We may not be doing much travel, even domestically, but there’s lots going on in the country. Not least in Monaghan, the border county that is perhaps best known as being the birthplace of poet Patrick Kavanagh. Here’s a brief list of attractions that make visiting the county a real treat.
A new state-of-the-art visitor experience at Carrickmacross Workhouse is set to open as soon as restrictions allow. One of only a small handful of restored workhouses, visitors can expect an emotive and immersive journey through one of the most harrowing periods in Irish history. It’s being created by the same team behind the recently revamped Patrick Kavanagh Centre – which is already winning international awards – to give you an idea of the calibre.
This, combined with the Carrickmacross Lace Gallery (moved to beautifully restored new premises in 2018), the Patrick Kavanagh Centre and PK trail, combine to make a very attractive day-trip proposition for visitors from Dublin. There are also tours of the fab Brehon Brewhouse, a micro-brewery run by Siobhan and Seamus McMahon, and set on a working dairy farm.
Travelling north, the Big Tom Statue and the new Castleblayney Outdoor Adventure Centre (kayaking, sailing, tree-climbing and more) at Lough Muckno have already proved to be a big hit among locals.
On the outskirts of Monaghan Town, I cannot recommend Rossmore Forest Park highly enough – the country’s second most popular forest park now, according to Coillte, saw visitor number double in 2020. Upgraded facilities include giant sculptures made from reclaimed wood by Game of Thrones set designer, Marc Kelly, plus a brilliant new play park cleverly designed to blend in with natural surroundings. There is also coffee on-site plus the popular Tex-Mex inspired Blasta Street Food truck regulars on weekends.
Recent additions to Glaslough include Glaslough Alpacas, who will be offering tours by appointment only, and Busy Bee Ceramics which re-located from Mullan Village a couple of years back.
Though in the far reaches of the county, the Sliabh Beagh Hotel is definitely worth a look. It is unique in Ireland in that it is 100% community-run. It is located in the foothills of the Sliabh Beagh Mountains in Knockatallon, where there are choice of walking routes through wild and rugged blanket boglands.
A series of four looped walks kick off from here. Monaghan native, Caitriona Balfe, describes Bragan as “one of my favourite places in Monaghan. It is wild, desolate and usually free from other people.” While local fashion designer, Helen Steele, has shot campaigns here. The walks range from 6-10km in length: two are on quiet country roads that are suitable for all abilities and two are over more challenging terrain such as forest tracks and open moorland. Here you will find one of the finest examples of blanket bog in Ireland; a special environment that supports some of our most threatened wildlife such as the Hen Harrier that we have adopted as the symbol for this series of walks.
A 4.2km stretch of Ulster Canal Greenway is now open and is doing its bit to help put Clones on the map. As is the Ulster Canal Stores, home to the Clones Lace Museum. Props to Clones Tidy Towns for commissioning four murals by SUBSET – a surprising but very welcome addition to the local landscape.
And finally, a huge shout-out to the fabulous Rally School Ireland (see featured video, above; where Colin McRae and Michael Fassbender have both been known to tool around) and Drumlin Trails e-bike hire, also.