County Meath Activities
Worth getting out of bed for...
- Also known as the Hills of the Witch, the Loughcrew cairns near Oldcastle are a series of tombs dating back at least 4,000 years. The trek up is steep, but the views from the top are breathtaking – that’s if you have any breath left to take. Around the spring and autumn equinoxes, the sun illuminates the central chamber of the largest tomb.
- Arts and culture
- Traditional Irish music and dance abounds; catch a formal performance or an exuberantly informal pub gig; see www.comhaltas.ie for listings. The Snail Box near Slane (www.snailbox.ie) and Brogans in Trim (+353 (0)46 943 1237) both host regular evening shows. For insights into the Celtic past, visit the Brú na Bóinne Centre (+353 (0)41 988 0300) near Donore to see the eerie megalithic tombs of Newgrange; it’s very popular in summer, so go early to avoid the crowds.
- Something for nothing
- The Hill of Slane is where St Patrick is said to have lit a holy fire to burn the snakes out of Ireland. There are the dramatic ruins of a Franciscan monastery on the hilltop and, if you can climb your way up the twisting staircase in the belltower of St Patrick’s church, you’ll be rewarded with one of the best views in the county.
- Dublin’s boutique shopping is hard to beat, but there are some excellent craft and artisan studios in County Meath. We particularly liked Thomas Diem Pottery in Ashbourne (+353 (0)1 835 9083) and Seamus Cassidy’s woodturning studio in Navan (+353 (0)41 982 5032). If you want to sample some of the delicious local produce, Oldcastle has a farmers’ market on Fridays, while Kells holds its market on Saturdays.
- Dublin is only a short drive from Meath, and needs no introduction, but one of its most famous treasures hails from the Royal County. So, in between indulging in the shoppers’ delights of Grafton Street, and enjoying the city’s pub scene, why not take a quiet moment in Trinity College Library to contemplate the artistic marvel that is the Book of Kells? Some 1,200 years old, it’s reckoned to be the finest illuminated manuscript of the Western world (www.tcd.ie).
- Perfect picnic
- Head for the banks of the Boyne; we love the view from the fields across the river from the ruins of Trim Castle. The excellent George’s Patisserie in Slane (+353 (0)41 982 4493) is a good place to pick up freshly baked bread and sweet picnic treats. Once you’ve picnicked to your heart’s content, amble over to Trim Castle’s Norman fortifications. You may recognise them from Braveheart, and they’re worth a visit, if only to imagine lusty men brandishing broadswords.
- The Boyne Ramparts Walk runs from Navan along the River Boyne to Stackallen Bridge; it’s a beautiful five-mile stroll (ring the Solstice Arts Centre on +353 (0)46 909 2300 for details). There are lovely forest walks at Mullaghmeen and Deerpark a few miles outside Oldcastle; the area has plenty of fine picnic spots, too.
- Get them involved in a range of activities as diverse as nature walks, Irish dancing, turf cutting and cow milking at Causey Farm near Navan (www.causeyexperience.com). At Newgrange Farm in Slane, they can spend the afternoon meeting all the farmyard animals (www.newgrangefarm.com). The Moy Riding Centre in Summerhill specialises in children’s horse riding (+353 (0)46 955 7575).
- Head to Rathe House in Kilmainhamwood for a clay-pigeon shoot, off-roading or rafting (+353 (0)46 905 2376). According to folklore, County Meath held its own Olympics long before the Greeks; chariot racing might be a bit tricky to organise, but horse riding is still an option; try the Kells Equestrian Centre (+353 (0)46 924 6998). While in Ireland, why not take advantage of ‘the Mulligan’ – a discretionary free stroke – at the Navan Golf Club (+353 (0)46 907 2888) or Royal Tara course (+353 (0)46 902 5508). Alternatively, soar above the ruins of Trim Castle with Irish Balloon Flights (+353 (0)46 948 3436).
Easter Monday The Irish Grand National is run at the Fairyhouse Racecourse in Ratoath (www.fairyhouseracecourse.ie). May The Drogheda Arts Festival brings five days of street theatre, song and dance (www.drogheda.ie/artsfest). The Tattersalls International Horse Trials sees Ireland’s finest bloodstock on show (www.tattersalls.ie). July Le Chéile Festival in Oldcastle is a small yet hugely rich celebration of arts and music (www.lecheile.com). The Midlands Music Festival is a showcase for rock, pop and folk (www.midlandsmusicfestival.ie). August Slane Castle hosts the biggest live gigs in Ireland (www.slanecastle.ie); the Rolling Stones played in 2007. September The autumn equinox is marked by druidic ceremonies at ancient sites, particularly the Hill of Tara; similar events take place on the summer solstice in June.