Navan to Longford
Your final day exploring the Land of 5,000 Dawns continues to take you inland to the midland counties of Westmeath and Longford as you continue to explore thousands of years of ancient Irish history. As you travel through the towns of Athlone and Mullingar you’ll reach the ancient centre of Ireland at Hill of Uisneach. Among the highlights of your final day are Belvedere House, Athlone Castle, the Dolmens of Aughnacliffe and Corlea Trackway.
Explore the lakes of Mullingar
Leave Navan and head west towards Westmeath and the town of Mullingar. Mullingar lies in the waterways heartland of Ireland with five lakes a short drive from the town. Lough Ennell, just south of Mullingar is perhaps the most popular lake and is best viewed by getting on a boat and heading out to explore. Lough Owel and Lough Derraverragh are also located close to the town and popular with anglers, sailors and visitors to the area. If the weather is kind to you, begin your day by exploring one of of Mullingar’s nearby lakes.
While in Mullingar, explore the stunning Belvedere House, with 160 acres of parkland and a 2 acre walled garden just waiting to be explored. This Georgian estate has regular events throughout the year, with plenty happening whether you are driving the Ancient East alone, with a loved one or with friends and family.
Visit the ancient centre of Ireland
As you leave Mullingar, continue to head west towards the town of Ballymore, and the ancient centre of Ireland; the Hill of Uisneach, located in Loughnavalley. The Hill of Uisneach carries huge significance with Ireland’s past, and is said to be a place of inauguration for ancient high kings. The summit of the hill is 600ft above sea level, and is said that on a good day you can see some 20 counties in Ireland, taking in all 4 provinces.
Guided tours of Uisneach run every Saturday and last about 2 hours with the highlight of any tour being Aill na Mireann (or Catstone), where the five ancient provinces of Ireland once met. This spot holds significant importance in terms of ancient Ireland, and myth has it that the ancient goddess Ériu (whom Ireland is named after), was laid to rest under Catstone.
Onwards to Athlone
From Ballymore, continue heading west towards the popular town of Athlone, where you can explore more of Ireland’s ancient past by visiting Athlone Castle. Originally built as a wooden fort in the 12th Century, the castle and visitor centre take you on a journey through time as you get familiar with the story of Athlone, in particular the 1691 Siege of Athlone. While some of the initial castle structure remains, much of the building has been newly renovated, making it a popular attraction for visitors travelling along the Ancient East, exploring the Lakelands of Ireland, or on route to the Wild Atlantic Way.
Continue your heritage adventure in Athlone by visiting the Drum Heritage Centre, and get a real insight into the history of the midlands of Ireland. This monastic site dates back to 3,500BC, so you can discover over 5,000 years of history in Athlone.
As you leave Athlone, head north towards the town of Keenagh and make Corlea Trackway your first stop. Dating back to the Iron Age, the Corea Trackway is built from oak beams and dates back to 148BC. Hidden in the bogland of the River Shannon, this stunning track went unnoticed for years and was only recently rediscovered in 1984. The bog at Corlea perfectly preserved the tracks for 2,000 years and it is one of the biggest prehistoric roads to exist in Europe. The exhibition centre takes you back in time to Ireland in the Iron Age, another story worth finding out more about as you explore the Ancient East.
From Keenagh, head north and continue your journey of discovery by visiting the heritage village of Ardagh. The village holds religious importance to Ireland as it was here that St Patrick appointed his nephew Mel as one of Ireland’s earliest bishops, looking after the Diocese of Ardagh. The town also holds strong ties to St Brigid who spent some time in Ardagh before heading south and founding Kildare Monastery. Discover the full story about Ardagh by visiting the Ardagh Heritage Centre.
Last stop Longford town
Finish your day by heading towards Longford Town. The town’s skyline is dominated by the spire from St Mel’s Cathedral, a cathedral that has played a big part in the life of people in Longford town and indeed the Diocese of Ardagh. The cathedral was destroyed in a fire on Christmas Day in 2009 and was fully renovated, opening again 5 years later on Christmas Day 2014. The newly renovated cathedral is one of the most popular attractions for visitors exploring Longford.
Longford has a number of quaint shops, bars and cafes, making it the perfect place to call it a night. The town also has a number of accommodation options for visitors. If you have time and are looking for more things to see and do in Longford, add the Dolmen Tombs of Aughnacliff, The Abbeyderg Monastery, Granard Motte and Bailey and the Glen Lough Nature Reserve to your ‘must see’ list.