Slane Historic Town Walk
Slane is a heritage oasis on the River Boyne. Though synonymous with Slane Castle, 18th-century seat of the Conynghams, the estate town has long since forged its own identity.
The central feature of the village is an octagon built on an axis of four Georgian houses. The limestone buildings have a stately bearing, with their dressed quoins and cut-stone window jambs, but they’re a fountain of local lore too. One story suggests the houses were built for four spinster sisters who couldn’t stand one another. From separate domiciles, each could keep their own beady vigil.
Slightly north of the village, the Hill of Slane is where St. Patrick lit his paschal fire in AD433. The act defied Laoghaire, the pagan High King of Tara, but when Patrick explained the concept of the Holy Trinity with a three-leaved shamrock – so the story goes – Laoghaire gave him permission to preach the gospel. Today, the Hill hosts the ruins of a 16th-century church and friary.
Slane Castle dates in its current form from 1785. Tours are available and pick of the interiors is a circular ballroom in Gothic Revival style. You’ll also encounter several gifts sent by George IV to his mistress, Lady Elizabeth Conyngham… including a none-too-modest portrait of himself.
Of course, Slane Castle is also known internationally for its mega-concerts. Bowie, Dylan, Springsteen and U2 are just a few of the acts that have entertained the masses here.
Slane’s heritage trail includes two churches named for St. Patrick and, beside the canal and river, a fine example of a Georgian mill dating from 1766. Across the road, on the sloping southern approach to the town, you can see the looming south gate of the castle.
Slane is an excellent base for exploring the Boyne Valley too, with Newgrange, the Hill of Tara and medieval nuggets like Monasterboice and old Mellifont Abbey all just a short drive away.
Kells Heritage Trail
Begining at the Courthouse thus looped route covers the main heritage points of Kells town.
(1) Kells Courthouse (2) St. John’s Cemetary (3) Kells Town Hall (4) Market Cross (5) St. Columba’s Church and Grounds (6) St. Columcille’s House (7) Fair Green (8) Spire of Loyd (9) Kells Round Tower (10) The Churchyard Wall (11) Old Primary School.
Maps available on www.meathtourism.ie
Balrath can be enjoyed throughout the year. However, the ideal time to visit Balrath is in late summer/early autumn when there are plenty of leaves and some fruits/nuts on the trees, some wildflowers still in bloom and also some insect life to be seen. Spring and summer are also good times, especially to see woodland wildflowers in their natural habitat.
Woodlands are the natural state of Ireland’s landscape. Left alone, trees would eventually cover much of the country as they did thousands of years ago. Native species would have included oak, ash and yew, for example. As trees were cleared for farming and later, industry, our ancient woodlands vanished. Today we have the lowest percentage of wooded area in Europe.Much of Ireland’s landscape and the plants and animals (flora and fauna) that live here only arrived in the last 10,000 years, at the end of the last Ice Age. Because of this, Ireland does not have a huge diversity of species compared to Britain or the rest of Europe. There are many different types of woodland in Ireland. What we think of as a typical wooded area may be a relatively recent plantation. It may include several species such as beech, chestnut and sycamore that are not considered native trees, even though they have been with us for centuries.
Girley Bog Loop
Throughout most of history Irish bogs were impassable. To cross the wet, boggy terrain people built bog roads or ‘toghers’. In the 20th century, as the bogs were exploited for fuel, thousands of important archaeological finds were made – including swords, jewellery, trumpets and human bodies (preserved by the acid nature of the bog). !
Another interesting use of the bog was to keep butter cool during Summer – and there have been many finds of butter kept in wooden containers called ‘methers’.
Girley Bog is a site of considerable conservation significance as it comprises raised bog – a rare habitat in Europe and one that is becoming increasingly scarce and under threat in Ireland. The loop covers a variety of landscape of forest and bogland – and has been developed as an eco-walk with interpretive panels throughout. The early section traverses coniferous forestry planted on high bog – the trees are fast growing species (Sitka Spruce and Lodgepole Pine) that originate in North America. The main element of the loop is within the bogland where there is a wonderful variety of birdlife, plants and animals.
A-B. Leaving the trailhead, the trail follows a forestry track for 600m to a crossroads from where
the loop ‘proper’ begins. Turn right here.
B-C. The loop travels another 1km to reach the end of an old bog road. Here it turns left onto a woodland trail.
C-D. Now the loop passes through deciduous woodland and coniferous forestry to exit onto a forestry roadway. Turn left here.
