South Longford Tour

View of Lough Ree from Saints Island, County Longford.

Edgeworthstown: The  driving route for the Southern part of County Longford begins by taking the N4 to Edgeworthstown ancestral home of the celebrated author Maria Edgeworth and her family who first settled here in 1583.  Edgeworthstown House, which once formed the centre of the cultivated Edgeworth circle which included the Pakenhams, Earls of Longford and the Lefroys, Chief Justices of Ireland, is now a private nursing home run. The Edgeworth family vault, in which Maria and other family members are interred is in the Churchyard of Saint John’s, a church founded by the Edgeworths themselves. Inside the church are memorial tablets to many of the Edgeworth family. There is also a table presented to Maria Edgeworth by Sir Walter Scott, the famous novelist. The adjoining cemetery contains some interesting graves including the 18th century tombstones of the Camlish branch of the O’Farrells of Annally and that of Isola Wilde, sister of Oscar Wilde, who was visiting her aunt at the time of her death. Other tings to see and do in the area include Midland Karting and Paintballing centre which  is located on the N55 just outside the town. For those with a love of nature Glen Lough Nature Reserve on the Longford/Westmeath border  is a National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Reserve and a designated Special Protection Area (SPA) under the Birds Directive.

Ardagh:  Leaving Edgeworthstown via the N55 and driving southward the next stop is at the heritage village of Ardagh. This picturesque village was the seat of the Featherstone family for three centuries. It remains one of the most beautiful villages in Ireland. There are several important heritage sites to see including St Brigids Church, St Patricks Church and the ruins of old St Mels, reputed to be  Mels final resting place. Ardagh Heritage and Creativity centre run a craft gallery and café here named after the legendary fairy Prince Midir and his beloved Étain. This ancient legend is recounted in several early Irish manuscripts including ‘The Yellow Book of Lecan’.  Brí Leith, named after Brí the daughter of Midir and her doomed love Leith, is according to legend, the site of Midirs palace and portal to the world of Tír na nÓg. A fairy Ball takes place here annually as does the traditional walk up Brí Leith on Bilberry Sunday.

Abbeyshrule: Driving further south en route to Abbeyshrule brings one either  across Bawn/Castlerea mountain traveling via Abbeyderg monastic priory or through the townlands of Carrickboy , Legan and Colehill. All of these areas have interesting heritage sites to visit. Abbeyderg and the  ‘Foxhall Stone Man’ in Legan  are perhaps the most well known.   Abbeyshrule itself is the site of Abbeyshrule Cistercian Abbey founded approx. 1200AD.  The village is the recipient of the Gold National Tidy Towns Award for 2013 and current gold medal recipient in the European Entente Floral Competition. Beautifully situated along The Royal Canal the harbour is a peaceful spot to go walking or have picnics. Both the Royal Canal and the River Inny are used by locals for a variety of water sporting activities and festivals. The Whitworth Aqueduct, built c1815, to take the Royal Canal over the River Inny can be viewed at Drumanure, just outside the village. Abbeyshrule is the location of Irelands only midland airport which hosts an annual Air Show and festival. Flying lessons can be taken from several separate flying schools which operate from the airport.

Ballymahon:  Ballymahon is a larger town built along the River Inny. There are delightful walkways along the river and The Royal Canal passes close by to the town at Ballybrannigan Harbour. Ballymahon is renowned for its water sports and is viewed by many as the adventure sporting capital of the county. The ‘Outdoor Discovery Adventure Company’ operates from this location. Newcastle House and Newcastle Woods are located on the Abbeyshrule side of town as are  several of the sites along the ‘The Goldsmith Trail’ eg. Pallas and Forgney Church. There are many indicators to Goldsmith around the town and several interesting buildings to view including the Community Library Building, once the Market House, and Ledwithstown House built c1746.

Kenagh: Travelling via the old village of Barry brings the driver to Kenagh. Another estate village, built around 1840, Kenagh is home to Longford’s most important archaeological site ‘Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre’.  Located a short distance outside the village, in the middle of Corlea boglands, lies this  interpretive centre for the largest Iron Age Trackway to have been found to date in Europe. Dated to 148bc the Trackway is on permanent display, preserved in a specially built space. The centre provides a fascinating insight to the boglands of the Irish Midlands and the way of life for people during this time period. Kenagh is built along the Royal Canal which provides a source of activity and entertainment for locals and visitors alike. Mosstown Harbour can be reached by driving a short distance in the direction of Newtowncashel. The National ISPCA Centre and Memory Garden is located a bit further along this Corlea Bog road, R392, in Derryglogher, Kenagh.  Heritage sites of interest in Kenagh include the King-Harmon Memorial Clock Tower and Mosstown Dovecote or Pigeon House on the old Mosstown Estate.  It also has a wonderful Lime Tree Avenue which makes for a beautiful walking experience.  The Augustian Monastery at Abbeyderg, Dominican convent at Foigha, Augustinian ruins and holy well at Kilcommock and the Wesleyan Church are all interesting sites to visit.

