37 Things to do in Meath, Ireland
Some visitors won’t know County Meath but is just north of Dublin, in Ireland’s Ancient East. If you have heard of Newgrange (Brú na Bóinne), Knowth, the Battle of the Boyne then you know Meath a little.
There is much more than this to do in Meath if you know what there is to see and do in this fascinating county. Meath is known as the “Royal County” due to its history of Tara and the High Kings of Ireland.
Things to do in Meath
Right – since there is a lot to do in Meath and some of you know the most renowned sites let’s start off with the Boyne area. This is a beautiful drive if you have rented a car as it can be difficult to get to via public transport.
Boyne Valley Drive
The Boyne Valley boasts over 9000 years of history and there are many attractions in the area that are all pretty close to each other.
Bru Na Boinne – Newgrange
Newgrange is a Neolithic monument that was constructed about 5,200 years ago (3,200 B.C.) which makes it older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza. Designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO along with its neighbours KNowth and Dowth mounds. Newgrange is a large circular mound 85 meters (93 yards) in diameter and 13.5 meters (15 yards) high with a 19 meter (21 yards) stone passageway and chambers inside. The mound is ringed by 97 large curbstones, some of which are engraved with symbols of megalithic art.
A circle of standing stones also surrounds Newgrange. Nobody is really sure why and what they mean but it appears to be of some kind of astrological function. The Stone Circle was erected sometime after 2000BC and research has shown that one of the stones of the circle lies directly on top of the Early Bronze Age Pit Circle.
Knowth and Dowth are similar mounds to Newgrange and from the site, you can make out the front of smaller tombs throughout the valley that are waiting to be excavated.
Knowth is known as a multi-period site meaning that it covers many hundreds of years of use. There are 18 tombs that surround the largest mound and some are older but many haven’t been excavated yet.
Dowth is one of the tombs that is still to be excavated but it has been proved that two passage tombs lie within the mound.
Hill of Tara
One of the most revered and ancient historical sites in Ireland is Tara the ancient Irish seat of the High Kings. It is a huge site that is continually being investigated archaeologically. Tara encompassed the Rath of the Synods, The Mound of the Hostages and the Stone of Destiny or the Lia Fáil.
Trim Castle is where the movie Brave Heart, Mel Gibson’s Scottish epic was filmed. The castle is open to guided tour only and takes around an hour and a half. There are some who say the Castle is haunted Monks have been seen wandering throughout the ruins and guests in the Trim Castle Hotel (which is across the road) and some have seen nuns praying at the foot of their bed in the hotel. The hotel sits on the grounds of an old Cemetery for nuns.
Athlumney Castle was first occupied by the Dowdall family. It originally consisted of a 15th-century four-story Tower house. In the 1630s, a large mullion windowed strong house was added. The house was occupied by the Maguires who in 1649 set fire to the building rather than surrender it to Cromwell’s forces who were scouring the area razing all in their path to the ground. The Castle was again set alight around the time of the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 and has remained a ruin since.
Golf in Meath
If you are a golfing fanatic you will find some serious golf courses in Meath. From the Royal Tara to the course at Killeen Castle. There is at least a dozen golf clubs and courses in Meath that are rated excellent and the Irish Golf Advisor will provide ratings and lots more information on all these courses.
Dunmoe Castle ruin sits on the banks of the River Boyne. The Castle was built in the 15th Century and was home to the D’arcy family. The Castle did originally have four turrets but now, there stands only two left. During the Cromwellian invasion in 1649, the Castle was fired upon from the South bank by passing troops on their way from Drogheda to Athboy but avoided any real damage even during the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. It remained intact until it was destroyed by fire during the 1798 rebellion.
The Loughcrew megalithic site is comprised of a series of tombs spread across the hills. The most important one, known as ‘Cairn T’ is open to the public. You can go inside and see the hollow shape inside the rounded tomb. There is artwork carved onto the stones inside. The most interesting thing about the tomb is that the passage lines up with the sunrise of the equinox like Newgrange’s.
Mellifont Abbey is a 12th-century Cistercian abbey with an incredible set of ruins that are quite breathtaking. There is an octagonal lavabo which is an ancient washing place for the monks before meals. The arches are quite Romanesque and the carvings really detailed. You can hear the river whispering in the background and if you listen carefully you can just imagine the chanting of monks as they went about their daily routines.
Slane Castle is set in the grounds of a 1500 acre estate. Not only is it the home of the Earl of Mount Charles but it contains a whiskey distillery, a glamping site and hosts some of the world’s premier musicians at its summer concerts.
Slane Whiskey Distillery
They turned a 250-year-old stable into one of Ireland’s most pioneering distilleries. The whiskey distillery provides tours and tasting sessions where you can learn about the history of whiskey in this fabulous setting.
Glamping at Slane Castle
Rock Farm Slane has five yurts and two shepherd huts on a 150-acre farm along the banks of the River Boyne. Suitable for everyone including children these luxurious yurts and shepherd huts are beautiful. There is a communal kitchen dining area and bathrooms and a large communal firepit with a pizza oven and you can swim in the river or use the outdoor hot tub.
