Aughnacliffe

View of Inch Island from Culray, Aughnacliffe, County Longford.

Location
Aughnacliffe is a small village in North County Longford, located midway between the towns of Longford and Cavan. This part of the county is regularly described as a fisherman’s paradise.

Name
The Village of Aughnacliffe is home to the Aughnacliffe and Cleenrath Dolmens, two of four portal tombs in County Longford dated to c3800BC. The dolmen in Aughnacliffe gives the townland its name “The Field of the Stones”.

History & Info
An interesting place around Aughnacliff is the island of Inchmore on Lough Gowna, an ancient site associated with St Colum Cille and later an Augustinian Priory. Inch Mór Monastery ruins stand as a silent reminder of one of the oldest centres of Christian worship in the North Longford region. The monastery served the people as a place of worship and a sanctuary for the sick and destitute for several centuries. The monks lived a very hard life of work, prayer and fasting and Inch Mór was the original of the modern parishes of Colmcille, Purth and Mullinalaghta. In the twelfth century the Abbot adopted the Augustinian rule and so continued until the dissolution by Henry VIII 1543. In that year Bishop O’Farrell sought refuge there, having been expelled from Abbeylara. Later in the year the monks of Inch were also forced to flee the monastery that had been their island home and place of worship for close on 1000 years. It is now the tradition to celebrate with Mass on the island in remembrance of the death of St Colmcille, when he died peacefully in his bed in Iona Abbey on Whit Sunday at noon, 9th June in the year 597 AD, surrounded by his faithful monks. In the year 1950, the land on the island was divided and the graveyard was enclosed by stone from the old monastery, thereby greatly reducing the ruins of the old Abbey. In 1986/87, the re-erection of one of the original cut stone windows took place, thanks to money from the European Community. It had been blown over in a storm and was buried in the ground. It stands on the East Side of the old monastery facing the rising sun. The Tower Bell of Inchmore, found in Lough Gowna c1840,  is a cast bronze bell of early form, probably made in Italy or France in the 15th century. An inscription in Latin near the base has been partially deciphered: the word magister refers either to God or to a ‘master’ bell-founder. The bell is said to have belonged to the monastery of Inchmore in Lough Gowna,  Early tower bells are a rarity in Ireland and this is among the oldest known. The bell is believed to have been used to call the monks to prayer. Having been hidden for many years, it was recovered from the lake and hung in Dunbeggan (Aughnacliffe) where it remained the only bell  until the great renovation of 1932 when the present bell was installed.

Things to See & Do
The Dolmens/Portal Tombs of Aughnaclifff are well worth the visit. These tombs are thought to be places used for burial, ritual and religious activities.  About 200m north of Leebeen Lough stands the second spectacular Cleenrath dolmen, known locally as ‘Leaba Diarmuid agus Gráinne’, which when translated means  ‘the bed of Diarmuid and Gráinne’. The story of  Tóraíocht Dhiarmada agus Gráinne (‘The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne’), tells of Grainne, daughter of Cormac Mac Airt, the high king of Ireland, who was bethrothed to Fionn Mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool). She however, fell in love with Diarmuid, one of Finn’s band of warriors known as na Fianna and they  ran away together.  The jealous Fionn went in pursuit and chased them all around Ireland. The various places where they lay to sleep or rest  remain well noted in local legends.  Cleenrath portal tomb is one such place. Leebeen Park is located in the village of Aughnacliffe and has its own walk way, playground and outdoor exercise machines on the shores of Leebeen Lough. It’s a delightful spot for families young and old to enjoy the beautiful scenery and nature of the area. It’s also an excellent spot for angling. If angling is what you enjoy then the lakes of the Upper Erne system and Lough Gowna are only a few minutes drive away, while somewhat further north are the many lakes, which straddle the Longford/Leitrim border. Even if the fishing is not an interest, there is beautiful scenery for relaxing walks, cycling trips, and horseriding. Dernafest picnic area provides scenic views of Lough Gowna as well as also being a lovely space for families to picnic during the summer months. The village of Augnacliffe has a couple of local pubs which provide music and entertainment at the weekend.

Information on the heritage sites of  Aughnacliffe can be found on the Explore Longford App available to download for Apple and Android devices:

 

 

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