County Roscommon is a peaceful area tucked into the folds of the Irish Midlands. It offers a quiet country setting, which also serves as the backdrop for some of Ireland’s most interesting cultural attractions and well preserved historical religious sites.
Roscommon is somewhat removed from the well-worn tourist paths, and makes an excellent retreat for those who wish to focus on enjoyment of Ireland’s outdoor beauty and the authentic culture of the countryside.
Although there is no seashore in County Roscommon, the area is still endowed with plenty of water resources. The River Shannon flows nearby, and Lough Key contains large and beautiful recreation areas. It has 32 islands –symbolic of the 32 Irish counties.
The residents of County Roscommon make their living primarily through agricultural pursuits, raising cattle, sheep, oats, hay and potatoes. Roscommon Town has been recognized as a centre for the wool trade, an age-old tradition that continues to the present time in the form of annual fairs and gatherings where wool and livestock are judged, traded and sold.
County Roscommon Highlights
County Roscommon features a wide variety of vigorous and entertaining activities for visitors, as well as the option for pleasant relaxation.
Those interested in exploring the remains of historic buildings should not miss Boyle Cistercian Abbey, where the most well preserved ancient religious ruins in all of Ireland can be found. Roscommon Castle has occupied its current site since 1269, and the local Dominican Friary was erected during the same time period, with additions built during the 15th century.
The ornate remains of ancient Celtic crosses can be examined at Emlagh and Rathcrogan. Ballythomas Earthworks is a huge complex dotted with ring forts, ancient tombs and other early structures. The site is rumored to have once served as a gathering place for the Kings of Connaught.
The historical treasures of County Roscommon are gathered together in a number of intriguing museums. The Dr. Douglas Hyde Interpretative Centre is dedicated to preserving the memory of Ireland’s first President, and displays many of the results of his lifelong effort to preserve the traditional Irish language and literature.
Strokestown Park House and Famine Museum is housed in an 18th century authentic Irish country estate. Many original possessions of the Pakenham Mahon family are featured, and the Famine Museum is exceptional in its documentation of that difficult period in Ireland’s past. The estate is surrounded by beautifully restored and maintained gardens.
Also worthy of a visit is King House, a restored 18th century mansion that contains exhibits concentrating on local history and culture.
The impressive outdoor beauty of County Roscommon is best enjoyed at Lough Key Forest Park, with its elements of druidic history, scenic walking trails and boating facilities. The Suck Valley Way, a popular walking trail that winds its way through Roscommon, meanders through some of its most beautiful fields, forests and towns. Tullyboy Animal Farm is an enjoyable attraction for the entire family, with educational demonstrations that focus on the farming life and fun activities that include a petting zoo as well as a picnic area.
County Roscommon History
Scattered ring forts and ancient burial mounds found all across County Roscommon serve as reminders of early occupants of the area.
The region later became home to the Kings of Connaught, as well as the notable Gaelic families O’Connor and Mac Dermott, who were widely revered during the medieval period of Irish history.
County Roscommon was formally created in 1565 and named for St. Coma, who lived during the fifth century. Traditional culture has endured longer here than in many parts of Ireland because County Roscommon was largely left to its own devices during both the Norman invasion and the Cromwellian Era.
Popular Roscommon Surnames
Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon, by Gordon Ryan