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Top Things to do in Longford in 3 Action Packed Days

by Roberto
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Longford County is found in the heart of Ireland, within easy access of all locations. It boasts three villages which were named Ireland’s tidiest, and access to the River Shannon throughout the south of the county. It’s landscape is one of flat green fields and gentle hills, punctuated by lakes, rivers and a canal. While it has a relatively quiet history compared to some other counties, it nonetheless has had a repeated impact on national matters. Literary past residents include Maria Edgeworth, Oliver Goldsmith, Padraic Colum and Leo Casey, and their lives and works can be appreciated throughout the counties amenities. There’s something for everyone in Longford, from the adventure traveller, to families, to those seeking culture and history.

Longford surprised me. Having grown up here, taking a trip to a place of interest usually involved a spin down the road to another county, particularly one bordering an ocean or sea. Tourists in Longford usually consisted of a few anglers trying their luck on the counties rivers.

Longford has come a long way as a tourist county over the last few years. Previously it was a string of market towns servicing the local population. No more! With the advent of the Failte Ireland initiative, Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, (focusing on the then unfashionable counties that border the River Shannon), and the opening of Center Parcs Longford Forest, the county has seen a significant growth in tourist facilities.

Now the county numbers several attractions charting its history, one of the best greenways in the country, and an unrivalled family resort. It also has one of Ireland’s greatest Iron Age mysteries in the trackway at Corlea Bog.

Longford is best seen on wheels, either on two or four. North Longford by car and South Longford by bike. With a solid recommendation on how to see the county coming from the team from Longford Tourism, we spent 3 full days in the county, first viewing the history and natural walks of the north county, then exploring its many towns, before taking to the Royal Canal greenway. We left more than impressed with the many things to do in Longford.

We travelled to Longford at the invitation of Longford Tourism, for a three day FAM trip. While much of what we visited was sponsored, all views expressed are my own. I would like to thank Tara, Dympna and Denise for their kind assistance in organising the trip, and also all the business owners for their warm welcome, time, energy and hard work. For a full guide to the county visit the site www.Longford.ie

Disclosure; This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I have recommended. While clicking these links won’t cost you any money, it will help keep this site going and me travelling. Thank you for your continuing support.

EZxploring maps- an interesting way to see the best things in Longford

Seeing Longford is made all the more easier by picking up the free EZxploring maps from local libraries or heritage centres. The maps contain a plethora of info on each towns architecture and history. They are also really interactive so kids will love them too and learn of heritage along the way. Not just kids might I add. At present there are EZxploring maps of Longford, Ballymahon, Edgeworthstown, Granard, Lanesborough, Ardagh and of the Royal Canal Greenway.

Things to do in Longford – Day One – North Longford Road Trip

As you hit Longford, and assuming you are coming from a Dublin direction the first town you’ll meet (or bypass if you follow the road- DON’T do that) is Edgeworthstown. Home to a museum dedicated to its most famous citizens, there’s actually quite a lot to this rare spoken of town. From there, our road trip moves north to Granard. The Knights and Conquests Heritage Centre is the most fun you’ll have in the county, and that includes the pubs. Learn all about its Norman history and get introduced to Longford’s part in the failed 1798 rebellion.

After appreciating nature on some of North Longford’s walks, we learn more of the rebellion in the town of Ballinamuck, the site of a major battle in 1798, before travelling back towards Longford town. GPS is a must for some of these locations as they can otherwise be hard to find. Even for a local.

Edgworthstown

Edgeworthstown is about 90 minutes from Dublin, on the N4 heading west. The town’s history is centred around the Edgeworth family, the extremely fair landlords who resided in a nearby manor house. The town grew with their help and their impact can be seen right across the town. There is street parking throughout the town for €1 per hour, and it’s important to display your ticket on the dash.

Maria Edgeworth Centre

Located in the old school on Ballymahon Road, is a museum dedicated to Maria Edgeworth. Maria Edgeworth for those who don’t know, was a leading Irish literary writer in the early 19th century. Her most noted works are Castle Rackrent, Ennui , The Absentee, and Ormond. Her works sadly haven’t received the same modern attention as some of her peers, but during her life she was revered as one of the finest minds around and was a regular confident of some of Britain’s and Ireland’s top economists and novelists.

As well as being a writer, she was a strong educational campaigner, striving to upgrade the rote learning system, and seeking education for all in Ireland irrespective of religion or class.

Her extended family too were most certainly of note. The museum weaves a story that includes the relation who administered last rites to Louis XVI, her father Richard who was a politician, writer and inventor, and her various connections with high class society at the time.

It certainly taught me quite a few things about my local history. An audio guide is offered to take you through the full story of this very intriguing family, with a wall full of portraits introducing us to the various players. Entry to the Maria Edgeworth Centre is €5.

You can pick up the EZxploring maps and an audio guide of Edgeworthstown from the centre before venturing out to explore the town.

The Maria Edgeworth Centre is located in the old school house of Edgeworthstown
Other Things to See in Edgworthstown
– St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church from 1873 with stained glass windows from the famous Harry Clarke studio

– The gate house at Edgeworth house with its cast iron porch. The manor house itself now serves as a care home, though can be walked to. The Edgeworth family crest and walled garden can still be admired here

-Street art by Phil Atkinson on the N55 road to Granard. It depicts figures from Edgeworthstown history.

