monaghan is steeped in local history with lovely scenic lakeside walks & a new playground. Some features include ruins of a Castle & a walled garden. Find out more: https://t.co/DoIG1e3iS5. Please follow any #socialdistancing measures in place onsite. pic.twitter.com/t4nYYwEibM— Coillte (@coilltenews) July 8, 2020
Although the original family home of the Rossmore family, the house had to be demolished in the 1940s due to the destruction wrought by dry rot. An 1837 visitor named Samuel Lewis declared the home, “A handsome mansion in an Elizabethan style situated in an extensive and beautifully diversified desmane abounding with wild and romantic scenery and commanding some fine distant views.”
The surrounding gardens and walls of the family’s home still remain, as do the two redwood forests planted by the main gates and the exquisite view over Sandfield Lake.
With five fishing lakes and several well-maintained walks throughout the grounds, Rossmore and its woodlands will offer a splash of color to any trip to Ireland.
More information available here.
Laragh Heritage Village
Casually stroll back to 1891 in Laragh Heritage Village and find yourself among a thriving cottage industry amidst spinning mills, tweed mills, beetling mills and corn mills. The population of this unique place rose during the Famine, but the decline of the mining industry brought an end to this small town. One of the most magical points about Laragh, however, is its beautiful tin church known as “The Iron Church” or St. Peter’s, a small structure made of sheets of corrugated iron in the 19th century by a local man who styled it on an iron church he visited in Switzerland while on his honeymoon.
For more information visit here
Monaghan’s largest lough, Lough Muckno, in the grounds of Hope Castle and its estate, is located close to the town of Castleblayney. With a park set on 900 acres of wooded terrain, activities on its Black and White Island include orienteering, nature walks/trails, water skiing and wake-boarding, coarse fishing, a peace garden and picnic areas.
For more information visit here.
Carrickmacross town is special for two very different reasons. In this Monaghan town, you will meet with a classic Irish success story, that of the beautiful Carrickmacross Lace, but also with one of the lowest points in Irish history at the Carrickmacross Workhouse.
From the floors of the children’s dormitory in the workhouse, the artist Orlagh Meegan-Gallagher has created three small travel boxes inscribed with the names Agnes Fox, Rose Sherry, and Mary Fee, three teenage girls and former inmates of the workhouse who were sent to Australia during the Great Hunger as domestic servants and prospective wives for settlers and convicts. You can hear their stories on guided tours of the workhouse and learn more about the fate of those who were forced to commit themselves to its walls in the 19th century.
On the other side of the town, we meet the story of Mrs. Grey Porter, who, in the 1820s, decided she wished to teach a skill that brought an industry to the women of her town. After the Great Hunger, she established a lace school to help the area’s starving people, a school that in turn evolved into the lace industry that has provided samples for the wedding dresses of Princess Diana and Kate Middleton.
Find more information here.
Patrick Kavanagh Trail
Live the words of famed Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh with a visit to the home and the land on which he wrote in the words of his people. Throughout 16 stops, visitors are brought from the Patrick Kavanagh Rural & Literary Resource Centre around the monasteries, round towers, bridges, dance halls, barns, fields, schools and churches that inspired Kavanagh. Finish up at the original Kavanagh homestead, where the poet was born in 1904.
Find more information here.
*Originally published in May 2022. Updated in May 2023.
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