County Monaghan is one of Ireland’s best-kept secrets, with beautiful scenery, castles and ancient history just waiting to be discovered.
Visitors will find round towers, historic castles and a drumlin-dotted landscape with beautiful lakes. County Monaghan has something for everyone.
Table of Contents
- County Monaghan – Steeped in History
- Location of County Monaghan
- The Meaning of the Name Monaghan
- Monaghan Town
- Monaghan County Museum
- Lisnadarragh Wedge Tomb
- Saint Peter’s Tin Church, Laragh
- Castle Leslie
- Lough Muckno
- Dartrey Forest
- Patrick Kavanagh Centre in Inniskeen
- Inniskeen Round Tower
- Thank You For Taking This Armchair Tour of County Monaghan
County Monaghan – Steeped in History
County Monaghan also has a rich and fascinating history. From beautiful parks that once surrounded historic homes, to intriguing heritage museums, County Monaghan is steeped in history with stories of times gone by that will fascinate visitors.
Tourists can also explore County Monaghan’s wonderful landscape, with its many lakes and drumlins creating an ever-changing natural tapestry of enormous beauty and diversity. The county is home to many lakes and drumlins – a geological term for small hills formed by glacial activity
County Monaghan offers modern amenities too – from hotels to restaurants – so visitors will never be stuck for choice. County Monaghan is the perfect destination for those looking to enjoy Ireland’s natural beauty in all its glory.
Location of County Monaghan
County Monaghan is one of the nine counties found in the Province of Ulster.
It is located in what is known as the Border Region, since it shares a border with three of the six counties found in Northern Ireland.
The county as we know it today has officially existed since 1585, when Queen Elizabeth I was the ruler of England and Ireland.
The ruling family and lords of the area were known as the Mac Mathghamhna (pronounced Mock Mah-gow-in-ah) or McMahon in English.
They were the ancient rulers of the kingdom of Airgialla, but for peace sake they agreed to join the Kingdom of Ireland under English rule. Their lands formed what we know as County Monaghan today.
The Meaning of the Name Monaghan
County Monaghan’s name is derived from the Irish word “muineacháin” (pronounced phonetically as mween-ah-kawn) and means “little hills.”
The landscape of this county is dotted with drumlins, or little hills. They consist of compacted boulder clay molded by the action of glaciers many thousands of years ago.
The Vikings plundered the area during the 10th and 11th centuries, and were followed by the Normans in the 12th century.
The ancient Gaelic ruling families of the county were the McMahons and the McKennas.
County Monaghan was severely affected during the Great Famine of the 1840’s, with many native Irish people forced to emigrate to the United States, England and Australia. There are many abandoned farmhouses found dotted around the countryside.
The county town bears the same name as the county itself.
The town center is made up of interconnecting squares called Market Square, Church Square, The Diamond and Old Cross Square.
The Rossmore Memorial stands in the middle of The Diamond. A memorial to the 4th Baron Rossmore it is an octagonal shaped Victorian style monument housing a fountain.
The unfortunate baron died after he was involved in a hunting accident at Windsor Castle in 1874.
Saint Patrick is said to have spent some time in the county and one of his most important followers and assistants was Saint Macartan of Monaghan.
The Roman Catholic cathedral in Monaghan is named after Saint Macartan.
Other notable saints from County Monaghan include Tiernach of Clones and Dympna of Tydavnet.
Old stone buildings found all around the town date back for centuries, and tell the story of a once prosperous economic center and county town.
Monaghan County Museum
Monaghan County Museum offers an externsive collection of artifacts and exhibitions covering the history and story of the county for the past 10,000 years.
It first opened its doors to the public in 1974. The staff are proud of their county and they love to share the cultural heritage and history of their much loved region with visitors.
Clones is a town on the western side of County Monaghan. It lies very close to the border with Northern Ireland.
It was originally a very important monastic settlement.
The center of the town is known a the Diamond. In Ulster many towns were built around a central diamond shaped area, rather than a town square.
Evidence of the town’s ancient past are evident to this very day.
The remains of a Norman Motte and Bailey can be found in the town. Constructed in 1212 AD, evidence of the conical mound, terraces and ditch still remain. A wooden tower probably stood on top of the earthen mound.
It was built as a defensive structure by the Normans who wished to protect themselves from the surrounding Gaelic Chieftains and their clans.