-The Porter House featuring the Edgeworth-Beaufort family crest, where Maria Edgeworth ran a school.

  • Street art by Phil Atkinson in Edgeworthstown
  • Street art by Phil Atkinson in Edgeworthstown
  • Street art by Phil Atkinson in Edgeworthstown
  • Street art by Phil Atkinson in Edgeworthstown
  • Street art by Phil Atkinson in Edgeworthstown

Granard

Granard has been the location of a settlement since the year 236 AD, and has a significant history going back through the centuries. Irish tribes used it for its dominant position atop a hill. They weren’t very welcoming of St Patrick when he came calling. Queen Maebh is said to have stopped here with her army in the Tain. When the Normans came, Richard de Tuite built a motte atop a hill here in the 13th century, which at 166 metres above sea level, is the highest in the country.

Granard is about 11 kilometres from Edgeworthstown on the N55. Parking is at the Knights and Conquests heritage centre, which is our excellent first stop before we explore the town.

Knights and Conquests Heritage Centre- Where history and fun collide

Knights and Conquests is a relatively new attraction in the county, and charts the Norman history of Granard and their successful invasion of Ireland in the 12th century. The visitor centre lies below the Motte on Granard’s outskirts. While anticipating the visitor centre to be educational (the town has quite the history, from the Norman’s, the 1798 rebellion, and the links to Michael Collins), we really weren’t expecting just how fun it was going to be. Undoubtedly the most fun thing to in Longford.

Run by Bartle and Deirdre, two of the most enthusiastic tour guides we’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, Knights and Conquests is a hoot. It’s interactive throughout, from donning shields, swords, chain mail and helmets as a Norman, to swinging swords and being used as target practice for Bartle’s crossbow skills. It totally puts you in the mind of the Norman warrior of the day and made all the better by the hosts great sense of humour.

It’s informative of course too, with a video and plenty of exhibitions on the Norman invasion, way of life, and all that followed in the centuries after. A room is dedicated to Kitty Kiernan one of Granard’s famous citizens. She was the beau of Michael Collins, and their story is one of Ireland’s most tragic love stories. The interpretative centre has some uniforms of the style used by Collins during the Irish Civil War, so of course we had to try those on too.

Lastly I was dressed in pantaloons and the attire of a rebel from the 1798 rebellion, who fought in Granard and were cruelly executed at the nearby Motte.  So perhaps I looked a little ridiculous but I’m always up for that. We love interactive exhibits like this. They are some of our favourite tours and Knights and Conquests easily joins the list of the best we’ve been to. 

They have some amazing plans to expand and build a Norman village on the site, with a working mill and much more. I’ll be watching that development closely and returning.

Better yet all this fun only costs €6 for an adult, and €4 for kids. That’s about 10 cents a laugh by my calculation. Great value. they also open 7 days a week for tours. Visit the Knights and Conquests website here.

Knights and Conquests The Best things to do in longford
Knights and Conquests Granard
Knights and Conquests
In my pantaloons honouring the pikemen of the 1798 rebellion
Other Things to See in Granard
– Granard Motte dates from 1199 and a wooden castle was built here by Norman Richard de Tuite. It can be accessed from behind St Mary’s Catholic Church. There are rough trails leading to the top, where you’ll now find only a statue of St Patrick, erected in 1932. Nine Irish counties can be seen from the top.

– St Mary’s Church was built in the 19th century. The stained glass windows here tell the story of the towns association with St Patrick. Clearly he warmed to their hearts eventually.

-The Greville Arms hotel in the town was owned by the Kiernan family. It was here that love blossomed between Michael Collins and Kitty Kiernan. The tale is Granard’s own tragic love story.

– Abbeylara Cistercian Monastery is found 4km from Granard. Though now in ruins, one can appreciate how it must have looked in the 13th century. Part of the church still stands with a huge arch and winding staircase intact.

Greville Arms Granard
The Greville Arms hotel was frequented often by Michael Collins
Abbeylara Cistercian Monastery
Abbeylara Cistercian Monastery

Derrycassin Woods walking trails

The first of the walks of North Longford, this woodland area has a number of trails. At one time this was the location of Derrycassan House and the estate of the Dopping-Hepenstal family. The manor house has since disappeared but there are still traces of the walled gardens. Throughout there are a number of trails, none more than about 3km long. They can be linked to appreciate the old estate and the views of the nearby Lough Gowna. In spring the woods are alive with colours of bluebells and rhododendrons.

The woods are located between Granard and Aughnacliffe near Dring. Speaking of Dring, there is a stunning fishing pier here overlooking Lough Gowna. It’s the perfect place for a picnic, though there is no protection near the waters edge if kids are in tow.

Dring Lake Longford

Aughnacliffe

Aughnacliffe is a small village on our route, but it’s not without its charms. On approach from Dring keep an eye out for the sign for Pulliness waterfall. There’s a short walk down to the waterfall and though small, it’s pleasant.

A few hundred metres further along the road a small sign will point you to the 5000 year old Aughnacliffe Portal Dolmen. In the case of both this and the waterfall there is no parking, so park roadside, taking care not to block entrances to houses. The dolmen is a little harder to get too, as it’s through two fields.

Proceed through the first field to find a gateway in the far right corner and within the next field you will find the portal Dolmen. They may or may not have livestock, so don’t bring a dog as this can unsettle them. Take care around animals especially cattle. That’s no bull. The Dolmen is right in the middle of a field, and is fully intact, with two capstones. One is almost three metres in length, making it the third biggest in Ireland.

