East Coast and Lakeland's Region is a region of great contrasts, the long flat East Coast, the plains of Kildare and Meath, famed for horse breeding, and the mighty River Shannon. The immense beauty of the Wicklow Mountains, to the Slieve Bloom Mountains and the Cooley Mountains to the southwest and the northwest, the region has many surprises. It is historic in myth and legend, holding many relics of bygone days, from the High Kings of Ireland to the saints and scholars who transformed the shores. There are a wide variety of good quality accommodations at various price ranges, along with excellent dining. All eight counties are within a two-hour drive from Dublin.
Cruising holidays on the River Shannon, with its many lakes, the Grand Canal and Barrow Rivers, are available for an overnight stay or day cruise.
In this region there are many heritage towns and villages whose origins date back centuries to the Celtic monasteries, or Viking and Norman invasions. Some were market towns or seaside locations where people liked to bathe. Their architectural styles, the presentation of their history, the various tours within the towns, and their individuality have designated this honor. These heritage towns are noted after the counties.
County Cavan is located in the Province of Ulster bordering the counties of Leitrim and Longford to the west, Meath to the south, Monaghan to the east, and Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, to the north. The highest point is Cuilcagh Mountain, between Leitrim and Fermanagh. Ireland's longest river, River Shannon, has its source on the southern slopes of Cuilcagh. The county has been made famous in song with Cavan Girl and Come Back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff, a town in Cavan. Cavan offers numerous lakes for excellent coarse fishing and water sports. Cavan comes from the Irish Cabhan, meaning hollow. Some of the major towns in Cavan are Cavan, Cootehill, Bailieborough, Killeshandra, Virginia, Belturbet, Ballyjamesduff, and Kingscourt, many which have become familiar due to songs.
- Cavan Town is home to Killykeen Forest, 12 kilometers west of the town. There is a large complex within the forest that offers accommodations and various activities for visitors. Killykeen and Lough Oughter are renowned for coarse fishing with breeam, roach, perch and pike as the main species. International competitions are held within the park. A full equestrian centre, that includes instruction, is available for trekking for a few hours or a full day excursion. Wildlife is abundant within the forest where the visitor can enjoy walking and hiking. Scattered throughout the forest are crannongs and lake dwellings.
- Bailieborough has it origins in the Plantation of Ulster when William Baillie was granted the lands of Tandragee. Here he built a castle and enclosed the demesne. The market town contains much history, and offers a variety of interesting attractions and walking tours.
County Monaghan is bordered on the northwest by County Fermanagh, the north by Tyrone, on the east by Armagh, on the south by Louth and Meath, and on the west by Cavan. Patrick Kavanagh, one of Ireland's finest poets, celebrates the county in poetry. Monaghan offers historic sites and a myriad of outdoor activities. Since the 1820's lace work has been created in this county in the towns of Carrickmacross and Clones. There are numerous water activities for enjoyment, including, water skiing, fishing, windsurfing, and canoeing. For the horse enthusiast there are equestrian centres for all levels of horse riding. For the golfer there are 18 and nine hole courses throughout the county.
In Irish, Cill Dara, means Church of the Oak Tree. It is home to some of Ireland's finest thoroughbreds. Horse breeding and racing are prime activities. There are beautiful grasslands and peatlands, crossed by canals and the Barrow and Liffey Rivers. There are the Japanese Gardens, the National Stud and Horse Museum, heritage towns of Athy and Kildare. Theobald Wolfe Tone is buried in Bodenstown Graveyard. Activities include horse riding, golfing, fishing, and cruising.
- Athy, an ancient town dating back to the second century, is situated on the River Barrow. The town was part of the Anglo-Norman invasion and developed under Richard de Clare, better known as Strongbow. Religious freedom was suppressed under King Henry VIII until the 18th Century. Prior to the Great Hunger in Ireland, Athy was a thriving, prosperous town. The Heritage Centre, located in the 18th Century Town Hall, tells its history and progress through a variety of mediums.
There are many walking trails and rolling hills through the Sleive Bloom Mountains, which border County Laois in the north, and County Offaly in the southeast. The River Noire and the River Barrow are the principle rivers in the county. There are ancient ring forts, burial grounds and monastic sites to explore, such as, the Rock of Dunamase, Timahoe Round Tower, Emo Court and Gardens.
- Abbeyleix is an estate town with tree-lined streets, period houses and heritage trails. It is near the 12th Century Cistercian Monastery that gives the town its name.
County Longford is one of the smallest inland counties, with extensive waterways for water sports and fishing. Visit Corlea Bog Centre and Carigglas Manor. There are a variety of summer festivals with good entertainment.
- Ardagh is the town where St. Patrick made St. Mel one of the earliest Irish bishops.
County Offaly North
Visit Tullamore, a heritage town, famous for its Whiskey, Tullamore Dew. Explore Clonmacnois, on the water meadows of the River Shannon, one of Ireland's holiest places, where the corncrake (a bird) is still heard. Walk through the Sleive Bloom Mountains' rolling hills, river valleys, and mountain bogs.
Athlone Castle, the Norman castle, dominates the town centre. This county is famous for its rivers and lakes from the Shannon to the Royal Canal. The fishing is superb. Explore the Belvedere House, gardens and park, an early 18th Century estate on 160 acres of parkland, on the shores of Lough Ennell.
Athlone Business Directory and Information Service
Athlone Tourist Guide
County Offaly South
County Offaly South is as diverse in landscape as the northern part of the county. Across the south-east area are the Slieve Bloom Mountains. A variety of walkways have been developed throughout the county where the nature enthusiast can enjoy the extraordinary flora and fauna. Peatlands cover much of the county, and in the 19th Century provided economic growth for the residents. Artifacts from early settlers date back to 6800 BC.
- Birr is the main town in South Offaly. The Great Telescope is located in the Science Centre. This was the largest telescope for 70 years in the 1840's. Birr Castle Demesne, a Norman castle, was the seat of the Earls of Rosse for several generations, and now hosts magnificent gardens and grounds.
The Slieve Bloom Mountains, to the west, are part of an environmental park, containing bogs and forests. Activities include walking and cycling.