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County Cavan - Lake Country
Beyond its scenic beauty and almost infinite angling opportunities, Cavan is rich in history and archeological heritage. The area has been inhabited for over 5,000 years and many of these ancient Irish lived on artificial islands or 'crannogs.' Crannogs were built by everyone regardless of social position and there are many of them in Cavan including one that can be seen in the lake just behind the remains of the medieval abbey at Drumlane. While crannogs were cramped and uncomfortable, they were often safer than dwellings on dry land. Access was either by rocks just under the surface of the water (and usually known only to the crannog's inhabitants), or by a cot - a form of flat-bottomed boat. More physical evidence of Cavan's long history is scattered throughout the county - from drumlins, stone circles and megalithic tombs to castles and monastic ruins. cavan town, with its beautiful cathedral, is home to the popular Cavan Crystal brand of hand-cut glass, and also to Killykeen Forest park, on Lough Oughter, one of the finest coarse fishing lakes in Ireland. It is the only medieval town in Ireland founded by the Irish themselves, and its narrow streets still follow the same pattern that was set down seven centuries ago.
cavan town, with its beautiful cathedral, is home to the popular Cavan Crystal brand of hand-cut glass, and also to Killykeen Forest park, on Lough Oughter, one of the finest coarse fishing lakes in Ireland. It is the only medieval town in Ireland founded by the Irish themselves, and its narrow streets still follow the same pattern that was set down seven centuries ago.
Enjoy Castles? Cavan has some great ones!
Lough Oughter Castle:
Ballymagauran Castle: Just three miles or so south of Bawnboy, only the base of Ballymagauran Castle survives. It was originally a tower of two stories and was built by the Magauran family in the late 16th century.
Into Prehistoric Sites? Cavan can accommodate:
'Black Pig's Dyke': This was a series of defensive ditches built between Ulster and Connacht in the first century AD. It is also known locally as 'the worm ditch', because according to folklore, it was made by a giant worm wriggling across the land. There is a good example of the dyke on the slopes of Ardkill Hill, 3.5 miles east of Ballinagh.
Banagher Grave Complex: High on the slopes of Slieve Glah Mountain (4 miles south east of Cavan town on the road to Ballyjamesduff) is a prehistoric complex with tombs, stone circles and mounds of earth. It dates from between 2500 BC and 1500 BC.
Bellaheady Cairn: Three miles south west of Ballyconnell, not far from the Shannon -Erne Waterway, is a heap of stones marking the site of a prehistoric burial. This may be over three thousand years old. According to tradition, this is the spot where the legendary Conall Cearnach, who gave his name to Ballyconnell, is buried.
Cohaw Grave Site: Cohaw lies three miles south east of Cootehill, near the road to Shercock. The only features that survive from the early prehistoric era are burial sites because they were built of stone. Cohaw is unusual because it contains not just one burial chamber but four.
Shantemon / 'Finn's Fingers': This curious line of five stones, each one smaller than the other is referred to locally as 'Finn Mac Cool's fingers.' The stones might be the remainder of a stone circle or they could have been used in some religious ritual, or perhaps as a prehistoric calendar.
'The Giant's Grave': It comprises a number of graves, all facing to the north. Local folklore called the biggest tomb 'The Giant's Grave' as no one could believe that ordinary humans could deal with such large stones. The giant died after he was challenged by another giant to jump backwards over a cleft in the mountainside.
Moneygashel Ring Fort: Prehistoric and medieval Ireland could be a dangerous place and it was often worth people's time to take precautions against attack. The fort at Moneygashel consists of a circular stone wall, in places up to three metres thick. There are even two small staircases built into it. On the south side is an underground chamber or souterrain used for storage and during hostilities, for shelter.
Derryragh or Darragh fort: To the north of Ballymagovern, to the right of the Ballyconnell road is the Derryragh Hill Fort, dating from about 200 BC to 400 AD. This was one of the most important religious sites in the country, containing a shrine to Crom Cruach, the Celtic sun god. The central shrine was covered in gold and was surrounded by twelve smaller shrines.
Killycluggin: Three miles south west of Ballyconnell. A very fine example of a prehistoric carved stone was found here. The stone is covered with spiral decoration and may have been part of a fertility cult. The original is now in the Cavan County Museum in Ballyjamesduff but there is a replica at Killycluggin crossroads. A gold collar, now in the National Museum, was also found here.