Just off the heart of the village it the beautiful lakeside Leebeen park, complete with children’s playground, and an imaginative fairy garden. A walkway follows the small lake nearby too making this a lovely stop, especially with kids.

Ballinamuck

Ballinamuck is located 11 km from Aughnacliffe and was the scene of the Battle of Ballinamuck on 8th September 1798. An Irish backed French force under General Humbert had been victorious in the battle of Castlebar, in County Mayo. As they moved across the country they were pursued by two huge British armies under Lord Cornwallis and General Lake. Finally they made a stand in Ballinamuck. The battle lasted less than an hour, and was a disaster for the rebels. While the British suffered 12 losses, some 500 Irish and French lay dead. The remaining French surrendered, but the Irish rebels were given no quarter. The remaining were followed to the bog and bayoneted.

There is a memorial and a visitor centre dedicated to the fateful events of that day, within the village. The visitor centre recounts the details of that day. A statue of a pikeman (a pike was the only weapon the Irish had), shows how ill-equipped the Irish were against the heavily armed British.

Entry to the visitor centre a the moment is only by self guided tour. The key is available from Dillon’s Pub across the road.

Ballinamuck 1798 centre
Memorial to those lost in 1798
Memorial to those lost in 1798

Edenmore Bog walk

Just outside of the village is the Edenmore bog walk. Ireland has over 50 % of the raised bogland in Europe, and while it traditionally was harvested as a fuel for homes, there has been a growing movement away from fossil fuels, and bogs are being conserved. This is excellent news for the visitor as bogs are full on unique flora and fauna that only grow and live in these unusual conditions.

The Edenmore bog is no exception. A 4.5 km circular walk follows a solid trail underfoot and loops back to the small car park. It’s all signposted within so no fear of being lost in the bog. Wildlife is in abundance with a possibility of seeing Pine Martens at dawn and dusk, and birds such as Stonechats, Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, and Willow warblers. Butterflies and Dragonflies prance around the area. There are fascinating plants too, such as Sundew and Bladderwort that feed on insects.

It’s great to see an alternative use to Ireland’s boglands and them used as a local and tourist amenity. The have a close tie to our history and some of our most intact discoveries have been made in boglands. Very recently a full suit of Norman chainmail was found near Granard. The bog bodies found in Ireland is perhaps the most ghoulish and fascinating display in Dublin’s National History Museum. One wonders what else lies undiscovered under all that peat.

Edenmore Bog Ballinamuck
Some of the wildlife of Edenmore Bog Walk
Some of the wildlife of Edenmore Bog Walk

What other things are there to do in North Longford

The final leg of our best of North Longford driving tour took us through the village of Ennybegs. Notable is the small white parish church, but it’s the James Farrell Titanic memorial garden opposite that brought us here. James Farrell grew up here, before seeking a new life on the ill fated ships voyage.

Farrell is remembered for his heroics aboard the ship, where he pleaded for the lives of some female companions when they were blocked from reaching the lifeboats. After been left through he accompanied them to the boats where he watched them escape to safety. His body was found 8 days later. It’s an heroic story worth reading at the memorial. It was also told in the 1958 movie, A Night to Remember.

Our resting spot for the night would be the town of Drumlish, and the shepherds huts at Bramblewick House. More on this wonderful glamping site later. But first we spun by Drumlish Mill, a corn mill built in 1854, and a beautiful feature of the town. Sadly it can’t be visited, but it can most certainly be admired.

Corn Hill Walking Trail

Visiting in summer, there was the prospect of a late sunset, so we aimed for one more walk, and the hope of watching the sun set over the Irish midlands from Longford’s highest point. As is often the case in Ireland, clouds had a different idea. But that doesn’t take away from the walk.

Corn Hill at 278 metres is the third smallest high point of Ireland’s counties. But with no other hills of note in the county it does have prominence. A recent addition is the 3 km loop trail from a newly installed car park. The walk does have steep parts and most of it is over dirt track, but it is certainly classified as easy. The best views are north in the initial ascent, but the furthest point, facing west, is where we had hoped to catch the sunset. A number of picnic benches are installed here to take in the phenomenon.

At the top of corn hill are two cairns, from which it gets its name. Dating back around 5000 years, one has sustained damage. They are heavily linked to Irish mythology, including the story of the Tain, and an ancient witch known as Cailleach a Bheara.

Corn Hill Longford
The trail up Corn Hill in Longford

Longford Town, Ardagh & Lough Ree- Day Two in Longford

Things to do in Longford Town

Longford town is the county town of Longford, and at first glance seems little more. But a deeper look brings it’s historical past to the fore. At its heart is St Mel’s Cathedral, easily the most standout building in the town, and one of Ireland’s finest cathedrals. A walk through the town will also highlight its military and industrial past.

Longford’s history is closely linked to the O’Farrell clan who were the rulers of Annaly, the old name for the area. They ruled the area from the 11th through the 17th century, at which point in 1621, Francis Aungier (who had been the commissioner of the plantations of Munster) was made 1st Baron of Longford.

Thus began the history of Longford Town. To protect the new lands, a castle was built in the town in 1627 in the area which is now Connolly Barracks, on the site of an old O’Farrell fort. The castle was eventually converted to a manor house, and the title of Lord Longford passed to the Pakenham family. Their descendants still live to this day in Tullynally castle in Westmeath.

