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Aran Inspired

Inchcleraun Island / Quaker Island

Just off the shore of Lough Ree, the peaceful island of Inchcleraun. Known locally as “Quaker Island”, it is one of the largest (albeit only 1 mile / 1.5 km long!) and more historically interesting islands of the many on the lake. With the remains of seven churches, including monastic settlements, Inchcleraun is an example of how Ireland got its nickname of "the land of Saints and Scholars". In the middle ages, Inchcleraun was a place of pilgrimage and religious learning. Today, the island is something of a hidden gem, since very few locals, let alone tourists, have visited its shores. Between 800 and 1300 the island and its churches were repeatedly plundered and burned by invaders, so the buildings are in ruins today.

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Ardagh Village

St. Patrick first came to this pretty village -- whose Gaelic name Ard Archadh means “high field” -- in the fifth century. He established Ardagh as the name of the diocese, chose St. Mel to be its first Bishop, and founded its first church – St. Mel’s Cathedral. The original building was made of wood, and the stone ruins you can see today are those of a church built on the site in the 8th century. Tradition states that St. Mel lies buried in these walls. In fact, the actor Mel Gibson, whose parents emigrated from Longford – is named after this saint.

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Carrigglas Manor House

This striking, gothic style manor house made from attractive blue-gray limestone was built in 1837 by Thomas Lefroy, and to this day has remained within the Lefroy family. To visit Carriglas is to experience firsthand the charm of gracious country living in this part of Ireland, as it was in the 19th century. Thomas Lefroy was romantically linked to the author Jane Austen, and many believe that he was the inspiration for the character Mr. Darcy in her novel, Pride and Prejudice.

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Longford Town

This quaint and picturesque little town in the Irish Midlands is the County Town of Longford and the centre of commerce for the surrounding area. It also serves as a base for visitors who come to enjoy the relaxing and invigorating attractions of the midlands region. Longford Town, like so many other Irish towns and villages, had its beginnings as a monastic settlement. The community here was built by a follower of St. Patrick. The name Longford comes from the Irish word for “Long Fort”, or Stronghold, and in its early days, Longford Town was indeed a stronghold. Its first castle was owned by the O’Farrell clan, major participants in the early history of the area. The original Dominican Friary that represented the first settlement here is no longer visible.

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Corlea Trackway

Near Kenagh in County Longford, excavators working in a bog discovered a series of aging oak planks in 1984. Samples were taken to Queen’s University in Belfast, and testing determined that they dated back to the early Iron Age. The planks, when laid out, formed a track, or primitive road. As excavation progressed, a total of twenty additional oak tracks were discovered in the Bord na Mona bog during the ordinary cycle of peat milling. The valuable planks are housed at the Trackway Exhibition Centre at Corlea. The building was erected in 1994 to protect and display these relics of early Irish civilization.

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Edgeworthstown House

 Part of the original Edgeworthstown Estate, the original manor house was built in 1672 by Richard Edgeworth. It was a modest building with tiny windows. In the 1770’s Richard Lovell Edgeworth enlarged and remodeled the house. He made the bigger rooms brighter by adding additional windows, and made use of more novel building techniques to create curved walls, curved rows of columns and an oval shaped hall. The estate during that period is described as cheerful and attractive, with lush grounds accented by trees, shrubs, flowers and garden paths.

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Clonfin Monument

This stone monument located at Clonfin, near the village of Ballinalee in County Longford, marks the place where local soldiers of the old Irish Republican Army (IRA) ambushed British forces, killing four. Erected in 1971 to mark the 50th anniversary of the event, the limestone monument features strong military, anti-British language and symbolism. Two crossed rifles sit above a marble plaque, which bears the inscription Óglaıġ na hÉıreann (Oh-glee Nah Hay-rinn, a Gaelic moniker used by Republican groups past and present. It means "young men of Ireland" or "soldiers or Ireland".

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Granard Motte

This primitive structure at Granard consists of a huge mound of earth with a flat top and a hollow interior. It is believed to have been used as a storage facility, possibly for grain or perhaps even gold treasure. The top of the mote once included a wooden guard tower, encircled by a palisade. A U-shaped bailey at its base served as a containment area for animals and soldiers in times of battle. The remainder of the facility was defended by the occupants of the huge trench at the top. Granard Motte was probably built in pre-Danish years, and was used by Richard de Tuite in 1199 in efforts to complete the Norman Conquest. From the 534-foot high summit, visitors can enjoy a beautiful view that includes parts of nine different counties, the Sliabh Bloom Mountains and five lakes.

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Abbeyshrule Cistercian Abbey

 The ruins of the Cistercian Abbey at Abbeyshrule were once part of a much larger community of buildings, not visible today except for the outline stones of quite a few foundations. This was the first Cistercian site in Longford County, and the fifth in the country following the first very successful settlement at Mellifont. The Abbeyshrule monastery was funded by the O’Farrell family, and the site is scenically located along the River Inny, just east of Ballymahon. The name comes from the English word “abbey” and the Irish word sruth, which means “river,” because of its close proximity to the river. The graveyard adjoining the abbey contains the remains of a large number of ancestors of today’s southern County Longford families.

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In the small village of Aughnacliffe in County Longford stand the remains of a megalithic portal tomb, where ancient stones are stacked upon each other in a precarious balancing act. Believed to be around 5,000 years old, the tomb is located in a hollow, as are most of the dolmens found in Ireland. This may give a clue as to how the dolmens were created -- one popular theory suggests that a mound of earth, now gone, was used as a ramp to roll the rocks up on top of the structure.

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