Meath Attractions & Activities
Nature and Wildlife
Sonairte The National Ecology Centre
Situated on the bank of the river Nanny, Sonairte’s 2 acre site hosts a walled organic garden, nature trail and river walk. Sonairte environmental ethos echoes throughout the site, providing an ideal, relaxing space for visitors. At the cafe, shop and fortnightly market you can taste and buy the produce from Sonairte garden. Tourist information and a range of education and training courses also provided.
Historic Houses and Castles
Trim Castle, the largest Anglo Norman castle in Ireland, was constructed in this County Meath town over a thirty year period by Hugh de Lacy and his son Walter. Hugh de Lacy was granted the liberty of Meath by King Henry II in 1172 in an attempt to curb the expansionist policies of Richard de Clare (Strongbow).
Construction of the massive three storied keep, the central stronghold of the castle, was begun c. 1176 on the site of an earlier wooden fortress. This massive twenty sided tower, which is cruciform in shape, was protected by a ditch, curtain wall and moat.
This magnificent site experienced a renaissance in 2000 when it opened to the public after an extensive period of excavation and restoration. Access to the keep is by guided tour only for safety reasons and visitors also have access to the grounds of the castle where interpretation panels allow for self guiding.
Dunsany Castle, between Dunshaughlin & Trim in Meath, lies a short distance south of the Hill of Tara.It began as a Norman fortress in 1180; only four towers remain of the original, which has been altered through the years, with fine additions in the 18th & 19th centuries. It is the ancestral home of the Lords of Dunsany, heads of the Plunkett family, since the 1400’s. The family still live in the Castle, which holds a private collection of paintings, ceramics and furniture. Dunsany Castle also has a fine demesne, featuring the Abbey (1440). The family has opened the Dunsany Home Collection Boutique in the Castle, which stocks an important collection of unique tableware, linen and other special housewares & gifts, as well as books by Lord Dunsany (1878-1957)
Beside Athlumney are the ruins of Athlumney castle which has a 17th century house attached.
In 1649 when Cromwell was attacking Drogheda, the Maguires who occupied the castle set fire to it to thwart Cromwell. Nearby are the ruins of a 14th century manorial church with triple belfry. In the vicinity there is a motte and bailey.
Slane Castle is the residence of Ireland’s most famous aristocrat, Henry Conyngham, Earl of Mount Charles.
Slane Castle is set on the grounds of a 1,500 acre estate through which flows the River Boyne, a few kilometres upstream from the site of the Battle of the Boyne.
In the mid 1400.s the English were fully occupied in the Hundred Years War.To compensate for their military absence from Ireland a limited number of government grants of 10 pounds were made available to landowners in the Pale ,for the building of fortified houses.John Cornwalsh obtained a 10 pounds grant in 1465 for the building of Dardistown Castle.
Museums and Attractions
Kells Heritage Centre
Kells, in County Meath, is considered by many historians to be one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland.
The Kells Heritage Centre, in Kells County Meath,
houses a fine exhibition of facsimile artefacts from monastic times including a copy of the Book of Kells gifted to the town by Trinity College. A model of the town in monastic times allows visitors to see the original site within the existing town.
Please note that the Centre is Temporarily Closed.
You can, however, get information from the tourist office at Kells Town Hall.
An audio visual display ‘Kells the Splendour of Ireland’ explains monastic Ireland and the part Kells plays in that history.
Nearby the Lloyd Round Tower and the People’s Park and Playground are sited on the edge of the pale boundary. At the highest point in Kells you will also find the paupers graveyard, a permanent tribute to those who died in the Great Famine.
Today Kells is a pleasant and attractive town with all the commercial and leisure facilities one would expect to find in a town in modern Ireland.
Knowth Passage Tombs
Knowth Passage Tomb in County Meath was built over 5000 years ago, probably after the construction of Newgrange and before the construction of Dowth. The Great Mound at Knowth is similar in size to Newgrange and is surrounded by 18 smaller satellite mounds. The Great Mound has two passages with entrances on opposite sides, the western passage is 34 metres long and the eastern passage is 40 metre long, ending with a cruciform chamber.
Knowth and the other megalithic sites of the Boyne Valley were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993.
Note all admissions to Newgrange and Knowth are by guided tour from the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre located close to the village of Donore on the south bank of the river Boyne. Guided Tours of Knowth are from April to October, the last Tour is 90 minutes before closing time of the Visitor Centre.
Trim Visitor Centre
The Trim Visitor Centre offers the visitor an exciting ‘Power and Glory’ audio visual show detailing the historical background of the magnificent medieval ruins of Trim, in County Meath.
There is also a small gift shop at the Centre offering an array of prints, books and pop in your bag gifts. Once you are done shopping the Ramparts coffee shop serves mouth watering home made soup, bread and desserts. All the food served in the coffee shop is freshly prepared each day.