Sadly the castle was demolished in 1972 after falling into ruin. As the town grew so did its military significance. The barracks was established in the 1700’s by the ruling British empire, one of many throughout the country. Longford continued its development as a market and industrial town throughout the 18th to 20th centuries. Much of the towns main buildings were built in the 19th century such as the market square, court house, and banks.

Things to do in Longford

What to do in Longford- take the Longford Town audio tour

To fully appreciate the town equip yourself with an EZxploring map and the new Longford Town Audio Tour, which is available from the town library or tourism office. Priced at €5 it’s an invaluable companion as you follow the towns streets and the Camlin river. It takes in everything you could hope to see in Longford and much more that even I was oblivious to. The library is located in Longford Town Centre and the tourism office in the market square. Both contain ample paid parking.

St Mel’s Cathedral

St Mel’s Cathedral is the Roman Catholic cathedral for the diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise. It was constructed between 1840 and 1856, though this was disrupted by the Great Famine. Neo-Classical in style it is defined by its large limestone columns and high belfry. It stands tall above all other buildings in town, and is a must visit. The modern interior contains a pair of Harry Clarke stained glass windows, an Italian organ by Fratelli Ruffatti, and stained glass windows designed by Kim en Joong, a Dominican priest.

St Mel’s Cathedral is Longford’s own Notre Dame story. Gutted by fire in 2009, it received an overwhelming show of public support and funding. Following a restoration costing €30 million it reopened in 2014. Thankfully the Harry Clarke windows in the transepts survived, but relics such as the St Mel’s Crozier that were in the museum below were lost. The new cathedral is a must visit owing to its attractive interior and as a testament to the will of the people to restore a building of much local pride.

St Mel's Cathedral Longford
Other Things to do in Longford
– keep an eye for the street art of the town. It is the result of a local arts festival known as the Cruthu Arts Festival which brought musicians and artists to the town for a week of culture and entertainment. This is my suggested walking route of the street art.

-Take in a show at the Backstage Theatre. This 214 seat auditorium has year round shows in music, dance and drama, and has been entertaining the people of Longford for 26 years. What’s more I once worked there, and have only the fondest memories of an enlightening summer. Right now, theatres are only reopening in Ireland, so check their site for further developments

-Dine out in one of Longford’s many restaurants. See the section below on where to eat in Longford

-Relax by the Camlin river at the Albert Reynolds Peace Park. Worth finding is the interesting sculpture Timelessness by Gary Robinson

Iljin street art, Longford
Street art from the Cruthu festival
Albert Reynolds Peace garden
Timelessness Sculpture

Ardagh Village

Ardagh is the jewel in Longford’s crown. The village is a joy to walk through, past Tudor-Gothic cottages and old churches, with only the occasional car and the song of birds to break the silence. It’s located 10 km from Longford (again use that GPS).

Ardagh has the most significant history of all of Longford too. In pre-Christian times the nearby Ardagh Mountain was revered on a par with locations such as the Hill of Tara, Bru na Boinne, or Rath Cruachan in Roscommon. The ancient tale of Etain and Midir was associated with Bri Leith, the ancient name of the mountain. With the coming of St Patrick, he deemed it important enough to establish a church, and his disciple St Mel, founded one in the location of the present day Ardagh village. A church would always be on this site and to this day an 11th century ruin still stands.

The village as we see it today is as a result of the Fetherston family who settled here in 1745 and built the huge and impressive Ardagh House. It can sadly only be admired from afar. Though it was them who commissioned the development of the estate village, which is said to have been based on a Swiss model. I’m not surprised, though it does bear a resemblance to some of the UK’s finest. At the heart of the village is a triangle with an ornate clock tower, and protestant church flanking on two sides. Ardagh is also heavily linked to Oliver Goldsmith, one of the regions greatest writers.

Just don’t take my word for it on how beautiful Ardagh is. It has won Ireland’s tidiest village on three occasions and numerous European awards. Few locations in Ireland possess as much charm.

An example of the unusual houses of Ardagh
Other Things to do near Ardagh
– take a walk up Bri Leith to Ardagh Mountain. The 4.5 km looped walk takes in the once famous location and tells the story of Etain and Midir along the way

– visit Creative Ardagh, a heritage centre in Ardagh’s 19th century schoolhouse. Learn about Ardagh’s history from Celtic times to the present. The heritage centre is interactive and teaches via arts and crafts

– Take a detour to Moydow. A ruin of a castle of the O’Farrell clan can be seen among the fields. In Moydow, Moydow church is an intriguing ruin, surrounded by centuries old stone gravestones

Moydow Church ruins

Lanesborough and Lough Ree

Lanesborough is Longford’s main town on the River Shannon, Ireland’s longest river which flows for 360 kilometres. Lanesborough is a 19th century town, though it has been an important crossing point of the River Shannon for centuries. The first bridge was built here 300 years ago, and was the first crossing of the river north of Athlone. Nowadays it is a 6 arch structure, and the rivers banks have some of Longford’s finest scenery.

Lough Ree Access For All boat trip

We travelled to lanesborough to take a boat trip on the Shannon with Lough Ree access for all. This company is one of a kind in Ireland and the UK. Their specially commissioned boat was designed and built to accommodate wheelchairs. Run as a registered charity it’s fantastic that they give the disabled the chance to do something which was never before possible. The trip is a relaxing cruise up the river, taking in Lanesborough harbour and the green forested banks, in the company of the very hospitable driver and tour guide. Though the weather wasn’t great for our trip, the boat is fully covered and is adept for all conditions.

