So what really are he top sights of Leinster, the must-sees in the East and South-East of Ireland? The Irish province of Leinster has so much to see that it is difficult to make a choice. Which means that I have taken the easy way out, and included mainly sights and attractions within commuting distance of Dublin. This will suit visitors who want to stay in one central location and plan manageable day trips.
Best explored on board of one of the numerous bus tours or on foot, Dublin is relatively small. It is, however, rich in history as well as full of sights and museums. Dublin can keep the tourist busy for a whole week. Avoid the city center on Saturdays when half the population of Ireland seems to go shopping here! And try to see all of Dublin's top ten sights, and maybe some lesser known parts of the Irish capital too.
Not a single sight, but a historic landscape on the banks of the Boyne, dotted with prehistoric monuments. The largest are Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. Newgrange and Knowth can only be visited by tour from the modern visitor centre. Be there early and plan for a half day (at least) to take in the whole experience.
The ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland, now little more than immense earthworks covered with grass. The excellent audiovisual show in the disused church will help you understanding the importance of this site.
Here you will find one of the most important early Christian settlements here. And its setting is simply beautiful, in a valley beside two tranquil lakes. Lovers of history and/or architecture can indulge in two round towers, St Kevin's Kitchen (actually a church incorporating one of the round towers) and a cathedral (in ruins). Lovers of nature can simply enjoy the walks along the lakes.
A round tower, two churches from the 13th century and a medieval sundial are amongst the attractions of this monastic site near Drogheda. But the real treasure is the "Cross of Muiredach". This 20 feet high cross was carved in the 10th century and has numerous biblical illustrations. The west face illustrates the New Testament, the opposite side has scenes from Cain and Abel to the Last Judgement.
Mellifont Abbey, hidden in a peaceful remote valley, is a total contrast to Glendalough and Monasterboice - mainly because this was the first monastery run by non-native monks. Founded in 1142 by Cistercians it was built on French plans. Now mostly in ruins, but the nice octagonal
(a bathroom) is a gem.
Loughcrew Megalithic Cemetery
Near the small town of Oldcastle a string of hills divides the Meath plain from the Cavan drumlins and lakes. And on top of these hills Ireland's second largest megalithic cemetery can be found. Known locally as
, literally the Hill of the Old Hag. A steep climb is rewarded by great views and fascinating Stone Age art on many boulders. You can actually enter the tombs, a key is available (see signpost at car park for further directions).
Trim Castle and Town
Today just half an hour's drive from Dublin, the town of Trim was an important pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages. "Our Lady of Trim" was worshipped here, so a modern statue reminds us. For today's traveler the massive castle at the center of the town is more attractive. This is one of the largest Norman castles in existence and only part of the historical ruins in Trim - the Royal Mint was nearby, the Yellow Steeple towers on the other side of the Boyne and further along the river are ruins of a church and a Hospitaller house.
Mostly known for the "Book of Kells" (actually kept in Trinity College for centuries), the small town between Navan and Cavan is well worth a visit. The local museum in the old courthouse has a replica of the book, much more accessible than the original. Near the Anglican church you will also find a splendid round tower, a number of high crosses (one curiously unfinished) and a small Early Medieval oratory.
Just south of Dublin the looming Wicklow Mountains provide an opportunity for near endless walks, fresh air and solitude. Attractions like Powerscourt and Glendalough as well as the pure nature on the Sally Gap are firm favorites for short escapes from Dublin. Signposted "movie drives" take you to the locations of films like "Braveheart".