A Holy Well
County Meath is home to Ireland’s most sacred Holy Well, just outside Kells, in Carnaross. Here you will find one of the most sacred of Holy Wells in Ireland. Even before it became a Christian shrine the well was believed to be a centre of pagan rituals.
Even today pilgrims and visitors have maintained the custom of leaving offerings at holy wells. If a tree hangs over the well (and there is almost always a tree) it is considered sacred as well and pilgrims will tie a scrap of cloth to the tree with their prayers, there is also a holy stone which many believed cured warts once touched.
Situated in a farmers field in County Meath, the site of the monastery at Castlekeeran is a haunting sight. The monastery was founded by Saint Ciaran, who died around 770 AD. The monastery was raided by the Vikings in 949 and later burned by Dermot Macmurrough.
An Ogham Stone
The Ogham Stone is situated in Keim Churchyard at CastleKeeran. The stone was found by someone digging a grave in the cemetery, it has been placed on a ledge, against the wall of the old church the inscription reads ‘COVAGNI MAQI MUCOI LUGUNI’. This writing is translated as Cuana son of the people of Lugh.
If you fancy learning about falconry then look no further than Newgrange Falconry. Here you can take a lesson and gets some hands-on experience of flying various birds of prey. If you’ve ever wanted to get up close and personal with owls, eagles and hawks then look no further than the Newgrange Falconry.
If you love a walk in the woods then take the time to visit Balrath which is called Knockcomra in Gaelic. There’s play areas for kids and three marked walking trails.
The Long Walk and the Nature Walk both begin shortly after leaving the car park. Follow the path from the main entrance into the woods until you see a sign for these pathways. Take a right into the woods and follow the path around. It is sign-posted. The Nature Walk is shorter than the Long Walk.
Monasterboice is near Drogheda, and it was founded in the 5th century by St. Bhuithe, one of St. Patrick’s original followers. Today the ruins are known for one of Ireland’s best collections of high crosses, in particular, The South Cross or Cross of Muiredach, the Tall Cross or the West Cross.
Kells Abbey is one of Ireland’s greatest monastic settlements. Gaelic Irish for Kells means “great residence,” and it was a royal residence much like the famous Hill of Tara. It wasn`t until the 6th century that Kells came to fame as a monastic settlement. St. Colmcille or Columba was granted Kells by the High King, Diarmuid McCarroll.
Most people have heard of the Book of Kells, which was found at the Abbey of Kells it remains one of Ireland’s greatest mysteries as to where it was created. Some believe it was made in Iona Scotland at the monastery established by St. Colmcille. The 9th century period was rife with Viking attacks and it is believed that the monks relocated to Kells in Ireland perhaps bringing the book with them. The book of Kells is now kept in the library at Trinity College where every day a new page is turned.
Battle of the Boyne
When you are in the area you must visit the Battle of the Boyne centre which commemorates the biggest battle in the history of Ireland that took place in 1690. There’s a lot to learn here and some great displays and an audio-visual display with a huge 3-dimensional map of the battle. The grounds are pretty spectacular as well.
Bective Abbey was founded in 1147 for the Cistercian Order by Murchad O’Maeil- Sheachlainn, King of Meath. Following the dissolution, the lands were rented and the monastery was used as a fortified house it was at this time that the tower was built giving the Abbey a much more imposing appearance.
The remains that are now visible at the Abbey date mainly from the 13th to 15th centuries. They include the church, chapter house and cloister. The cloister ruins are particularly well-preserved and feature pointed, gothic arches typical of Cistercian architecture.
Glorious Beaches in Meath
Meath is actually home to several beaches and the most popular are as follows:
One of the best beaches Bettystown is a long sandy beach which is perfect for family outings and swimming. It was on the beach here that the Tara Brooch was found by a woman who says she found a wooden box with the brooch in it.
Near the village of Laytown is a popular sandy beach that every year hosts a horse race right on the beach. The Laytown Races have been taking place here since 1868. The Laytown races occupy a unique position in the Irish and British racing calendar as it is the only race event run on a beach under the rules of the Turf Club
The Meath Gold Coast is a 10km stretch of gorgeous soft sand beach running from the River Boyne to the Delvin River and its ideal for swimming, sand and water sports and of course horseback riding.
Donaghmore Round Tower
Just outside Navan on you will spot the ruins of Donaghmore Monastic Settlement. Domnach Mór – the Great Church is the original Irish name and the Church was said to have been blessed by St. Patrick.
Mentioned in the Book of Kell it is stated that the monks at Kells bought the lands for 20oz of gold.
The deeds to the land are witnessed by Ó Dunan, Bishop of the northern half of Ireland, the King of Tara and Ó Fiachiach custodian of Donaghmore. The deeds are dated before 1094 and the lands and monastery were first inhabited by celibate clergy which eventually gave way to a community of married clergy.