Only opened in 2020, Access for All was the brainchild of Alan Broderick and Ciaran Mullooly. It took 5 years to fundraise the €200,000 needed to build the boat. They have received an amazing response on the national level and their good work is widely recognised.

In addition to the one and a half hour boat trips, they also offer three hour fishing trips on the river. Fish commonly caught here include Perch, Roach and especially Pike who can be up 9 kg in size. You can book your trip with Lough Ree Access For All here.

Lough Ree Access For All boat trip
Lough Ree Access For All boat
Lough Ree Access For All boat trip
The friendly crew
Lough Ree Access For All boat trip
Out on the lake
Other Things to do in Lanesborough and near the River Shannon
– Visit the Lough Ree Distillery and pick up some local alcohol. They have excellent products in Sling Shot Gin, Zesty Vodka, and The Bridge Whiskey. They also serve coffee from the site of their future visitors distillery so keep an ear pen for that

-Lanesborough is the coffee capital of Longford. For something different try the frog spawn coffee at Lanes Brew. Probably doesn’t contain frog spawn.

-The Commons Woodland trail is a marked walk from Lanesborough town. There are great views across the river and a lovely woodland setting.

-Lanesborough is the best place to see a sunset in Longford, with the river, bridge and marina all providing glorious backgrounds.

– Take a walk through the town with the help of the EZxploring map

– We had to visit Rathcline castle outside the town. Though a ruin for many centuries, it’s the castle of the O’Quinn’s. A.K.A. my ancestors. I like to call it the family home.

– The Shannon opens up into Lough Ree all the way south to Athlone. Following it south takes you to the village of Newtowncashel another of Longford’s tidy town winners. Keep an eye out for the bog oak sculptures in town, these were done by the famous Casey bogwood sculptures. You can buy your own from the showroom at Barley Harbour.

– Barley Harbour is a hidden gem for camping and boating and views over the Shannon

-Just outside the village is Newtowncashel Quarry park, a place so secretive, it doesn’t even make a map. With a newt pond and some really interesting sculptures it’s really worth finding on the way to Saints Island

-Further south is the most remote point of Longford at Saints Island. To access, you’ll need to follow something of a private road on a causeway that runs alongside the lake, and past some signs that don’t exactly welcome you. but the reward is the ruins of a sixth century Augustinian Abbey dedicated to St Kiernan. It’s an idyllic setting on the banks of the lake.

lanesborough
The Commons Lanesborough
lanesborough
Lanesborough has Longford’s best sunsets

After spending the day soaking up all that lakeside air, stay the night in Longford town, and the luxurious Viewmount House. Take in a show at the Backstage Theatre if you can.

Royal Canal Greenway- Day 3 of the best things to do in Longford

Longford’s newest attraction will also possibly become its biggest. It’s one that has been there a long time but finally getting the focus it needs. The Royal Canal was a project started in 1790, but took 27 years to complete, costing a huge £1.4 million. The heyday of canals was slowly coming to an end at this time with rail on the horizon. By 1880 the canal was no longer used and fell into disrepair for over a century. In the modern era it is the towpaths that are getting all the attention.

In 2021 the culmination of planning came to fruition and Ireland’s newest greenway the Royal Canal Greenway was opened. At 130 km it is Ireland’s longest, and the route spans from Cloondara in Longford to Maynooth in Kildare. An excellent facility for lovers of outdoors, it’s path is along a non vehicular traffic route, and suits both cyclists and walkers. Plenty of local wildlife can be seen by the canal side too.

The Longford stretch of the Greenway passes picnic sites, coffee huts, ruins, locks, and some really interesting towns and villages. A branch of the canal can be used to cycle to Longford town too. Unmissable are Keenagh, Ballymahon and Abbeyshrule.

Along the route you’ll come across bronze shoes. These are from the National Famine Way trail which commemorates the 1490 people that walked this way in 1847, starving and in seek of a new life. Half perished on the journey and these bronze shoes are a poignant tribute to them and their hardships.

Bronze Shoes Along the Royal Canal Greenway
Bronze Shoes Along the Royal Canal Greenway
Royal canal greenway
Typical scenery of the Greenway- Greenway by name, green way by nature

Midlands Cycle Hub Bike Hire – Cloondara

Our introduction to the Royal Canal Greenway was in the small village of Cloondara, via the Midlands Cycle Hub. Run by Robert Crilly, he only set up the business in early 2021, but it is already a roaring success. The hub have a variety of bikes from hybrid bikes, and mountain bikes to children’s bikes. Bikes can be delivered to and dropped off at a number of locations including Longford, Ballymahon and Abbeyshrule, which is ideal for only cycling one way on the greenway. In addition, cycling tours can be arranged to suit different experience levels. Contact Midlands Cycle Hub to book yours.

Cloondara was the perfect place to begin. As the starting point of the Greenway, it’s where the canal meets an entry point to the River Shannon, and there is a beautiful harbour. Old mills nearby, have been preserved and converted into apartments, keeping the charms of the village. The bikes we got were excellent, putting to shame those that we have at home. We were pleasantly surprised how nice the greenway was to cycle on, at all times safe, peaceful and with green scenery around every gentle turn.