Legeelan Sweathouse: Sweat houses were a form of building common in west Cavan and neighboring parts of Counties Leitrim and Fermanagh. They were small structures built of stone without mortar. A fire was lit in the central chamber and a patient would crawl inside and perspire for over an hour. They were used by people with a variety of illnesses, from rheumatism to skin complaints. Patients had to remove nearly all their clothes before going inside and it wasn't uncommon to find that their clothes had disappeared when they re-emerged! Sweathouses were used for many centuries, until the 1920s.
Bawnboy and Templeport: 1.5 miles south of Bawnboy is Port Lake. There is a small church and cemetery on an island. This was the birthplace of St Mogue, founder of Drumlane, who was amongst the first to preach Christianity in Cavan. In the later Middle ages (1200-1600) there was a school of poetry here.
Cuilcagh Mountain: The ascent of Cuilcagh Mountain is definitely worth the climb. Not only is it one of the best views over the surrounding countryside, but there are also the remains of a cairn or burial mound, possibly dating from c. 1500 BC. The climate was warmer then, and the farmers preferred the land along the slopes of hills and mountains to the boggy ground of the lowlands.
Bingfield House: North east of Crossdoney. Early mid 18th century three story mansion with Venetian window over doorway and hipped roof
Cabra Castle: Near Kingscourt. 19th century castellated mansion, formerly home of Pratt family. It is now a hotel.
Rathkenny House: Near Tullyvin. Early 19th century "S" front, three-bay mansion with Tudor gate lodge.
Ballyhaise College: In Ballyhaise. This is one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in Ireland. The college was built in the 18th century for the Canning family. It is now an agricultural college.
Cavan County Museum was officially opened by President Mary Robinson in June 1996. The museum houses the material culture of County Cavan and surrounding districts. Exhibition galleries feature unique Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Medieval artifacts.
Lifeforce Mill - Cavan Town
Delightful stone walled, thatched building. History/Heritage of Ireland classes are held here. Organized Heritage tours of the Cavan/Monaghan region are based from the centre. Local guides can bring the visitor on an informed tour of the Megalithic and Celtic sites in the vicinity. Audio-visual display. Quality gift shop. Snack bar. A centre of excellence for an informative and entertaining taste of Ireland.
Ballyjamesduff International Pork Festival
Thomas Sheridan, a classical scholar and school-master from Mullagh was a friend of Jonathan Swift who often stayed at Sheridan's home, Quilca House, and was godfather to his children. It's said that Swift may have been inspired in his writings by a local farmer called Doughty, who was so strong he could carry a pony on his shoulders.
Ed Reavy, the renowned fiddle player, was born in Cavan at Barnagrove near Cootehill. He emigrated to Philadelphia when he was fourteen. In the 1920s, he made some of the first recordings of traditional music. His contribution to Irish music is considered inestimable by players.
Mary Anne Madden was born in Cootehill. Just before the Great Famine she emigrated to Canada. She wrote a vast number of historical novels with Irish themes such as The Hermit of the Rock of Cashel and The Confederate Chieftains.
Shane Connaughton grew up in the village of Redhills. He has drawn on his experiences for his novels A Border Station and The Country Boy, which was made into the film The Playboys. He has also worked extensively in theatre and he wrote the screen-play for the Oscar-winning film My Left Foot.
The American novelist Henry James' grandfather William was born in Bailieborough. He emigrated to New York, and amassed a great fortune. When he died he was reputed to be the third richest man in America. His son Henry, the writer's father, visited Bailieborough, where his black man-servant caused great interest and enquiry!
Tracing your Cavan roots
The Round Towers
The Round Towers of Ireland are remarkable among the world's ancient monuments; one author has called them 'Elegant, free-standing pencils of stone.' Today, 65 survive in part or whole. Hand-crafted in native stone and cemented with a sand, lime, horsehair and oxblood mortar - a technique imported from Roman Britain - it's said by many historians that they were built by monastic communities to thwart Viking invaders. And yet, there's reason to believe that the towers were built long before Christianity came to Ireland. Whatever their origins, monasteries did indeed flourish where the round towers existed. And why not. These imposing edifices provided a watch tower, a keep and a refuge.
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March 4, 2011
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