Saints Island: En route from Kenagh to Newtown Cashel is Saints Island and its Augustinian Priory founded by the Dillon family some time before 1259AD.   Research indicates that an earlier monastery was founded here by St Cieran before 542AD. Canon Augustine Magraidin, a noted ecclesiastical scholar who died in 1405AD, is associated with the priory. Although originally an Island, it is now connected to the mainland by a causeway across marshy ground. It is a beautiful and tranquil space to while away an hour or two in quiet contemplation. The shores afford stunning views of Lough Ree and its other islands, many of which also show the ruins of once celebrated churches and Nunnerys.

Newtown Cashel & Barley Harbour: Newtowncashel is another of Longfords award winning villages. Beautifuly located near to the shores of Lough Ree, Newtowncashel has several wonderful wooded areas in which to go walking, including Culnagore and Cashel Commons. A short journey outside the village lies Barley Harbour with its stunning views over Elfeet Bay and Lough Ree. This harbour, constructed in the1950s, provides safe and open access onto the lake and is used for recreation  by locals during the summer months. Boats may be launched by way of a stone-paved slipway and safe temporary mooring points are also available. En route to Barley Harbour is the studio of Bog Oak Sculptor Michael Casey and his son Kevin Casey. This father and son team of artists have had their work presented to many dignatories around the world such as Nelson Mandela, Ian Paisley, Seamus Heaney and others. The Caseys studio provides a space to view their  work and meet the artists in person. Bog-oak sculpture is a distinctively Irish art form, using ancient pieces of oak, preserved for over 6000 years by the country’s boglands. Examples of their work may be seen throughout their home  village of Newtowncashel.

Lanesborough: Bordering the county of Roscommon, the town of  Lanesborough is nestled on and divided in two by the River Shannon and marks the northern entrance to Lough Ree. This is an area noted for its fine angling most particularly at its ‘hot water stretch’ which attracts anglers from all over Europe. It is also surrounded by vast stretches of raised bogland unique to the midlands of Ireland. The Commons is a rich ecological area containing mixed woodland, limestone quarry, reedbed systems grading into freshwater marsh and dense species of rich scrub/verge grassland.  Heritage sites of interest in Lanesborough include St Johns Church of Ireland, which dates back to the 5th Century, and is one of the oldest buildings in Lanesboro. It was plundered during the Cromwellian and Williamite wars but was finally rebuilt in 1861. The church which lies on the outskirts of the town and is still in use, is a limestone building with large windows and gothic arches. In nearby Rathcline stand the ruins of Rathcline Castle. Situated 2km from the town of Lanesborough, overlooking Lough Ree, it was built around the 9th Century by the O’Quinn clan. Later it was fought for and taken by the O’Farrell clan and subsequently taken over by the Normans around the beginning of the 12th Century. Most interesting about this structure is the inclusion of Longfords second Sheela na Gig on the Northern splay. This ancient representation of female sexuality, rebirth and regeneration is the best of two to be seen in the county, the other being located at Abbeylara Monastery.

Kilashee: Killashee is a small village located along the route of The Royal Canal. The name is an anglicised version of  ‘Cill a Sidhe’, which when translated means ‘The Church of the Fairy Mound’ or ‘The Wood of the Fairies’. These translations could possibly be linked to the existence of a number of fairy forts (Sídhe) throughout the parish, and mounds or hills which overlook the village. Heritage sites of interest in the area include the historic Ballinakill Cemetery, located about 3 km northwest of the village. Research indicates that Ballinakill was the site of an important early Christian monastery known as Cluain Deochra founded by St Ernan in the 6th century.

Clondra: The last place to visit along the South Longford driving route is Clondra, a charming waterside village built on the banks of The Royal Canal.  Richmond Harbour in Clondra is the terminus of the Royal Canal and the point at which it meets up with the river Shannon. Made from finely cut-stone the Harbour  is one of the most imposing on the River Shannon, creating an idyllic setting for the village. The old stone mill with its weir and millpond is another fine building which adds to the charm of the area.  The Richmond Inn, which was once used as a flax mill, is now run as a traditional style public house renowned for its excellent food, drink, hospitality and traditional music nights. A nearby field, known locally as ‘the bleach’ was used for growing the flax which was soaked in water, left to dry in the field and then transported to Dublin via the canal barges. The houses alongside the Richmond Inn towards the lock keepers house were originally the homes of the mill workers and managers. This pretty village with its picture postcard setting of weirs, locks and water was also the point at which many emigrants embarked on their journey from Co Longford to America and the new world.

Information on the tours and trails of County Longford can be accessed on The ‘Explore Longford’ App available to download for both Apple iOS and Android Devices:
Android Store: http://bit.ly/1gMKZYY   Apple Store: http://bit.ly/1n104Kk

 

County Longford Tourism Office Market Square, Longford, Ireland    Phone: +353 (0)43 33 42577 +353 (0)85 8888876    Email: info@longfordtourism.ie