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COUNTY LOUTH, COUNTY KILDARE & COUNTY ROSCOMMON
Dundalk, County Louth, enjoys a great location, strategically located approximately midway between the two largest cities in the island of Ireland, Belfast and Dublin. The town's name, which was historically written as Dundalgan, has associations with the mythical warrior Cú Chulainn. The town's crest reads 'Mé do rug Cú Chulainn Cróga' meaning 'I gave birth to brave Cú Chulainn'. The Dundalk area has been inhabited since at least 3500 BC, in the Neolithic period. In 1169 the Normans arrived in Ireland and set about conquering large areas. By 1185 a Norman nobleman named Bertram de Verdun erected a manor house at Castletown Mount and subsequently obtained the town's charter in 1189. The modern town of Dundalk largely owes its form to Lord Limerick (James Hamilton, later 1st Earl of Clanbrassil) in the 17th century. He commissioned the construction of streets leading to the town centre; his ideas came from many visits to Europe. In addition to the demolition of the old walls and castles, he had new roads laid out eastwards of the principal streets.
The small fishing village of Carlingford on the Cooley Peninsula nestles between Slieve Foy, Carlingford Lough and the Mourne mountains. A unique blend of natural beauty, spectacular panoramas, myths and legends combine to make Carlingford a very special place. It is Ireland's best preserved medieval town giving it a unique feel and atmosphere. Carlingford is also the Oyster capital of the country and every August the oyster festival draws huge crowds into the pretty village of white washed cottages and ancient clustered buildings. The mythical Tain Way walking route starts in the town and completing even a short portion of it will reward you with magical views of Carlingford Lough and the Mourne Mountains.
At Monasterboice, you'll find the impressive remans of an early Christian settlement, founded by Saint Buithe in the late 5th century. The site encompasses two churches built in the 14th century, and an earlier round tower. Monasterboice is hoiwever by far most famous for its wonderful High Crosses. The 5.5-metre Muiredach's High Cross is regarded as the finest high cross in the whole of Ireland, and depicts scenes from both the New & Old Testaments of the Bible. The round tower is about 35-metres tall, and in very good condition. The tower provided refuge for monks and monastic valuables during Viking attacks. The tower door used to be several feet above ground for this reason, but as the earth has risen through the centuries, the door is currently at ground level. It is not possible to enter and view the interior of the tower, but Monasterboicve is still a very worthy stop, and admission is free.
IRISH NATIONAL STUD & JAPANESE GARDENS
Established in 1946, the Irish National Stud combines an active role in the development and promotion of Irish bloodstock. One of the country's major tourist attractions, it is the only Stud farm in Ireland open to the public, and encompasses:
*The Irish National Stud - Home to some of Ireland's finest thoroughbreds.
*Japanese Gardens - The finest Japanese Gardens in Europe.
*Saint Fiachra's Garden - Woodland and lakeside walks.
*Horse Museum - a state of the art modern exhibition where the Sport of Kings comes to life.
BOYLE OF ABBEY
The famous Abbey at Boyle was the first successful foundation in Connacht of the Cistercian order of monks, which had opened its first Irish house at Mellifont, County Louth, in 1142. Though mutilated during the 16th & 17th centuries, when it was used to accommodate a military garrison, Boyle Abbey is nevertheless a very well preserved monastery. Dominated by a squat square tower dating from the 13th century, the Abbey has certainly retained its ability to impress visitors. The Abbey design was influenced by styles from Burgundy, from where Cistercians came to Ireland. The decorated corbels and capitals were likely carved by local masons, some of them members of the so called ‘School of the West’. This same School is responsible for creating some of the most inventive architectural sculpture of the 13th century in Ireland's west. A restored gatehouse dating from the 16th & 17th centuries houses an exhibition.
BOYLE OF ABBEY
© Copyright Andreas F. Borchert and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence