Updated On: December 13, 2023 by Ciaran Connolly
County Cavan, also known as Lakeland County, is most famous for the numerous of lakes it has. The meaning of ‘Cavan’ in the Gaelic language translates as ‘The Hallow’. In fact, just like the days of the year, Cavan is home to 365 lakes besides some significant rivers. These rivers include the source of River Shannon, the longest river in Ireland. For this reason, the County is prominent when it comes to water activities including boat picnics and fishing.
Moreover, County Cavan is one of the places that host Sea Angling festivals continuously. However, it would be quite unfair to only care about the wet part of County Cavan. As there is a lot more to discover about the place than the lakes and rivers.
The County has its own share of contributing to history and art. Besides the breathtaking pathways through its eye-catching mountains and forest parks. So here is your guide through some of the most interesting spots around County Cavan.
Brief History of County Cavan
Most of what we know now about County Cavan was formed around the year 1579. However, the spot has been a dwelling for various peoples for ages and ages. This includes the pre-historic times, the Neolithic Age, the Celtic era, the Bronze Age, the Normans, and the ages or early Christianity. Like many of the surrounding regions, County Cavan has its own share of building the history of Ireland.
Moreover, all of these periods and civilizations have contributed to the County Cavan we see now with many remarkable evidence and constructions. Even the last Ice Age also has its own share, as it shaped County Cavan’s winding hills and some of its lakes.
Originally known as ‘East Breifne’, County Cavan was a supremacy under the rule of a famous Gaelic family, the O’Reilly’s. Around the twelfth century, the Normans started to take control of the area. Some of the remains are still standing today like the motte and bailie castles, Clough Oughter Castle, and Casterahan.
In addition to the fortifications, we can also find some abbeys remains from this period of time like Drumlane abbey in Miltown and the abbey in Trinity Island. Most noteworthy, the doorway in Kilmore Cathedral, is also a very remarkable evidence remaining from the twelfth century in County Cavan.
Cavan Burren Park
Located at Cuilcagh Mountain, Cavan Burren Park is one of the most beautiful topographies in Ireland that’s been surviving since the pre-historic period. The park is standing on a limestone highland of around 295 meters. There are many interesting things to see in Cavan Burren Park including the tree growings surrounding it that actually go back to the 1950s.
Interestingly, the history of the park goes to millions of years ago. One of the geological lineaments about the park is the remaining River Bed. Also known as Giant’s Leap, and the correlated dolines and sinkholes towards the Lost Valley. Those dolines and sinkholes are where the river drowned and vanished underground. This might give you an image on how the park looked like back in the pre-glacial age. This is one thing that makes Cavan Burren Park a unique destination where you can discover the secrets of the past ages. For those who are interested, trail two and three at the park give you a perfect view of the Giant’s leap.
More Interesting Things at the Park
Also at the park, you’ll find plenty of megalithic tombs. This includes portal and wedge tombs from the Neolithic Period. Furthermore, Cavan Burren Park is home to plenty of monumental things including ancients lodges, walls, forts, graves as well as prehistoric rocks.
Amazing Views on Offer
Another part of the park’s unique experience is that it offers a great view to other surrounding attractions too. There at Cavan Burren Park, you can get a fascinating view of the Great Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark as well as a view to Cuilcagh Mountain. The park also offers different facilities including parking spots, toilets, and picnic spots. There is also an interpretation of important geological and archaeological spots to help you get a better understanding of what you see there besides five walking trails around the park.
There are five different trails at Caven Burren Park that help you to get access to the different attractions:
- 1st Trail: Offers access to The Calf-House Dolmen Trail (this train has multi-access).
- 2nd Trail: Offers access to The river bed (Giant’s Leap).
- 3rd Trail: Offers access to The Promontory Fort.
- 4th Trail: Is the Tullygobbin Lough Trail which starts from the lower end of the car park.
- 5th Trail: That’s the Cavan Way Trail. It leads to Waymarked Way (26km) route which enters Cavan Burren Park on trail 2.
Shannon Pot, also known as Legnashina, is a very significant natural pool in the karst landscape in County Cavan. The Irish language translation of Shannon Pot is “Lag na Sionna” which means in English “hollow of the Shannon”. Legend has it that the name Shannon is coming from the name “Sionnan”. Sionnan is the granddaughter of Manannán mac Lir, the God of the Sea or the son of the Sea in the Irish myths.
Tree of Knowledge
According to the stories, Sionnan went to the area where the Shannon is located now to eat from the “Tree of Knowledge,” that was cultivated by the druids (Religious and political superiors in Celtic cultures). As Sionnan started eating the forbidden fruit, water from the pool began to rise and covered her. Therefore, she got dragged down to the pool and the water covered the land creating the Shannon River.
The Pot is one of the spots around County Cavan that is definitely worth a visit. It might look small but it’s actually deep. The pot is being supplied with water from a creek in the underground. The super cool part is that this tiny pool is actually the source of Ireland’s longest river, River Shannon! As a recommendation, the spot is perfect for a group picnic especially when the weather is suitable for a day out.
Clough Oughter Castle
Constructed in the 13th century by the Anglo-Normans (specifically the de Lacy family), Clough Oughter Castle is a witness of the Middle Ages standing in an island in the heart of the water of County Cavan. The Anglo-Normans built the castle when they were trying to invade the area where county Cavan is located now. After a little while, the O’Reilys (the Irish leaders who constructed county Cavan), took over the castle till the 16th century.
From a Prison to an Imperial Castle
Most noteworthy is that the castle was very important being a fort and a prison. A prison in on an island in the middle of the water. Seems like Azkaban prison from Harry Potter kind of existed is real life, ha?! At the beginning of the 17th century, Clough Oughter castle transformed from being a prison to being an imperial castle. The castle again returned to being a prison during the Irish rebellion when they used it to imprison the captivated officers in. One of the famous people who was held as a prisoner in the castle was Bishop Bedell, an Anglican churchman, who was actually imprisoned there till he died.
Design of the Castle
As for the construction, the castle is a high circular fortress on a man-created island. A reason why the castle is considered as a gigantic creation is that it kept standing for hundreds and hundreds of years though it got strongly damaged around 1653. Reaching Clough Oughter Castle is another fun and unique experience as it’s only accessible by boat and it’s totally recommended.
Dun A Ri Forest Park
Located on the border of County Monaghan and County Cavan border in Ireland, Dun A Ri Forest Park is one of the most significant spots for unique trails. The Dun A Ri was before a part of the Cabra Estate. A part of the park’s fame is the legends and stories known about it. As the legend goes, the park dates back to Cuchullain’s time. Cuchullain is a Gaelic fighter and it’s said that he was killed and buried in the lands of Dun A Ri during one of his fights.
Besides the park’s fame, one can visit to enjoy nature pathways, river and village strolls. Moreover, the forest park is a magnificent wildlife sanctuary as it hosts different animals including mice, rabbits, squirrels, foxes, stoats, trouts, otters, minks, hedgehogs, and even salmon, and trout fish as well as different kinds of birds. As for trees and greeneries, Dun A Ri has plenty of ash, oak, hazel trees, and rhododendron trees.
Killykeen Forest Park
Extending for 12 kilometres, Killykeen is another Forest Park in County Cavan that’s worth visiting. While strolling around the Forest Park, you’ll enjoy the view of a unique birdlife. In addition to different animals including foxes, stoats, hedgehogs, and grey squirrels. There are lots of amazing natural trails that can lead you to the strands of Lough Oughter lake to enjoy the amazing view of Clough Oughter Castle which lies in the heart of the water. The shores of Lough Oughter are not the only place where one can enjoy the view of Clough Oughter. The park’s trails provide a fantastic scenery of the castle as well.
In addition to the uniquely constructed Castle, Gartnanoul Court Tomb is another significant attraction in Killykeen Forest Park. The spot is perfect for various activities including windsurfing, biking, and canoeing. Moreover, there are numbers of different trees in the area, this includes Oak trees, Ash trees, and Beech trees. With all the lake complexes, woodlands, unique attractions, wildlife, and birdlife Killykeen Forest Park is another great place to visit in County Cavan.
Cavan County Museum
If you’re into history, this will definitely be a pleasant experience for you. County Cavan Museum is home to thousands of items that tell different stories about the County’s history. The museum is standing in a big area that hosts many lakes and drumlins. Most noteworthy, the building of County Cavan Museum goes back to the 19th century as it was originally a monastery of St Clare.
What to See at Cavan County Museum
Coffee lovers! The museum has a coffee place for you to get a pleasant coffee break. For souvenirs and tokens, you’ll find several craft shops there as well. In addition to all of this, there are a number of workshops at the museum aiming to educate different students about various incidents including WWI.
Explore the Irish Folkloric Music in the Hallow
You might wonder how you are going to spend the night in County Cavan! Every country usually has its own special traditions and folklore, this includes the folk music. In Ireland, spending your night in a regional pub is a prevalent activity around the city. Small music sessions known as Traditional Music Sessions are very popular. As well as being very enjoyable.
During these sessions, artists gather up in one of the local pubs to play and enjoy a night of traditional Irish music. One remarkable thing about these nights is that they introduce you to different types of music. As well as the experience of different musicians playing and improvising together.
Sessions take place in many pubs around County Cavan including Mary Brady’s, Dickie’s, The Shamrock Bar, McCaul’s, The Farnham Arms, and Healey’s. Make sure you show up around 9:30 pm so that you don’t miss the show! It is great fun!
St Fethlimidh’s Cathedral, Kilmore
The Special Romanesque Doorway
The door was added to the north wall of St. Fethlimidh’s Cathedral. Some stories say that the door belonged to an abbey in Trinity Island. Some people also believe the door belonged earlier to another church before it was moved in Trinity Island. The decoration of the doorway is characterised by adorned chevrons and animal heads.
Constructed in 1840, Castle Saunderson is a huge palace with a located on the frontier between County Cavan and County Fermanagh. The castle-style mansion constructed with an architectural design of both Tudore-Revival and baronial styles.
Castle Saunderson has a lot in common with Castle Crom in County Fermanagh which also stands a few miles away. The palace has many gothic characteristics and an impressive entrance. Most noteworthy, at the Castle there is an extraordinary prolonged gatehouse with an entrance to the side.
The Castle was a dweller to The Saunderson family till 1977, after that it was sold to a businessman who lives in London. At some point, the mansion reached a point of abandonment and desperation. Some tried to restore the castle to become a private mansion but all trials went in vain.
More History Surrounding Castle Saunderson
In 1990, the castle was sold again for the purpose of becoming a hotel but all trials went in vain again after the castle was burnt and ruined. This wasn’t the first time the castle gets destroyed by fire, it was the third time in its history that fire damages it.
By the year 1997, the castle was sold for around half of its market price to “Scouting Ireland” to become a scouting spot and a youth development and training centre. The area of the mansion has a variety of grass, trees, lakes and water areas.
A Historic Church
There is a church inside the castle that is considered significant as well, especially to the Saunderson’s. Around the church, there is a cemetery and below it, there is a burial room that has the remnants of the Saunderson family. The church and the cemetery are being maintained as they’re considered a cultural heritage. Both in and around Around the castle are very perfect spots for enjoyable walks that’s besides being a place for scouting and youth development.
Standing on the borders between County Cavan and County Monaghan, Cabra Castle was originally a property to O’Reilly family till the 17th century. After being taken from the O’Reilly’s, Cabra Castle was taken over by many families till it reached the hands of the Pratt family and remained their property.
Now, Cabra Castle is a stunning 4-star hotel that combines both the old medieval spirit and the modern one. With the elegant furnishing and the friendly environment, the experience of spending a few days at the castle is definitely worth it.
Opening Times of Castle
Furthermore, Cabra Castle is open to the public all year round from 11 am to 4 pm. (Except for the 24th, 25th, and 26th of December). While here you can enjoy and explore the secrets of the historical construction and architectural excellence.
For those who are dreaming about a special medieval-themed wedding, Cabra Castle is within the list of the best venus in Ireland for special occasions like weddings. So, there is no need to have second though! You need no better place for your significant occasion than Cabra Castle.
Drumlane Abbey is a renowned monkish spot located in Milltown village, County Cavan. The area – aka the Drumlane – consists of an abbey, a monastery, and a significant round tower that dates back to the year 555 AD. Most of the people associate the monastery with Saint Mogue, the Irish Saint, though it is believed it was built before Saint Mogue arrives in Ireland.
Constructed in 555 AD, the Round Tower in this site is the only remaining tower of its kind in the area. In the beginning, the tower was built of wood. In the 12th century, the wood was substituted with stone with the supervision of Augustinian monks.
Round Towers were a very significant construction in the time between the 5th and 13th centuries. Round towers were known to have a Christian radix. And were build to serve as a shelter for important objects and manuscripts during times of threats. Another part of the tower’s significance is it’s construction. Seeing an old tall tower in a historical area will definitely grab your attention, right?!
There are many stories and legends being told about Saint Mogue and the Drumlane. Stories say that St. Mogues parents came to the Drumlane where they had a seeing predicting their son’s sacred position in the future. Some people believe Saint Mogue was the one who found Drumlane Abbey, that might be wrong. Even though, Saint Mogue spend lots and lots of his days as a young man and as an old man at the Drumlane.
The Sacred Well of Saint Mogue
One mile (in Derrintinny) away from Drumlane Abbey lies the Sacred Well of Saint Mogue. Next to the well, there is a flagstone that is commonly believed to have a mark of Saint Mogue’s knees. The imprint on the stone is called “Slun Maedoc”. Interestingly, a few miles away (specifically in Kilnacross) stands another sacred Well devoted to Sain Mogue.
A Perfect County in Ireland
In addition to the perfect, County Cavan has plenty of secrets to unravel about Ireland’s history and tradition. From big chains to local stores and gift shops, luxurious modern hotels to old authentic ones. Big streets to narrow historic ones, the County combines the elements of perfection in one place.
356 days of the year with 365 different lakes in one county, that’s another thing that makes it worth the time visiting. In addition to all the previous temptations, the historic part and the traditional artistic evenings where you can grab something to eat and enjoy the Irish traditional music is absolutely another essential activity for a complete experience. With all these things gathering up together in one place, County Cavan should be on the top of your list.
Worthy reads about places in Ireland:
The Beauty of County Kerry| All you need to know about County Laois| County Armagh: Home to Northern Ireland Most Worthy Sites|Getting around County Antrim| The Amazing Giants Causeway| Clare and the Irish Wonder of the Atlantic|