Before booking we had also arranged to get a picnic basket from the Richmond Inn. This is put together by the really pleasant Niamh, and they have a number of options to suit your budget. It’s fully recommended too as there are lots of beautiful picnic spots strewn along the route of the canal. Alternatively stop in at one of the coffee trailers or cafes at the various locks.

The Richmond Inn in Cloondra harbour
The Richmond Inn in Cloondra harbour
The Richmond Inn in Cloondra harbour

Keenagh

It’s 14 kilometres from Cloondara, to the first notable stop off the Greenway, Keenagh. The small village has Longford’s most important historical discovery, the Corlea Trackway. Besides that there are a number of ruins and structures all related to Mosstown House, an estate house of the Kingston family of the area. Those hungry after the cycle can check our Macs Shack in the centre.

The clock tower in Keenagh is an intriguing structure, built in honour of Laurence King-Harman, a local landlord who was considered fair and just. It dates from 1878.

Spare a few pedals for Mosstown Dovecote. It’s not easy to find this pigeon house, on a laneway not far from Mosstown Harbour on the canal, but it was once associated with Mosstown House which stood here. The three storey structure dates from 1750. Interesting that the pigeon house has outlasted the human house!

Keenagh Clock tower
Keenagh Clock tower
Mosstown Pigeon House Longford
The Mosstown Dovecote

Corlea Trackway – the best thing to do in Longford for those with an interest in old Irish history

Keenagh’s and Longford’s finest archaeological site, was found in bogland a few kilometres outside the village. Dated at 147 BC it is the largest trackway of its kind to be found in Europe. Discovered in 1984, the Corlea Trackway is an Iron Age bog road that would have stretched for 1 kilometre over the surface of the bog allowing people and animals to cross. It was built using over 300 oak trees, that were expertly carved to link together and form a passable road. The huge effort in doing this suggests a massive public works scheme of its time, and gives evidence that it must have been carried out by someone of great importance.

However it can only be speculated as to the who, the why, or even the where to. The exact details of the trackway remain a mystery. Was it connecting some of Ireland’s great sites in the Hill of Tara, Hill of Uisneach and Rathcroghan? Was there something even greater, undiscovered at its end point? Was it built by Doc Brown so that his Delorean could build up enough speed to return after a disastrous attempt to time travel to the 60’s? No one will ever quite know. The closest clue comes in Irish mythology and the story the Wooing of Etain, where a king sets Midir a task of building a road in a bog where none other was.

All hope of some other clue in history was lost when the road succumbed to the bog and sank below the surface probably a decade after it was built. It lay there for two millennia waiting to be discovered.

The Corlea Trackway has an interesting visitor centre, complete with a video experience in an auditorium and lots of info on the country at that time and the building of the trackway. Then we get to see it in all its glory. A whole room is dedicated to the 18 metres stretch of trackway, preserving it in the exact location where it was found. It really gets the mind working as you gaze upon it.

Entry to the Corlea Trackway visitor centre is free.

Corlea Trackway – one of Ireland’s great mysteries

There’s one more experience to be had here, in the walking trails surrounding. With trails stretching from 3 km to 7 km, there’s a lot of bog to see. Better still the trails are in great condition, so they can be cycled too. It’s an incredibly scenic bogs, with areas of wetlands, and some rather intriguing petrified trees. Wildlife was in abundance too and we spotted common lizards, as well as a huge population of butterflies and dragonflies. The inner macro photographer on me was immensely satisfied.

Corlea Bog
Corlea Bog
Corlea Bog

Ballymahon

A further 9 kilometers along the Greenway is the lively town of Ballymahon. The town has experienced good fortunes of late with the opening of the nearby Centre Parcs, and with it new restaurants and cafes have sprung up. Making it a good stop for the weary cyclist. On the approach from the Greenway there is some noteworthy street art by local artist Phil Atkinson. Ballymahon has some of Ireland’s widest streets which lends to the safety of cycling there.

Ballymahon is famed as the birth home of writer and one of Longford’s favourite sons, Oliver Goldsmith who was born in 1728 in the nearby Pallas (the house no longer exists but a monument to Goldsmith does). It’s found down some narrow country lanes though, so far from safe for cycling. Easier to find is the tribute to him on the banks of the River Inny, including a quote from the Deserted Village, one of his most popular works.

The River Inny is a popular place and hosts Inny kayaking, which we hope to return to do when they reopen after Covid. Also just outside the town is Newcastle Wood, a forest with long trails. Again, this was one walk to far for us on this trip, as was a visit to the forests popular attraction Center Parcs. Another three days in Longford please.

Street Art on the Royal Canal Greenway
Oliver Goldsmith Ballymahon

Abbeyshrule

Abbeyshrule is again 9 km from Ballymahon and is another of Longford’s charming village and a former recipient of Ireland’s tidiest village. Flanked on one side by the canal and on the other by River Inny, the village is defined by the bridges around it, and the impressive Whitworth Aqueduct which carries the canal over the Inny, via a five arch bridge. There are lovely walks from the village too, along the banks of the Inny.

However there is more to Abbeyshrule. The ruins of a 13th century Cistercian monastery are found on the village edge and worthy of exploring. For those with an adventurous edge, you can take to the sky at Abbeyshrule Aerodrome, where two flying clubs are based. Amateurs and professionals are welcome.

