Set in the mature woodlands of County Longford near Ballymahon, Center Parcs holiday village is a great place to escape to any time of year. There’s a full line-up of outdoor and indoor activities for all ages and the popular dome-covered swimming pool is heated to a balmy 27 degrees. There’s also a relaxing spa with a full range of holistic treatments. Stay in one of the 400 lodges that range from one-bedroom apartments to eight-bedroom lodges with saunas, steam baths and hot-tubs.
Just a few minutes from Center Parcs, Ballymahon’s award-winning Nine Arches Restaurant is a must-try during your stay in Longford. Serving modern Irish cuisine, ingredients are sourced from the best local food suppliers and small family farms. With a host of awards and honours to its name, Nine Arches is a destination eatery for foodies and the perfect special night out during your trip.
Father and son team, Michael and Kevin Casey skilfully create sculptures from the rich bogwood, found preserved for 5,000 years in Irish boglands. Masters of the art for the last 60 years, their world famous craft is displayed at Casey’s Bogwood Sculptures, a studio and gift shop in Newtowncashel, just a few minutes from Ballymahon.
An old schoolhouse in the pretty village of Ardagh is home to Ardagh Heritage and Creativity Centre. Drop-in for an exhibition about the history of the village, from its roots in Irish mythology to its development as an important early church site. Over the years, Ardagh has hosted writers and musicians such as Oliver Goldsmith, Sir Walter Scott, Turlough O'Carolan and Maria Edgeworth.
The village itself has two beautiful churches, an impressive clock tower and the ruins of the original St. Mel's Cathedral. Family events, creativity mornings, group classes, and drop-in art days are hosted at the centre.
At Corlea Bog near Keenagh, discover the uncovered Iron Age Corlea Trackway. Mossy, waterlogged land made movement from place to place difficult for people living in areas rich in bog land in days gone by, so wooden toghers, or causeways, were laid as early as 148 B.C.
Eventually engulfed by the growing bog, the trackway at Corlea has now been uncovered. Composed of ancient oak planks, it’s the largest trackway of its kind ever excavated in Europe, and you can see an eighteen metre stretch of it preserved in a specially designed hall at the onsite visitor centre.
Discover the charm of 18th and 19th century literary Ireland on the Edgeworth Literary Trail, where you’ll follow in the footsteps of famous figures like Walter Scott, William Wordsworth, Oliver Goldsmith and Oscar Wilde. Edgeworthstown House is the ancestral home of novelist Maria Edgeworth and her famous father Richard Lovell.
Begin by touring the grounds and restored walled gardens before a local guide takes you on a walking tour of stops like St John's Rectory, where Goldsmith received his early education, St John's Church and graveyard with its ancient gravestones, where Oscar Wilde paid many visits to spend time at the grave of his beloved sister Isola.
Just 15 minutes from Edgeworthstown, St Mel’s Cathedral in Longford Town is a spectacle of architecture with its towering limestone columns, intricate plasterwork, impressive pipe organ, and liturgical art from a number of contemporary Irish and international artists. The cathedral has been tastefully restored to its original beauty after it suffered a catastrophic accidental fire and is well worth a visit.
Standing 534ft above sea level, Granard Motte and Bailey is said to be the highest motte in Ireland. Built around 1199, it was erected within a pre-existing ring fort. The motte is a great, flat-topped, circular earthen mound, on top of which would have historically been a timber tower, guarded by a deep trench on the summit, from which defenders fired arms and hurled stone missiles at the approaching enemy.
In 1932, a statue of St Patrick was erected on top of the motte to mark the coming of the saint to Ireland. From the top on a clear day you’ll see five lakes, parts of nine counties, and even a faint outline of the Sliabh Bloom Mountains.
While you’re in Granard, be sure to visit Knights and Conquests Heritage Centre - an immersive visitor experience that brings you on a journey through the town’s Anglo-Norman history. During the self-guided tour, you’ll come face to face with Henry II and King Rory O’Connor, visit a recreated Norman home and dig for artefacts in the Norman CSI room.
Kids dress up in Norman clothes, receive their Norman name and a list of duties for their visit, including completing an interactive quiz - that should keep them entertained for the hour-long tour.
Dedicated to Granard’s most-famous resident, your journey ends at Kitty Kiernan’s Drawing Room where you’ll find out about Kitty’s place in the War of Independence and her fiancé Michael Collins.
North of Granard and hugging the shoreline of Lough Gowna, picturesque Derrycassin Wood is the perfect place for a leisurely stroll. There are three popular waymarked walks to choose from; the Nature Trail (1.2km), Walled Garden Walk (2.3km) and the Main Avenue Walk (3.2km), each bringing you along spruce-scented river paths and past scenic viewing points on the lake shore. In late April or early May, the Nature Trail is particularly beautiful with a carpet of bluebells dancing in the spring breeze.
Keep watch on the long walks for the fascinating foundations of an old mansion and walled gardens demolished in 1939 and the remains of a historic ringfort in the woods, formerly the dwelling place of the earliest inhabitants of the area. You can finish your walk with a picnic under a canopy of trees by the riverside.
With so much history, gastronomic delights, and natural beauty to discover in County Longford, read our Longford destination page to get the most out of your trip.