Handbook for Travellers In Ireland

By James Fraser


About three and a half miles from Blanchardstown we reach the village of Clonee, near which we enter the county of Meath.  Close to the village of Clonee, on the left, is Summer Seat, the residence of Samuel Garnet, Esq., with several villas adjoining; near it the demesne of Rusk: and at a mile and a half  north west from Clonee the village and demesne of Dunboyne Castle. Two miles from Clonee we pass, on the right, Norman's Grove, the residence of J. Shanley, Esq.; at two and a half, on the left, Wood-park, the seat of — Preston, Esq.; and at three and a half miles, the village and cross-roads of Black Bull, where there is a good posting-house.  Two miles from the Black Bull we reach the hamlet called The Bush, a little to the left of which is the small demesne of Parsomstown, the seat of the Hon. Sir F. Stanhope; and at six reach the decayed village of Dunshaughlin, where there are a church, chapel, and union workhouse, also a public house where cars can be hired.  To the east of the village about two miles on the cross-road leading to Ashbourne, is Laggore, the well-wooded residence of Michael Thunder, Esq.; and at three and a half miles, also on the same road, and crowning the summit of one of the long and gently elevated ridges into which the surface of this part of the country is thrown, are the village, church, chapel, and manor house of Ratoath, the latter the residence of J. Corballis, Esq. Killeen, the seat of the Earl of Fingall, with its fine castle; Warrenstown, the seat of John Johnson, Esq.; Dunsany, that of Lord Dunsany, with its handsome castle, lie close to each other in a rich beautiful valley, between three and four miles from Dunshaughlin and two to the left of our road.  In the fine old demesnes of these noblemen are the interesting and well preserved church ruins of Dunsany and Killeen.  The castles were originally built in the twelfth century by the De Lacys; added to by the late, and greatly enlarged by the present, noble proprietors.   Two miles from Dunsany are the hamlet, church, and chapel of Kilmessan; and adjoining is Swainstown, Preston, Esq.; and a mile to the south of Swainstown is Kilcarty. In the bleak but fertile country which stretches northerly, and about three miles to the right of Dunshaughlin, on the cross-road leading to Drogheda, is Corbalton Hall, the fine seat of M. E. Corbally, Esq. M.P.; and near it Belvin Hall.

As we proceed to Navan the country improves in appearance; and the rich though bleak surface is considerably relieved by the fertile hills of Tara and Skreen, between which our road runs. The latter hill, rising to 507 feet, lies about a mile and a half to the right, and is rendered still more conspicuous by the church ruins and straggling hamlet which crown its summit. Tara, on the left, is covered with a rich soil, and crowned with a modern church, the ruins of the old one not being conspicuous.  It is stated, that up to the end of the sixth century a triennial convocation of the provincial kings, clergy, and bards was held here for the settlement of the affairs of the kingdom, and the election of a supreme ruler; and that the inauguration stone was afterwards said to be removed to Scotland, where it was used for a similar purpose; from whence it was taken to England by Edward the First, and still remains at Westminster Abbey. In 980 the Danes sustained a signal defeat here; Roderic, the last native king, collected his forces here, previous to attacking the English in Dublin; here also, in 1589, O'Nial assembled his troops after laying waste the surrounding country; and in 1798, a skirmish took place between the insurgents and a detachment of fencibles.

Tara, though celebrated both in story and in song, is devoid of any architectural remains; there are, however, the evident lines of extensive circular intrenchments, of a date prior to the introduction of Christianity, which have been fully illustrated by Mr. Petrie, in the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy.  In the absence of anything that can justify the statements about Tara's palaces, colleges, and halls, the view from the summit of this hill will make ample amends to those who, instead of indulging in mournful reflections on the past, can look forward with delight to the time when the vast, fertile, but half cultivated surrounding plains shall teem with abundance, of which the husbandman and labourer shall each receive his due reward — when plenty and contentment shall take the place of misery and discontent, and the cold cheerless clay built huts give way to cheerful cottages with their blazing hearths.  Tara Hall, a small plain modern house, the residence of Patrick Lynch, Esq., lies between the summit of the hill and the road.  At Odder, one mile east from Tara hill, is the site of an ancient nunnery.

A mile beyond the hill of Tara we pass, on the right, Lismullin, the beautifully situated demesne of Sir C. D. Dillon, Bart, and soon after, reach the young plantations of Dowdstown the seat of the Rev. M. Taylor. The eye, wearied with the monotonous appearance of the bleak, generally flat, but fertile country travelled through, is now relieved by a considerable extent of woodland scenery, which stretches from our road up the beautiful and rich valley of the Boyne to the neighbourhood of Trim.  Connected with Dowdstown is Bellinter, the seat of the Rev. Joseph Preston.  This finely wooded demesne stretches for a considerable distance along the banks of the Boyne, and joins, at its upper extremity, the plantations of Bective House, the seat of Richard Bolton, Esq.  The latter demesne reaches along the left and bold bank of the Boyne, from Bellinter to the village of Bective bridge, which is four miles south west of our road.  The fine ruins of the Abbey of Bective, founded in 1146, by Murchard O'Melaghlin, king of Meath, add to the interest of this place. They are situated on the banks of the Boyne, about four miles from the demesne of Dowdstown and on the cross road leading thence to Trim; and by a little planting might be rendered highly picturesque.