Hill of Tara
Though best known as the seat of the High Kings of Ireland, the Hill of Tara has been an important site since the late Stone Age when a passage tomb was constructed there.
The Hill of Tara was at the height of its power as a political and religious centre in the early centuries after Christ. Attractions include an audio visual show and guided tours of the site. Exciting new research and excavations by the Discovery programme team continue to add to our understanding of the site.
When I was a young spud, fresh out of the ground, I always dreamt of one day opening my very own park; full of all of my favourite things; good craic, good grub, adventure, nature, animals, a few surprises and of course… you, the Tayto eaters of this great Nation!”” So says Mr Tayto of Tayto crisps.
Tayto Park is an amusement park in Ashbourne County Meath. The Park offers over 100 attractions but the main draws are the animals: porcupines, Emus, wild cat, buffalo, highland cattle and many more make this a real safari adventure in Ireland.
There is free parking for cars and buses as well as disabled parking close to the entrance. Tayto Park is wheel chair accessible except for the Tea house in the Tree House and the Buffalo viewing platform. There are two gift shops in the Lodge building and a restaurant. Live music is preformed on the Grand Bandstand.
Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre
At the Battle of the Boyne Centre in Oldbridge County Meath learn of the historic battle between two Kings which occurred on 1 July 1690 (11th of July according to our modern calendar).
At this Royal County battle site on the banks of the river Boyne two rival monarchs did battle, King James II and his son-in-law, William III.
The Centre is located in the recently-restored Oldbridge House.
Both kings commanded their armies in person. William had 36,000 men and James had 25,000, the largest number of troops ever deployed on an Irish battlefield. At stake were the British throne, French dominance in Europe and religious power in Ireland.
Admission to the park lands and battle site walkways are free. There is a charge to enter the Visitors Centre.
Bru na Boinne Visitor Visitor Centre (Newgrange and Knowth)
Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre, in Donore, County Meath, interprets the Neolithic monuments of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. The extensive exhibition includes a full scale replica of the chamber at the World Heritage Site of Newgrange, as well as a full model of one of the smaller tombs at Knowth.
All admissions to Newgrange and Knowth are through the visitor centre, there is no direct access to these monuments. Visitors are brought from the visitor centre to the monuments by shuttle bus. This is a very busy site and visitors may experience a delay during the summer months.
Francis Ledwidge Museum
Francis E Ledwidge (1887–1917)was an Irish war poet from Slane County Meath. He was killed in action during WWI.
The Francis Ledwidge Museum, in Slane County Meath, is the cottage birthplace of Ledwidge. It is a perfect example of a 19th Century farm labourer’s cottage and was purchased and restored by the Francis Ledwidge Museum Committee in 1981. Dr Benedict Kiely opened it as a museum in June 1982. It houses the poet’s works and artefacts from WWI, alongside memorabilia of the period. It’s millennium exhibition portrays the poet’s life in picture and text from his birth in the cottage to his death at the third battle of Ypres, Belgium, in July 1917. In the beautiful and tranquil garden to the rear of the museum stands a replica of the original monument commissioned and erected by the city of Leper, Belgium, at the exact spot where the poet was killed on 31st July 1917.
Churches, Abbeys and Monasteries
The town of Kells in County Meath boasts ecclesiastical significance, as it was the site of a monastery founded in the 9th century by the monks of St Colmcille’s of Iona, Scotland. Not only was it the place where the famous Book of Kells was completed, but it also had a round tower and several significant high crosses, the remains of which can be seen today.
The most famous of Kells’ high crosses is the Market Cross, elaborately carved and standing nearly 3.5m high. It presently sits outside the Heritage Centre in Kells.
St. Columba’s Church
Found in Kells, St Columba’s Church was built in 1778, but the land on which it stands is one of County Meath’s most important ecclesiastical sites.
The church marks the location of the town’s original monastery, established in the early middle ages after the High King of Ireland gave Columba the fort of Kells to set up a religious community. It became the principal Columban monastery in Ireland, but in 918, it was plundered and the church destroyed.
Of the medieval structures, only the bell tower remains. The present church dates from the late-18th century, though it has been renovated several times over the years. In 1965, the gallery was converted into an exhibition space to display historic information about the site.
The 5,000-year-old Dowth is an ancient passage tomb found in the Boyne Valley, not far from Drogeda, County Meath. It is part of Bru Na Boinne Megalithic Cemetery, which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Dowth, which has suffered damage in recent centuries, had two burial chambers and a ritual basin. The site also includes prehistoric drawings and an early Christian souterrain.
The abbey at Bective was founded in 1147, though much of the remaining ruins date from the 15th century. The abbey sits overlooking the River Boyne, just 15 minutes from Navan in County Meath.