D-E. Follow the forestry roadway for 1km before turning left and joining an access road to bogland.
Climb a stile at a gateway and follow a grassy track for 300m before turning left, and crossing a short section of bog before joining a bog roadway where you turn right at an interpretive panel. After a short distance the loop turns sharp right and follows a track through a line of trees.
E-A. Exiting the trees, the loop turns left onto an old bog road again and for the next 2km circles a raised bog area. The loop rejoins the outward section at the crossroads mentioned at B above, where it goes straight and covers the final 600m to the trailhead.
Boyne Ramparts Walk
This walk is known as the Boyne Ramparts walk and takes the visitor a distance of 8 km from Navan towards Slane along the banks of the River Boyne, parallel with the old canal. The walk will take you to Stackallen Bridge. Park your car at the carpark which can be found by turning left off the N3 for Ashbourne/ Duleek and the car park is located on your left. Beautiful wooded scenery and wildlife can be seen on this path.
Kells Historic Town Walk
At first glance, it’s hard to believe this small market town was one of the great centres of Celtic Christianity. But that’s exactly what Kells was, as even the most cursory inspection of its Round Tower and high crosses demonstrates. The town is nothing less than an outdoors museum.
Kells’ roots can be traced back to Viking raids on the Hebridean island of Iona in 802. The raids caused some of Iona’s monks to flee a monastery founded by St Colmcille, and they founded a new base at Kells shortly afterwards, the shape of which is still traced by the modern town.
There are two options on the heritage trail. Route I, measuring 4.5km in length and taking 70 minutes to complete, takes in the main sites in the town – including the monastic area where you’ll find the famous Round Tower. Dating from 1076, it’s one of the finest structures of its kind in Ireland.
Route II stretches for 5.3km and takes in St. Colmcille’s Well, the People’s Park and the Ringfort as it follows the Oldcastle Road. It begins at the Town Hall and Tourist Information point.
Back in the town centre, the churchyard also contains three ornate stone crosses dating from the 9th Century. The eight-foot cross in Market Square may have marked the boundaries of the monastery, and is decorated with 30 panels of carved illustrations (including the Sacrifice of Isaac and the Crucifixion). Such illustrations were generally used for religious instruction, though this high cross found other uses in Kells – the damage around its base may be due to English soldiers sharpening their swords.
Elsewhere along the trail is St. Colmcille’s House, a 12th-century oratory similar to the one seen at Glendalough, Co. Wicklow. You won’t find the Book of Kells (it was removed by the Church in the 15th-century), but there are facsimiles on display in St. Columba’s Church and the Town Hall.
Loughcrew Hill Walk
The Loughcrew Complex are smaller in scale than the monuments of Newgrange, Knowth & Dowth however are 5000 years old. Stunning views await the visitor.
Trim Historic Town Walk
On first encounter, Trim seems like a modest country town. Look around, however, at the ancient steeples and husks poking from the earth. Trim is home to one of the largest collections of medieval buildings in Ireland, as befits a town once destined to become the country’s capital.
Trim’s heritage trail begins at the Visitor Centre, passing 22 stops in this al fresco treasure trove. At the Visitor Centre, start by watching ‘The Power & the Glory’, a multimedia exhibition that paints a vivid back-story to the medieval ruins. From there, the trail continues to St. Patrick’s Church and the Wellington Monument at the junction of Patrick Street and Emmet Street.
What’s a monument like this doing in Trim? Arthur Wellesley, who was born in Dublin, studied at Talbot Castle here before making his name as the Duke of Wellington (“Just because one is born in a stable, does not make one a horse,” he famously remarked).
The beating heart of Trim’s heritage is, of course, the town’s remarkable castle, built by the Norman baron, Hugh de Lacy. The castle’s forbidding keep – a unique, 20-sided, cruciform building – once protected the outer reaches of the Pale, and more recently, doubled as York Castle in Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. It is amongst the largest Anglo-Norman castles in Europe.
After de Lacy, Trim went on to feature heavily in Irish history, playing a role in the Silken Thomas Rebellion and falling to Cromwell in the 17th Century. The town’s location on the River Boyne was a strategic one, and other historical features like the Yellow Steeple and St. Mary’s Abbey hark back to a time when Trim, and indeed the Royal County, played centre-stage in Irish history.
Today, Trim is a popular tourist stop off the new M3 motorway, a heritage town splashed with gorse and strewn with the bones of its history – a distinctly Irish time capsule.