If you are a little more grounded, then perhaps Fiona Egan’s Cookery School is more to your taste. Using fresh home grown ingredients from the family farm, the cookery school approaches delicious cooking from a fun perspective and welcomes both adults and kids. Unfortunately we didn’t get to better our culinary skills due to Covid limitations.

Abbeyshrule is the last drop off location for bikes from the Midland Cycle Hub, and for those looking to spend the night, the food at the Rustic Inn and welcome at the Abbeyview House B&B are excellent.

Note there is no public transport links from Abbeyshrule, but there is a bus route (number 466, running twice daily) from Ballymahon to Longford.

Abbeyshrule

Center Parcs Longford Forest

I’ve left the biggest perhaps the biggest draw for families the country over to Longford till last. The exclusive resort situated in over 400 acres of woodland can accommodate up to 2500 people 466 self-catering lodges and 30 apartments. The park boasts Ireland’s largest indoor waterpark, and hundreds of outdoor and indoor activities. There are a host of restaurants and cafes too. For those of a more mature mindset, the Aqua Sana Spa offers a range of treatments. Exactly where I would like to find myself after a day on the ziplines and waterpark. 3, 4 or 7 night says ca be booked direct with Center Parcs Longford Forest.

Transport to Longford

Longford is well serviced by both road and public transport links. By road, the N4 and M4 connect it to Dublin and Sligo, the N5 to Knock and Westport, with the N55 and A3 connecting to Belfast. Galway, and the west of Ireland is linked via the M6 and N55 which connects to Ballymahon.

The Dublin- Sligo train from Dublin Connolly station takes around 1 hour and 50 minutes, while bus routes 22 and 23 travel via Longford on their way to Sligo and Ballina respectively.

Ideally to see Longford’s attractions which are scattered throughout the county, a car is our recommended mode of travel.

Where to Stay in County Longford

Viewmount House – The finest hotel in Longford

Built in 1620 this Manor House played an important role in the history of Longford. The Baron of Longford, Lord Francis Xavier made it his home after being awarded his title. The house in its present day Georgian style was redesigned by Thomas Pakenham in the mid 1700s. A man with a good eye. After a few centuries as a school, and as a private home of a gardener and farm, the boutique hotel as we see it now emerged.

Trading for the last 30 years the hotel is the finest in the county. Each unique room is full of antiques and original pieces of art, all collected by the owners over the years. The many sitting rooms and library are akin to a museum. To walk through the hotel doors is as if to walk 100 years back in time. Modern conveniences are provided of course but subtlety.

We stayed in room 26, and were gobsmacked. The rooms take their names from the old families of Longford. The suites are dedicated to the Pakenhams, with ours called the Cuffe Suite. Spread across 2 floors, our suite was amazing. The upper was the bedroom while the lower was a huge spacious sitting room.

We marvelled at the intricate detail of the Victorian changing screen that filled one corner of the bedroom. It’s one of the many ornaments and works of art that decorated the room. But above all the room is comfortable, from the large king size bed to the couches below it. The bathroom features a jacuzzi bath to relax in, and I duly obliged to sink into that.

The gardens surrounding the house transport you into another time too, one where the houses 19th century residents used as a place of relaxation and solace. Statues and sculptures are dotted throughout including a magnificent pair of lions that guard its castellated gate. A rich variety of plants and shrubs fill the flower beds. A personal favourite was the water lilies in the pond.

Viewmount houses appeal extended beyond its furnishings. Breakfast is served in the Georgian dining room. The fantastic menu includes the expectant full Irish, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, and for those looking for something with a pinch of Longford tradition in it, the boxty benedict. Smoked bacon, poached eggs and tomato are served with boxty, a potato pancake that is indigenous to the Irish midlands.

Where Viewmount House really comes into its own is for dinner. Renowned as the best restaurant in Longford, it has also won awards as the best in the province of Leinster. No mean feat considering that includes Dublin. The lunch menu includes sea bass, lamb shoulder and the 48 hour roasted featherblade of beef, which is to die for. Dishes such as monkfish, quail, grilled scallop and pork belly are found on the dinner menu.

It’s worth coming to Longford merely for the experience of dining and staying at Viewmount House. A true hidden gem. Book your stay direct at Viewmount House.

Viewmount House - The finest hotel in Longford

Bramblewick House

Our first night in Longford was spent glamping in the grounds of Bramblewick House. If you are looking for an alternative place to stay in Longford, look no further.  The glamping experience comes in the form of Shepherds Huts, that have a level of comfort that even the most hotel loyal traveller (that’s us) will enjoy. 

Bramblewick House is run by Amy, and as well as the two glamping huts, she runs a handmade craft business from home selling soap, candles, crotchet, wooden boxes and notebooks. It all adds to the authentic atmosphere and Amy is a delight, welcoming us into her home to see her crafts. At the moment they are adding a craft workshop to allow her to expand the business.  

Originally from the UK, she moved to the area 5 years ago and started to pursue her dream. Speaking of the area, the house is found up a narrow lane near the town of Drumlish. It’s quite the peaceful setting. 

The two huts have different themes, with ours called the chicken hut. Chickens are a constant theme throughout, and the place is full of little touches all making it warm and cosy. From the outside they seem small, but is instead Tardis like. A double bed, kitchen, and full bathroom all fit together in a perfect layout inside. Hot water and cooking is provided by gas. 

