Although County Louth is small in size and population compared to the rest of Ireland, it has stood witness to some events of huge importance in Irish history. The eras of the Celts, Vikings, Cromwellians, and medieval monks are represented by historic ruins and heritage sites scattered across the region.
Named for Lugh, the Celtic god, the village of Louth preceded the formal designation of the county and served as the source of its name. The region is ripe with legendary figures, with the archaeological evidence on hand to support many of them as well as to document historical episodes.
According to Irish Catholic tradition, Saint Brigid was born near Dundalk, in County Louth, sometime during the sixth century. Her mother was reportedly a slave, but Christian, and her father a Gaelic chieftain. Her feast day, February 1st, is still celebrated in parts of Louth. Scholars now believe that the story of Saint Brigid was a Christian appropriation of the Celtic harvest goddess Brigid, worshipped during Bealtaine, the ancient Spring festival.
Indeed, historical evidence of both pre-Christian and early Christian ceremony are found throughout the county, at megalithic sites such as Proleek passage tomb and the early medieval monastic ruins of Monasterboice.
Located on the eastern coast of Ireland, County Louth has a coastline made up of rugged cliffs and sandy beaches. Louth meets the sea at the Cooley Peninsula, which divides Dundalk Bay from Carlingford Lough.
Drogheda and Dundalk are the two main towns and population centres in County Louth – the rest of the region is rural in nature.
County Louth Highlights
Drogheda is a long inhabited city with roots that extend back –past the arrival of the Vikings to the coming ashore of the very first Celtic settlers. The city witnessed dramatic and violent chapters in history, and many of these are memorialised at Mellimount Museum and Martello Tower –including artefacts from the 1649 Siege of Drogheda, perpetrated by Oliver Cromwell and his forces.
The historic port town of Carlingford has a medieval atmosphere and appeal, and quite a few very old religious buildings and ruins of fortresses. These include The Mint, a castle style building located in the town's medieval centre.
Monasterboice is a large complex of the remains of religious structures, including a trio of remarkably well preserved High Crosses from around 922 AD, as well as a round tower used for protection and as a lookout during the frequent Viking raids of the era.
Another County Louth ecclesiastical site is Old Mellifont Abbey, which served as the headquarters of William of Orange during the Battle of the Boyne.
Dun Dealgan Motte and Bailey is purported by legend to be the birthplace of Cu Chulainn, the legendary Irish warrior folk hero.
The County town of Dundalk features a good variety of pubs, restaurants and musical attractions. Home to the popular Irish rock group, the Corrs, the town also features a popular all weather greyhound track at Dundalk Stadium, which hosts a variety of events and a fine on site restaurant.
County Louth History
The rich historical perspective of County Louth is better seen than written about. Stories and legends are unravelled at prehistoric sites, religious ruins and museums where battle remnants and tools, writings, photos and other artefacts of life in the smallest county in Ireland are displayed for visitors to see.
County Louth’s roots extend back to the time when it was a part of the ancient Gaelic kingdom of Oriel. Later centuries saw the arrival of Vikings, Normans and English, who essentially took control of the region in 1185 with annexation by Prince John. County Louth remained inside the Pale, the area surrounding Dublin that would remain under English influence for many centuries to come.
The Scottish army of Edward Bruce failed in an attempt to claim kingship for the brother of Robert, who is known for the Battle at Bannockburn. A few centuries later came the area were the Siege of Drogheda in 1641, led by Oliver Cromwell, and later the same century, the Battle of the Boyne River, which flows into the sea at Drogheda.
Popular Louth Surnames
Carlingford Castle, County Louth by Richard Browne