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County Leitrim

The Irish name of this mostly inland county is Liath Druim, which translated means Grey Ridge. Located in the province of Connaught, County Leitrim is its smallest county with the lowest population. Traditionally an agricultural area, its main products were those produced in connection with raising cattle and growing potatoes. County Leitrim’s beautiful natural scenic areas are plentiful, especially around the shores of Lough Allen and near Glencar Waterfall. 

County Leitrim Highlights

Carrick on Shannon is the county town of Leitrim, centre for the All Ireland Waterway Authority and home to a number of harbours and marinas. These modern facilities service the burgeoning boating and cruise industry that attracts visitors to the connected system of inland waterways every summer. Cruises are a common sight along the lakes and rivers, and many of them originate here in Carrick on Shannon. Other attractions in and around the town include the remains of the castle, Town Hall and the old workhouse, which now houses a Museum and Famine Memorial. County Leitrim and its people were severely stricken by widespread suffering following the crop failures of the 1840s. The Sliabh An Iarainn Visitor Centre is an impressive heritage site where the highlights of the local natural beauty and resources of County Leitrim are presented from an historical perspective using audiovisual and other exhibition techniques. At Cloonmorris Church, an ancient Ogham Stone can be examined, along with the Augustinian church that dates back to the 13th century. Additional religious sites of interest include the ancient Tullaghan Stone Cross, historic Fenagh Abbey and the ruins of Creevlea Franciscan Friary, established in 1508. Costello Memorial Chapel at Carrick on Shannon is only 16ft x 12ft in size, and is the resting place for a renowned local trader and his wife, for whom he built the chapel. The story behind its construction is as interesting as the unique décor. Along Lough Gill, the beautifully restored Parkes Castle gazes out over the water, complete with the turrets and mullioned windows typical of 17th century design. Lough Rynn House and its adjoining gardens offer a view of life on an Irish country estate in the 1850’s, complete with an expansive terraced garden designed in Victorian style, and an oak tree estimated at over 400 years of age. Glencar Lake and its nearby waterfall are places of natural enchantment, along with Garadice Lake and the forested regions along the banks of the Ballinamore/Ballyconnell Canal. 

County Leitrim History

The ruling family of County Leitrim from Gaelic times forward was the O’Rourke clan. Their family crest remains a part of the County Leitrim official emblem to this day. The O’Rourkes retained control of the northern portions of the county even after the Norman invasion overran the southern regions. Plantation of English settlers was attempted in the 1620s without a lot of success, and the Great Famine spurred massive emigration after crop failures were responsible for widespread starvation From the earliest recorded histories, forests covered County Leitrim – five in all according to traditional literature. By the 17th century, many of them were cut down, with very wet, marsh like soil replacing the area where majestic trees once stood. 

Popular Leitrim Surnames

Common surnames in County Leitrim include
  • Clancy
  • Kiernan
  • McHugh
  • McKeon
  • Mulvey
  • O'Rourke
  • O’ Rourke
  • Reynolds
  • Rooney
  • Shanley
  • Sweeney

Image

Glencar Waterfall, County Leitrim, by Liam Maloney

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