Bective Abbey was Ireland’s second Cistercian abbey, established after the success of nearby Mellifont. It was one of the country’s most important monastic settlements, as its abbot sat in the Parliament of the Pale. Additionally, Hugh De Lacy was buried there before being moved to Dublin.
The abbey closed after its suppression under Henry VIII and was made into a manor house handed over to civil servants in reward for their loyal work.
Due to its castle-like qualities, the site was also chosen as a location for the 1995 film ‘Braveheart’.
Killary Monastic Site
On the road from Kells to Ardee, travellers with find the early monastic site of Killary, County Meath. The area features the remains of a medieval church and fragments of three high crosses in the graveyard. The nearby Knock monastic site also houses ruins of an early, decorated cross.
County Meath is home to several fascinating megalithic sites, including Fourknocks, located near Ardcath and only about 16km from Newgrange.
Fourknocks is a 5,000-year-old passage tomb that was excavated by the National Museum in the early 1950s. Though the discovered artefacts were taken to the museum, visitors to the site can see abstract art decorations and one of the only prehistoric depictions of a human face in Ireland.
The Loughcrew Cairns, also known as the ‘Hills of the Witch’, are a group of Neolithic passage tombs dating back 5,000 years. They are situated just 3km east of Oldcastle in County Meath.
The tombs are spread out over three different hills and inside Cairn T, one of the largest tombs, visitors can see a cruciform chamber, corbelled roof and stunning examples of Neolithic art.
During the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, people traditionally gather at dawn to watch sunlight enter the Cairn T chamber and illuminate the interior of the tomb.
Situated in a tranquil spot near the River Boyne in County Meath, Dunmoe Castle was the home of the D’Arcy family from the 15th century. Cromwell attacked the castle in 1649 but no major damage was caused. In the late 18th century, however, a fire destroyed it, and today visitors can see what remains of the four-storey castle. It can be found between Navan and Slane.
Donaghmore Round Tower
The Donaghmore Round Tower is a well-preserved 10th-century construction situated just northeast of Navan in County Meath. The tower is found on the site of a religious settlement thought to have been established in the 5th century by St Patrick and left under the direction of his disciple, Cassan.
At the site, visitors can view the remains of a church and the round tower, which has interesting carvings and sculptures.
St Patricks Cathedral Trim
In the town of Trim, County Meath, people can visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which was built in 1803 on an historic site boasting a 15th-century stone tower.
The church was given cathedral status in 1955, though bishops had been enthroned there since the mid-16th century. The present building features the first stained glass window that Edward Burne-Jones designed.
National and Forest Parks
Lloyd Park and Tower
The Hill of Lloyd is 3km north-west of Kells and is a commonage owned by Kells Urban District Council and its predecessor, the old corporation since the 12th century. Its most striking feature is an 18th century folly in the form of a lighthouse, erectedby the son of the Earl of Bective in his father’s memory. The view from the lighthouse is spectacular.
Newgrange Open Farm & Coffee Shop
Newgrange Farm is a 333-acre farm situated in the beautiful and historic Boyne Valley and surrounds the famous National Monument of Newgrange. This is a genuine working farm / educational facility, where adults and children can try the “”hands on”” experience of bottle feeding, feeding, holding, petting, and seeing all the usual farm animals and poultry, and much, much more.
On Sundays and Bank Holiday afternoons (weather permitting) come and watch, and maybe become part owner of one of the sheep, in the Newgrange Farm Stakes Sheep Race. For booked groups and when there are sufficient numbers requiring it and farm work allows it a tractor trailer ride farm tour is available, down through the farm crops and livestock to the River Boyne and National Monuments. When you have worked up a good appetite, come and eat traditional home cooked food in The Old Byre Coffee Shop or relax in one of our outdoor or indoor picnic areas.
The gift shop has an array of toys and gifts to remind you of your memorable day out.
Woodfield Open Farm
Woodfield Open Farm provides the opportunity to see traditional farm animals and sample home cooking in the Rustic coffee shop.
Red Mountain Open Farm
Located just two minutes from Newgrange Interpretive Centre, the open farm is made up of two adjoining working farms, offering a range of experiences, many of them indoors. Indoor facilities are important given the unpredictable nature of the Irish weather and short days in the winter time. No matter what the weather, there is lots to enjoy.
The Causey Farm
The Murtagh Family have been farming in this part of Ireland for over a thousand years. We keep beef cattle, sheep and ponies. Join us for a day of fun and craic, and get to know our work, food, dance, sport, music and song. Sheepdog Demonstration and Farm Visit. Make Brown Soda Bread. Traditional Turf-cutting. Milk a Cow. Hurling Introduction. Weave a Sugán Rope. Bodhrán Lesson. Dance a Jig. Live Céilí Evening.
Alternative children’s programme for school tours including Giant Bubble Blowing, Clay Modelling, Treasure Hunt, Challenge Course.