Visiting County Monaghan? This part of Ulster is one of the counties located in the Republic of Ireland rather than in Northern Ireland and has a number of attractions you will not want to miss. Plus there are some interesting sights that are slightly off the beaten path. So why not take your time and spend a day or two in Monaghan when visiting Ireland? Here are some ideas to make it worth your while.
County Monaghan Basics
Here are some background facts every visitor should know about County Monaghan, part of the Irish province of Ulster, but also part of the Republic of Ireland:
- The Irish name for County Monaghan is Contae Mhuineacháin, which would translate as "the county of small thickets" or "small hills".
- Nicknames for Monaghan are "the Farney" (the name of a medieval kingdom) or "the Drumlin County," a fitting description of the landscape dominated by drumlins, small hills rounded during the ice ages.
- Irish cars originally registered in County Monaghan will bear the registration letters MN.
- the county town of County Monaghan is Monaghan Town, other towns of regional importance are Carrickmacross, Castleblaney, and Clones.
- Monaghan has a size of 1,291 square kilometers and the 2011 census recorded a population of 60,483 inhabitants.
Though it does not usually top the list of must-sees in Ireland, Monaghan is, however, good for a leisurely stroll and a look at the townscape. Start at the Diamond, the central square in town and home to the Rossmore Memorial—a drinking fountain reminiscent of a small church tower. Also look at the market hall from the 18th century and the later courthouse. The Monaghan County Museum nearby will give you a quick history of the place and its surroundings. If you have more time, climb up the hill to St. Macartan's Cathedral for a good view of the town and the countryside. And then head out to the Rossmore Forest Park for leisurely walks.
The Round Tower of Clones
Clones is an unassuming small town near the Cavan border and its round tower is almost hidden away. Yet the round tower of Clones is quite impressive. Standing in a churchyard setting (though hemmed in by a new estate on the other side), it rises an impressive 75 feet into the sky. Built in the 10th century, it is almost complete, with just part of the upper story and the conical cap missing. A short walk away you may also find the remnants of the Ulster Canal—which are closed but many locals and the tourism industry hope that it will some day be restored. The canal stores on the edge of town are still used today.
Inishkeen and Patrick Kavanagh
If you plan to visit Monaghan, we recommend you read some of the work by the county's most famous poet, Patrick Kavanagh. There is even a Patrick Kavanagh Centre in Inishkeen, where the Irish poet and novelist was born in 1904. Must of his work is about life in Monaghan though he later lived, worked and died in Dublin in 1967. Regarded as one of the finest writers of the 20th century, he nonetheless gets eclipsed by the likes of Beckett, Yeats, and Joyce even though many can belt out "Raglan Road" like there is no tomorrow. Explore the life and works of the poet in Inishkeen, then do the Kavanagh Trail through the county.
Even if you can't afford the five-star price tag for a night's stay, stop for tea at the stunning Castle Leslie estate. One of Ireland's best castle hotels, the hunting lodge has been converted into luxurious guestrooms and there are extensive walks through the green estate.
Traditional Music in County Monaghan
Visiting County Monaghan and stuck for something to do in the evening? Well, then join the locals for a night out at the pub (which, by default, will be an "original Irish pub") and then join a traditional Irish session, which is always a good time when exploring smaller towns and villages. Most sessions start at around 9:30 pm or whenever a few musicians have gathered.
- Carrickmacross, "McNally's" - every second Friday
- Derrynoose, "Tossey's Barn" - first Saturday of the month
- Monaghan, "Market House Theatre" - last Thursday of the month; "The Shambles" - Thursday