This Heritage Centre, located in the Sliabh An Iarainn and Arigna mountains, gathers a variety of cultural exhibits under one roof. Here you can learn about the institutions and industries important to the local people over the years – specifically iron and coal mining, the lakes and canals, and the Cavan & Leitrim Railway.
An impressive audiovisual presentation lays out the historical background of the area, and gives the viewer a sense of the area’s unique beauty.
Coal mining became essential to the area in the 19th century; about 400 years after the mining of iron first began. Mining continued to be the region’s primary industry, until the last mine was finally closed in July of 1990. Exhibits at the centre depict the work life of the miners as well as a chronicle of the rise and decline of the industry itself.
The Cavan & Leitrim Railway was built to facilitate the mining industry, running from Drumshanbo to Ballinamore, and linking the towns in between. This fondly remembered narrow gauge system closed in 1959. The Sliabh An Iarainn Visitor Centre keeps its memory alive with plenty of photos and exhibits, which feature replicas of an actual ticket and a railway station waiting room.
Another interesting exhibit is the replica of a sweathouse, or the Irish version of a sauna. It was a stone structure, inside which a turf fire was lit and allowed to burn until the stones reached a desired temperature. Then the fire was taken out of the building and a person went inside to absorb the heat and “sweat out” various maladies. To complete the sweating process, the patient emerged and took a coldwater bath in a nearby stream.