The Motte and Bailey only survived for about one year, beacause it was attacked and destroyed by the native Irish soon after it was built. However, evidence of this Norman structure can still be seen in Clones.
Clones Celtic Cross
A sandstone Celtic Cross stands in the town of Clones, and dates from around the tenth century.
It is in fact a combination of two separate crosses from the era. The original two fragments are from the remains of a monastery that was founded on the site by Saint Tighernach (pronounced as teer-nock and meaning Tierney).
The reconfigured cross, consisting of the base of one cross and the shaft on another, stands at a height of over 4 metres.
It depicts scenes from the Bible, engraved in stone on its surfaces.
It is an impressive sight standing tall in the middle of the Diamond, the central region of the town.
Clones Round Tower
The remains of a round tower stand 75 feet in height above the town of Clones and are part of the early monastic settlement found by Saint Tiernach around the year 500 AD.
The tower may no longer boast a roof, but when it was first built in the 9th century it was probably used as a place of storage.
When the Vikings invaded Ireland, from 795 until they were defeated at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, this tall stone tower provided a place of refuge. It was also a lookout tower to survey the surrounding countryside for any threats. In times of danger the monks could retreat into the safety of the tower.
The tower was originally around 90 feet high. The stone roof was conical in shape.
There were four storeys built inside the tower and the very top storey, or ‘penthouse suite’, had four windows.
The entrance door was located 8 feet above the ground.
The roof of the building collapsed sometime before 1739.
Ulster Canal Stores and Lace Museum
Clones also has many attractions for people interested in history, including the Ulster Canal Stores Visitor Centre which tells the story behind this important waterway and remnant of the past.
This museum boasts many interesting exhibits and audio-visual displays.
County Monaghan is home to the Ulster Canal which provides a navigable route for boaters from County Cavan in the South to County Armagh in the North. It flows beside the town of Clones.
It was once a key transportation route and econonomic driver for the town. This was before the days of motorways and mass transportation.
One of the old canal storehouse buildings from the 1800’s has been refurbished to create a Lace Museum, restaurant and craft shop.
The museum shares the social history of the area, and the staff of the Ulster Canal Stores can prearrange guided heritage tours of the area.
Cassandra Hand Folk And Famine Centre
One really great place to visit for anyone who wants to learn more about lacemaking, is the Cassandra Hand Folk & Famine Centre in Clones.
Here you’ll find works which explore how people deal with memories through storytelling, as well as photography referencing themes like migration, climate change and cultural identity. These exhibits all reflect County Monaghan’s unique past and present.
The Cassandra Hand Folk and Famine Centre helps illustrate the history of this area through its pictures and stories, detailing County Monaghan’s difficult journey in the 19th century as well as today.
Carrickmacross is a busy market town with a long and vibrant history. Visitors will find many interesting things to do from outdoor activities such as fishing or golf, to indoor activities focused on the areas culture and history.
Lace making is what Carrickmacross is most famous for, and museums around the town and county celebrate this amazing heritage.
County Monaghan is home to the Carrickmacorss Lace Co-op and Gallery, where this world famous lace continues to be made today.
It was first introduced to the area in 1820 by Mrs. Grey Porter of Donaghmoyne. She decided to teach the local women this intricate craft so that they could independently earn extra money for their families.
Hand stitched lace that boasts incredibly intricate designs, Carrickmacross lace has been commissioned by Royalty for centuries.
From Queen Victoria to Princess Diana, many of England’s royalty have worn these handcrafted masterpieces.
County Monaghan Workhouse was built in 1844 and at one time housed five hundred inmates at the height of the Great Irish Famine. By the early 1900s it had been reduced to housing just over two hundred.
The building is now owned by Carrickmacross Industrial Development Association (CIDA). It has a variety of uses including as a day service centre for people with disabilities.
It also hosts an important exhibition which features replicas illustrating life inside County Monaghan’s workhouses during the famine years.
The County Council recently purchased additional land on which they hope to develop another local attraction – the County Monaghan Museum and Heritage Centre.
Lisnadarragh Wedge Tomb
Lisnadarragh Wedge Tomb is found west of the town of Ballybay, near the border with County Cavan. It is an archeological site dating back to the Neolithic period around 5000 BC.
The tomb is made of upright stones with one end having a roofing stone that was used for covering the burial chamber.