On the right bank of the river, opposite to Bective House, are the old demesne of Balsoon, and the ruins of Assay Castle, and church.  As we proceed to Navan the country assumes a still more beautiful and improved appearance. On passing the plantations of Dowdstown our road skirts the right bank of the Boyne; having on the opposite side the delightfully situated but neglected demesne of Ardsallagh, the estate of the Duke of Bedford, joining which is Boyne-hill, Mrs. Gerrard. We pass, on the right, Kilcairn Lodge; on the left, the extensive flour mills of Kilcairn; and, at twenty six and a half miles from Dublin, cross the Boyne, the companionship of which we enjoy to Navan with its verdant banks adorned on the right by the plantations of Athlumney House, the seat of Peter P. Metge, Esq., Boyne View, and Athlumney Cottage, Dr. Hudson and on the left by Fair View, Belmont, and Greenmount.


the first borough established by the English in this part of the country, and which afterwards received various additional privileges from Edward the Fourth, Henry the Seventh, and James the First, is situated on the confluence of the rivers Boyne and Blackwater, in the centre of the county of Meath, and surrounded by some of the richest lands in the kingdom.  The town consists of three main streets of considerable extent, off which various narrow lanes branch.  The houses in the main streets are very irregularly built; those in the lanes are of a very poor description and the suburban huts miserable.  A considerable retail trade is carried on: at the weekly markets and quarterly fairs a great quantity of agricultural produce is disposed of; and in the manufacture of flour a good deal is done.  To the latter division of trade we may add a large distillery, a brewery, flax spinning mills, the frize and paper factories, and the weaving of sacking.  The greater part of the corn and other provisions purchased are sent along the Boyne navigation, a distance of twenty miles by water, to Drogheda. There are a handsome church and a spacious Roman Catholic chapel; a seminary, an endowed school, besides other educational establishments; a barrack, courthouse, infirmary, fever hospital, union workhouse, and two inns, where good post horses and carriages can be hired.  Among the antiquities we may notice the church and castle ruins of Athlumney, the latter a very striking feature; and the round tower and ruined church of Donaghmore, which are about a mile and a half from Navan on the road leading to Slane by the left bank of the Boyne; at four miles, on the same side, are the village, church, chapel, and demesne of Stackallan, the latter the former seat of the Viscount Boyne. Here a college has lately been established for the instruction of divinity students, in connexion with the Established Church, in the Irish language. On the west side of Navan is a large ancient fort, from whence a good view of the town and the rich and beautiful country around is obtained. Blackcastle, the fine seat of Thomas Rothwell, Esq. adjoins the town; the well wooded demesne, now including that of Swinerton, stretches for two miles along the left bank of the Boyne; and opposite to it is Ardmulchan, the residence of Robert Taaffe, Esq.

Four miles from Navan on one of the cross roads to Athboy, is Philpotstown, the seat of John T. Young, Esq. and adjoining Navan is the handsome villa of Delany, Esq. From Navan to Kells our road keeps generally along the right bank of the Blackwater, the river which bears the surplus waters of Lough Ramor and several streamlets to the Boyne.  At two miles pass, on the right, Rathaldron and at two and a half, Liscarton Castle, Thomas Gerrard, Esq. To the right of the latter, and about a mile beyond the Blackwater, is the demesne of Randalstown, Colonel Everard; and near it Gibstown, the rich and extensive pastoral demesne of John Gerrard, Esq. Both these demesnes are situated on the road leading to Kells by the left bank of the Blackwater.  About a mile to the left of the road, and three from Navan is Ardbraccan House, the diocesan seat of the Bishop of Meath. The mansion and demesne form one of the finest of the Irish episcopal residences; and close to it is Ardbraccan glebe and parish church. Near Ardbraccan is Oatlands, the seat of B. Thompson, Esq.

We now, at five miles from Navan pass, on the left, and at about a mile and a half from the road, Allanstown, the seat of J. N. Waller, Esq.  A part of the demesne occupies the acclivities of the verdant hill of Faughan, which attains an altitude of 364 feet, and commands an extensive view of the flat rich country lying around. Adjoining Allanstown is Ballybeg, the oldest and most extensive tree nursery in the kingdom; and Charlesfort, the seat of John Tisdall, Esq.  At six and a half miles from Navan we pass, on the right, Bloomsbury, the residence of Joseph Barnwall, Esq.; and at nine miles reach Headfort, the fine demesne of the Marquess of Headfort, through which our road continues to Kells.  Headfort House is one of the largest of our domestic edifices.  It is, however, a plain but very substantial structure.  The demesne, though possessing no natural features, has in its general appearance a great degree of magnificence, arising from its extent, unity of design, the richness of the verdure of the long and gently inclined plains into which the surface is naturally disposed, and the arrangement and preservation of the plantations.  The grounds are beautified by the Blackwater, which forms a fine artificial lake in the centre of the park.