There’s more! Each hut has its owned seated area, and the gardens have a BBQ area to enjoy a few beers around. The gardens are worthy of exploring and contain some whimsical statues. Though it’s best not to stray to the bees at the end. 

You’ll have to bring your own food as with all glamping, but there’s a large supermarket in the nearby Drumlish. Alternatively, Longford is only ten minutes drive away so you can always grab an Indian from Spice India like we did. Then relax the night away in perfect rural surroundings. Book your stay at Bramblewick House here. 

Bramblewick House glamping
Our Shepherd hut the “Chicken Hut”
Bramblewick House glamping
Perfect place for a morning coffee
Bramblewick House glamping

AbbeyView House

The last stop of the Longford section of the Royal Canal Greenway is Abbeyshrule, and there is truly nowhere better to stay than Abbeyview House. There is a real genuine and warm welcome from Susan and her family who live in at this beautiful B&B. 

The house itself was built in 1830 or thereabouts and is possibly the combination of two different houses. It’s history traces back to a mill owner who converted it into the large building it is now. After passing through various hands it served as a police barracks for 50 years. The owners bought it 7 years ago and converted into B&B in 2019. 

It has a real feel of an authentic country house of the time. High ceilings, fireplaces, art, and grandfather clocks add to that air. Our room was up two flights of stairs, and was once the bedroom of the master of the house. The large room was adjoined by his changing room, where servants would change and wash him. 

Great care has been taken to keep the room as it might have been, with panelled walls, art, and floral tiles. Of course the modern conveniences such as showers have been added. A freestanding bath is the centerpiece of the room though. For anyone who has spent a long day on the Greenway, this is Mecca. No better way to soak those tired limbs. 

Of course a B&B is only as good as the second B there, and Abbeyview House serves up an excellent one. The spread on the table is classical, with fine porcelain and good variety. We settled for the full Irish, and the huge breakfast set us right up for a day of travelling. 

Abbeyview house have plans to add glamping to their services over the next year, as numbers on the Greenway are steadily increasing.  

AbbeyView House

Where to Eat and Drink in County Longford

Resturants

Vocellas 

Vocellas represents a good option in Longford for those looking for a more European cuisine. Located on Main street, their menu is mainly Mediterranean with distinct Italian and Spanish influences. They provide both indoor and outdoor dining at the moment. Service was very pleasant and the food was delicious in particular the calamari starter. Items such as Bolognese, carbonara, and penne allarrabbiata are complemented by burgers and steaks.

Vocellas Restaurant Longford
Vocellas Restaurant Longford

Viewmount House

I’ve already sold the merits of dining in Viewmount House, in that it is undoubtedly the finest restaurant in the county. An experience worth having. See more in the Viewmount House section above.

Spice India 

Spice India, found on Ballymahon Street Longford, is part of a chain with branches across the midlands. Spice India has won the best World Cuisine award for Leinster on in 2 of the last 4 years. Of the two restaurants Spice India is more traditional with only a few Thai dishes straying into the menu. We only tried the Korma, which was creamy and full of flavour. I’ll be back.

Bars and Bar Food

Valentines 

Valentines on Main Street is, and has been the centre of nightlife in Longford for several decades now. They don’t serve food, instead focus on their liquid output. It’s the perfect place to try one of the craft beers from the local St Mels Brewery.

The Rustic Inn 

The village of Abbeyshrule is dominated by The Rustic Inn, a fine gastro pub. With a roaring hearth to warm you in winter, and lots of outdoor seating it’s equipped for all seasons. The food is hearty too as one would expect. Irish and European is the theme, so BBQ chicken wings, deep fried brie, salmon, plaice and several steaks are featured. The steaks featured on our plates too. The Irish Hereford fillet was huge cooked perfect, and was extraordinarily good value. Unfortunately it left no space for dessert.

The Rustic Inn Abbeyshrule

Cafes and Bakeries

The Wooden Spoon 

This colourful café sits in the heart of Lanesborough and beckoned us in after our boat trip. They offer a menu that is extraordinary value for money, but with huge portions and packing plenty of taste. Trust me, we didn’t complain. The burgers came fully loaded with chips, salad and onion rings on the plate. Irish and European staples again fill the menu, proving they are very popular with the locals here.

The Wooden Spoon Lanesborough

O’Hehirs Bakery and Café 

A great stop for those who like their lunches fast and baked like I do. The bakery sells a good selection of baked goods, while the café has sandwiches, sausage rolls and other warm tasties. Don’t leave town without picking up one of their Apple pies, they are as good as any I’ve ever tasted.  

Red Rose Cafe 

With over 20 years presence on Longford’s Dublin Street, the Red Rose Café has consistently been serving traditional and comforting food to the town. The interior is warm and snug and bright art greets you at the entrance. The menu won’t surprise with offerings such as all day breakfast, turkey and ham, salmon and burgers, but sometimes that’s just what you need. A firm favourite of my mum and dad. Excellent value too.

30 Flavours of Portugal. 

A recent opening in town, this bakery is found next to Aldi, so if your picking up provisions it’s definitely worth nipping into. The baked goods are baked by a Portuguese native, so you can guarantee the pastel de natas are done the right way. They are delicious and cheap as chips too.

From cultural and historical experiences, good dining, to a whole host of outdoor walking and cycling routes, there is no shortage of things to enjoy in Longford. It is certainly a county where tourism is on the rise.

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