Exploring County Louth
An easy place to arrive from the capital city, Drogheda is County Louth's most appealing yet overlooked town on the tourist trail. Perched along the River Boyne, it is an enchanting place to enjoy pure Irish craic before heading deeper into the Boyne Valley and the Cooley Peninsula.
One of the highlights of the town is the Millmount Museum and Martello Tower (041 983 3097,
Another site worth attention is the Old Mellifont Cistercian Abbey (041 982 6459,
Monasterboice, County Louth
An esteemed religious site in Ireland and north of Drogheda, Monasterboice is composed of two extraordinary high crosses known as Muiredach's Cross and the West Cross. Finely sculpted and featuring holy writ, Muiredach's Cross stands nearly 6 meters (20 feet) tall and fits together like a puzzle piece with a sandstone base and tenon capstone. Truly a phenomenal construction feat in the tenth century, the base illustrates Adam and Eve, while the capstone renders the meeting of Saint Anthony and Saint Paul. Throughout the center are other scenes depicting Moses and the Judgment Day. The West Cross is considered the largest of its kind in Ireland. A vast burial ground composed of two chapels and a round tower encircles these sites, along with a sixth-century monastery founded by Saint Buite. Open all year.
The Cooley Mountains and Peninsula,County Louth
Overlooking the Irish Sea, the Cooley Peninsula is a remarkable area to explore by car, bike, or foot. The best place to begin is to start out at the quaint town of Carlingford; just northwest of town are wonderful views afforded from the Slieve Foye Forest Park.
The highest mountain in Cooley is the 589-meter (1932-feet) Slieve Foye (Sliabh Feá). Parking your car at the tourist office is the best way to start your ascent of the “Mountain of the Giant.” Additionally, the trailhead can begin on the Táin Trail. While the map available at the tourist office might suffice, it is always a better idea to invest in an Ordnance Survey (OS) map.
Leaving Carlingford, the environs of the Cooley Peninsula and Mountains give way to magnificent views of the Mourne Mountains, scattered dolmen remnants, and loughs. Drive the coast around the R173 through the Windy Gap forming a loop by continuing onward to Rathcor, Grange, and Ballagan point. Driving the whole area takes about four hours, so pack a lunch and enjoy the finest scenery north of Dublin.
A popular and well-marked circuitous walking route from Carlingford is the 40km (25-mile) Táin Way. Possible in one day, but more relaxing over two, the trail meanders up the south side of Slieve Foye and has panoramic wonders overlooking the River Cronn and Rockmarshall Forest. The trail is composed of notable forest paths, ancient green paths, plus a few back roads. Additionally, the Cooley Bird Watching Trail is also a popular diversion for birders; the tourist office in town has all the latest information.
The coolest activity in Cooley is to delve into regional lore on the Táin Cycling Trail. The route is a full-on 589km (365-mile) loop that retraces the famed mythical war story of Táin Bó Cúalgne, or the “Cattle-Raid of Cooley.” In the tale, Queen Maeve battles Celtic icon Cúchulainn for the right to possess the Great Brown Bull of Cooley.