The monastery survived until the tenth century and the round tower that you can see today was build during the Viking invasions.
Meath Farm Tours
The Open Farm
The Open Farm is a brilliant adventure for kids and adults. You get to meet the farm animals including Neddy and Danny the donkeys gather eggs from the chickens. There’s a billy goat called Steve named after Steve McQueen from the movies The Great Escape. There’s the “cowdashions” Kim and Khloe, five pigs including a Vietnamese potbelly and numerous geese and ducks. There’s parking and you can take a tea break at the Donkey Shed which serves some lovely grub.
A working farm Causey farm hosts events for most major holidays such as Halloween, Christmas and Easter and they also do team building and other corporate events. This 300-acre mixed-use farm breeds limousin-cross cattle, Belclair sheep, winter wheat, spring barley along with beets, turnips and kale.
Irish Military War Museum
Got a bit of spare cash? Fancy learning how to drive a tank? Well at the Irish Military War museum you can do just that for around €200 you can take a lesson. Within the museum itself, you will find one of the best collections of military vehicles from the Allied and Axis powers of WWII.
You will also find a petting zoo, playground and family park for the kids. The Museum also hosts workshops and talks and guided tours.
The Spire of Lloyd
Yes, a sort of inland lighthouse – the spire of Lloyd is a Victorian Folly in the shape of a Doric column with a lantern on top. It was built so that the owner could watch the horse racing. The views from the top of the Spire are off the Mourne Mountains in County Down. On Bank holiday Mondays the Spire is open to the public free of charge.
Said to be the oldest bridge in Ireland Babes Bridge has also been called the Robbers Bridge, Donaghmore Bridge or Mabes Bridge. It is a stone arch bridge that crosses the Boyne River. According to the Annals of the Four Masters, it was the only bridge that survived a great flood in 1330 that washed away all the Boyne bridges from Trim to Drogheda. The Annals of the Four Masters is a chronicle of medieval Irish History written in Donegal.
Not something I would ever visit I have to say but Tayto Park is perfect for families or adrenaline junkies that love a roller coaster. Tayto Park covers 22 hectares of land and is home to the Cu Chulainn Coaster, the largest wooden roller coaster in Europe. Lots of smaller rides and zoo, 5-D movies and lots of junk food to eat – what more could a kid ask for?
Pubs to visit in Meath
The Snailbox, Kilmoon
And now for the grown-ups, the Snailbox pub is a different kettle of fish that contains over 6000 baseball caps as its décor. If you want you can leave your cap in exchange for a Snailbox one. The pub hosts some fantastic traditional music nights and the food is pretty damn good too.
Bradys Pub, Dunboyne
Built in 1870 Bradys pub is one of the best traditional Irish pubs in Meath and recommended by the locals for the best Guinness around. On a Thursday you can take in a trad music night with all the singing you can join in on.
The Guinness Christmas commercial pub
A great little traditional pub it even starred in a Guinness commercial O’Connell’s pub is found in Skyrne and will fulfil all your Irish pub fantasies with its old floors, antique furniture and wooden ceiling. You won’t find craft beers here. Instead, it’s pints of plain, no food (except of course cheese & onion crisps). But there are excellent views situated as it is on the Hill of Skryne across the road from an old monastery from which you can see the Hill of Tara, Dublin Airport and parts of Co. Louth.
Where to stay in Meath
Exuding elegance and luxury, Tankardstown comprises an impressive 18th Century Manor House & Orangery; a central courtyard of Cottage Suites; adjacent to the Garden Village where casual Lunch and Afternoon Tea is available along with Classic Evening Dining in Brabazon Restaurant.
Connells House thatched Cottage
Connells House Thatched Cottage is set in Duleek and offers a restaurant and a garden. The accommodation is 30 km from Swords. The cottage has 4 bedrooms, a flat-screen TV, an equipped kitchen with a dishwasher and a microwave, a washing machine, and 3 bathrooms with a shower. Dublin is 42 km from the holiday home, while Slane is 15 km from the property.
Trim Castle Hotel
This hotel overlooks Trim Castle, which was used, among other things, as a filming location for the film Braveheart. It offers spacious rooms with free Wi-Fi. Trim Castle is the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland. The Trim Hotel has been designed to blend in with this historic setting while providing excellent service and modern amenities. The luxurious rooms at the Trim Castle Hotel have large windows and overlook the castle and its surroundings. They include a flat-screen TV and some have a balcony.
The Snug Cottage
The Snug is a recently renovated charming little cottage, self-catering. Just a very short drive to Loughcrew megalithic cairns, wake up early in the morning and enjoy the beauty of Loughcrew. You can see 16 counties from the top of Slieve na Calliagh, watch the beautiful sunrise over the cairns, when you are done you can go by the little coffee shop and museum. Loughcrew is the highest point in the Boyne Valley.
And there you have it 37 things to do in Meath which just goes to prove it’s not a County to be missed. You can swim, play golf, ride horses on the beach, visit ancient runes and learn Ogham it’s all here in Meath.
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