County Louth

County Louth (from the Irish, Contae Lú), is the smallest county in Ireland. By an unusual coincidence, its name in Irish is identical to another Irish word in all but pronunciation, which in a phrase can mean “smallest.” Lú is, in fact, derived from Lugh, the name of a mythological Irish deity and a pretty neat illustration of a country rooted firmly in tradition but up to its oxters in folklore. Cú Chuláinn, son of Lugh, is said to have tied himself to a large stone (located in the village of Knockbridge), so that he could die on his feet.

For a large dose of reality, St. Peter’s morbid shrine to St. Oliver Plunkett, who was hanged, drawn and quartered in 1681 for treason, proudly exhibits his ghastly, severed head for public viewing. Perhaps in anticipation of a perfectly reasonable reaction to the head (“gasp!”), the church is signposted with appeals for silence. Muiredach’s High Cross at Monasterboice (just north of the medieval Town of Drogheda) is, alternatively, a sane case for the preservation of Ireland’s totems and is widely held as the most perfect in all the land. What remains of Laurence’s Gate (named for St. Laurence), a fortified outpost built during the 13th century, can also found in Drogheda.

Muiredach’s high Cross

Unmissable Attractions County Cavan

1. Highlanes Gallery (Opening Times: Monday to Saturday from 9.30 a.m. – 5.30 p.m. and Friday from 9.30 a.m – 7.00 p.m.)

2. Beaulieu House, Gardens and Car Museum (Opening Times: Monday to Friday from 11.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1.00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m. in summer) Prices: Tour of House €8.00 / Walled Garden €6.00 / Museum €6.00

3. Old Mellifont Abbey (Opening Times: Monday to Sunday from 10.00 a.m. – 6.00 p.m. in summer) Prices: Adults €3.00 / Senior citizens and groups €2.00 / Children and students €1.00 / Family €8.00

4. County Museum Dundalk (Opening Times: Tuesday to Saturday from 10.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.)

5. Millmount Museum (Monday to Saturday from 9.30 a.m. – 5.30 p.m. and Sunday from 2.00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m.) Prices: Adult €3.50 / Children and senior citizens €2.50

6. The Cistercian Mellifont Abbey a few miles northwest of the town, founded in 1142 by the miracle-bound Saint Malachy, was the very first of its kind in Ireland.