I hope I find you all well.
This week we travel further into the heart of Ireland and stop off at the beautiful county of Longford. This low lying land of myth and legend boasts tranquil lakes, Iron Age walkways, megalithic tombs and picturesque villages. Let’s start in Longford town and it’s an impressive cathedral.
St. Mel’s Cathedral
The impressive St. Mel’s Cathedral dominates the Longford town skyline. Named after St.Patrick’s nephew who was one of the first bishops ordained by our patron saint, it was built between 1840 and 1856 and is one of the finest Roman Catholic churches in the country. After a fire in 2009, the cathedral also became known as The Longford Phoenix after a major 5-year long restoration project, one of the biggest ever taken of it’s kind in Europe. Feast your eyes on the stunning mosaic floor, the impressive pillars and the Harry Clarke stained glass windows.
Ardagh Heritage Village
Longford’s most picturesque village Ardagh comes from the Irish “Árd Archadh” meaning the high field and is connected to the nearby Ardagh Mountain or Bri Leith. Bri was the name of the daughter of Midhir, a prince of the fairy people of Ireland. Leith was the name of her doomed love and legend has it that they are buried on the hill. St. Patrick founded a monastery here in the 5th century and it was here that he made St. Mel the first bishop of Ardagh. The Fetherstons arrived in the 1700s and built Ardagh House. Many of the landmarks that still exist today including the clock tower are a result of their residency in the area. The playwright Oliver Goldsmith visited here in 1744 and mistook Ardagh House for an inn. He attempted to court the Featherstone daughters believing they were servants and this incident provided the inspiration for his most famous play, She Stoops To Conquer.
Time to step back in time now, all the way back to the Iron Age. 148 BC to be exact! In 1984 a roadway made of oak planks was discovered in a raised bog near the village of Kenagh. The tracks had sunk into the peat which preserved them. 16 tracks were discovered in all, which would have provided roadways foe pre-historic wheeled vehicles. This stunning discovery is the biggest of its kind in Europe.
One of the three largest dolmens in the country, the one at Aughnacliffe is thought to date back some 5000 years. The capstone is 3 meters long and seems to defy gravity as it balances on top of the other stones. A sight to behold.
Quaker Island stands in the centre of Lough Ree and it’s current name comes from the fact that about a century ago it was owned by a Quaker. However, it’s history dates back to pagan times. Also known as Inchcleraun, this name reportedly comes from Clothra who was the sister of Queen Maebh and legend has it that Queen Maebh herself met her death here when she was slain by a stone from a sling. Saint Diarmuid founded a monastery there in the sixth century and it was also known as The Island of The Seven Churches and the ruins of three remain on the island today. Folklore has it that any woman who enters Templemurray -the largest church, will die within a year!
Before I sign off, I just have to mention a collection from one of our most popular makers here at The Irish Store, Galway Crystal. Sharing its name with this gorgeous county, the Longford Collection features their most classic cut. Check out their stunning decanter set below.
Thanks for dropping by. See you next week.
Slán go fóill!