There are many wedge tombs County Monaghan, some of which have been lost to history, but some like Lisnadarragh still stand as reminders of our past.
These tombs are called wedge tombs because they have an entrance on their longest side, with two sloping pieces or wedges which slope in towards each other from opposite sides.
They were associated with communal burial, and the roofing stone is a sign that this was most likely the burial place of an important Irish man in days long, long ago.
Saint Peter’s Tin Church, Laragh
St. Peter’s Tin Church in Laragh is constructed of tin, and is the only such church found in Ireland.
The design is quirky and it dates back to the 1890’s. In 2014 it was listed as a Building of National Importance by the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
It’s located in an idyllic woodland setting, standing high upon a rock and overlooking a beautiful stream. It boasts intricate architectural details
Laragh, was once a mill village in South Co. Monaghan. This amazing church was a gift from the mill owner James McKean to his wife. While honeymooning in Switzerland she visited a similar church and fell in love with the design.
The church was deconsecrated in the 1950’s and unfortunately fell into disrepair. However a local community group came to its rescue in 2012 , and it was re-opened in 2014 as a venue for musicians and drama groups.
Castle Leslie Estate lies on 1,000 acres of drumlin dotted Irish countryside, and boasts magnificent ancient woodlands and sparkling freshwater lakes.
It is one of the last remaining Irish Castle estates that is still owned by the family who originally founded it.
The Leslie family has called this estate home since the 1660s.
They now welcome guests to experience a luxurious castle stay in their 5-star hotel and spa. This is one of Ireland’s most sought after castle hotel destinations.
Glaslough Heritage Trail
The picturesque village of Glaslough lies just beside the Castle Leslie Estate and its history is intertwined with that of the family.
This was once a railway village, and the stories found along the heritage trail tell of a town whose economy and history depended upon agriculture and the railroad.
The Victorian style buildings are beautifully maintained and this heritage trail takes visitors through the village and into the demesne of the magnificent castle.
Lough Muckno is County Monaghan’s largest freshwater lake. It offers spectacular scenery, nestled in a valley surrounded by drumlins, woodlands and fields.
Lough Muckno Leisure Park is located on its shores and consists of about 900 acres of wooded countryside. Activities just waiting to be enjoyed include fishing, walking trails, water sports and picnic areas.
Lough Muckno Leisure Park is situated close to the town of Castleblayney. This picturesque lake is an international angling venue.
Dartrey Forest, was formerly part of the estate of the Dawson family, a prominent land owning family in the area.
It is currently managed by Coillte, the governmental agency that manages Ireland’s forests.
The forest is bordered by a Famine wall which stretches a good distance along the road from Cootehill to Rockcorry.
The Dromore River runs between a series of lakes in this area, adding to the magnificence of the landscape.
Patrick Kavanagh Centre in Inniskeen
The small village of Innisheen is the birth place of the Irish poet, Patrick Kavanagh.
A visitor center dedicated to the poet is found in the former St. Mary’s Catholic Church, where the poet was baptized in 1904.
A new church was built for the parish in 1974 and the old church was then deconsecrated. This old church features in Kavanagh’s novels, Tarry Flynn and The Green Fool.
The poet is buried in the adjoining churchyard, with other members of his family.
The exhibition at the Patrick Kavanagh Centre honors the poet’s life and accomplishments, explores his writing and inspirations, and celebrates his legacy as one of Ireland’s greatest poets.
You’ll find his poem about his mother in our collection of Irish poems for Mother’s Day.
Inniskeen Round Tower
An old ruined monastery dating back to the year 685 AD can be found in the village of Inniskeen.
It was founded by Saint Daig, a student of Saint Ciaran. Local folklore tells that Saint Colmcille blessed the monastery upon its foundation.
All that remains of the once proud and tall round tower is the stump.
Less than 40 feet now stand, of a tower that was once about 100 feet high.
It was burned in the year 789 AD.
Thank You For Taking This Armchair Tour of County Monaghan
I hope you enjoyed this photographic tour of the many wonderful tourist sites to be found in County Monaghan.
The Monaghan Tourism website is a fantastic resource for anyone planning a visit to the area.
This little corner of Ireland is off the well worn tourist track, and one of Ireland’s hidden gems.
It’s well worth considering as a destination on your next trip to Ireland.
Wishing everyone happy travels throughout Ireland’s thirty-two counties.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom