County Meath is One of Irelands Understated Travel Destinations

County Meath is One of Irelands Understated Travel Destinations

Located just north of Dublin, County Meath is an understated gem of a destination, overshadowed by the more famous southern and western counties of Ireland for tourist attractions. The proximity of the Meath to Dublin is actually a disadvantage to tourism in the county as many of those who come to see its sights stay only for a day as part of Dublin based tour, for example. In doing so, the visitor only gets a glimpse of the county that has so much to offer it merits more than a day trip. Known as the “Royal County” because of the association with the High Kings of Ireland at the wonderful prehistoric site at Tara, it provides a plethora of sights and activities for the day visitor or better still, the long stay traveller.

The most famous visitor attraction in Meath is Newgrange, the 5000-year megalithic tombs and passage grave settlement in the Boyne Valley. If possible, why not make a visit on the shortest day of the year and see the Newgrange Winter Solstice along with its lesser known but nonetheless fascinating sister sites of Dowth, and Knowth. The visitor centre that provides a huge wealth of information is called Bru na Boinne and is located south of the River Boyne just west of the town of Drogheda. The site is an UNESCO World Heritage site. Not as famous, but certainly very interesting, is Loughcrew another megalithic site to the west of the county, near the town of Oldcastle.

The Boyne Valley area is one of the most interesting tourist and heritage areas in Ireland. The River Boyne, joined by the River Blackwater at Navan, flows into the Irish Sea at Drogheda, a port town that straddles the border between counties Louth and Meath divided by the River Boyne. The Boyne River is probably the most historic and legendary river in the country with its association with the famous Battle of the Boyne in 1690 and the mythical legend of the Salmon of Knowledge found in its waters.

Sporting aficionados will be spoilt for choice with superb angling, golf and horseracing facilities. The latter is more than just a pastime in County Meath as an extensive breeding and training industry exists there. Navan and Fairyhouse are two of the most prominent tracks in the country whilst the annual Laytown Strand Races are unique in Europe. The quirky and homely hilltop course at Bellewstown hosts two cheery festivals a year.

Navan is the County Town of Meath, which is a large county, both in land mass and population. Navan has a population of 25,000 and the county population in the 2006 census was 162,000. Many residents of Dublin have migrated to Meath to live and commute to the capital thus ensuring that towns such as Ashbourne and Dunshauglin have overtaken Navan in size. Navan lies at the confluence of the rivers Boyne and Blackwater. Once famed for the production of its fine carpets, it is also the location of Tara Mines, Europe’s largest lead and zinc mine.

Navan boasts a range of quality accommodation, restaurants, hostelries and bars and is a good base for touring the Boyne Valley. Navan has a wonderful range of shopping facilities with several shopping centres hosting well known international and Irish brands. In Bective Abbey, just outside the town, the substantial remains of Ireland’s second Cistercian monastery founded in 1147 is located. This played a part in the film Braveheart where the main setting for the battle sequences in that film was Trim Castle, 15 kilometres south of Navan. The castle is open to the public and is the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland built by Hugo de Lacy over a 30-year period starting in 1176.

The excellent retail therapy in the county capital Navan is complemented by other towns of Kells, Trim, Ashbourne (the fastest growing town in Meath) and Oldcastle. Restaurant, hotel and spa facilities abound throughout the county and beach lovers are catered for with one of the finest beaches in Ireland stretching from Mornington through Bettystown to Laytown south of Drogheda. Many public parks and excellent walking trails are a feature of the Royal County.

County Meath may not be top of your list when you initially compile your priority destinations for a trip to Ireland but a little research will make you very aware of all it has to offer, and basing yourself there for a few days will surely enhance your travel experience in Ireland.

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