LOUTH

From Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland (1900)

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Description of County Louth | Drogheda | St. Lawrence's Gate, Drogheda | Mellifont Abbey | Celtic Cross, Monasterboice | Louth Map

NAME.—The county took its name from the village of Louth; the old form of the name is Lughmhagh (pron. Loova), of which the meaning is uncertain.

SIZE AND POPULATION.—Louth is the smallest county in Ireland. Length, from the boundary south of Drogheda to the boundary a little north of Ravensdale, 29 miles; breadth variable—average 12 or 13 miles; area 316 square miles; population 77,684.

SURFACE.— The whole of the peninsula between Dundalk Bay and Carlingford Lough is covered with mountains except two or three miles of the point, and two narrow strips at the sides; these mountains being the continuation of those Armagh mountains that culminate in Slieve Gullion. In the south a range of low heights runs east and west, extending from the interior of Meath across the boundary near Collon, and terminating in Clogher Head. All the rest of the county, viz., from the neighborhood of Collon and Ardee northward to Dundalk, and taking in the whole breadth of the county, is a dead level, well inhabited and highly cultivated.

MOUNTAINS AND HILLS.—The mountains that occupy the Carlingford or Cooley peninsula are often called the Cooley Mountains. Of these, Anglesey (1,349) lies on the boundary; south of this is Clermont Carn (1,674); on the southern border is Slieve Naglogh (1,024); on the north border Carlingford Mountain (1,935) rises straight over Carlingford, at the west side; and near this again on the south side of Carlingford is Barnavave (1,142).

In the south of the county there is nothing deserving the name of a mountain; but some of the heights are remarkable by comparison. Beginning at the west, White Mountain (519) lies near the boundary with Meath; Mount Oriel (744) stands one mile northwest of Collon; and the last elevation of any consequence is Castlecoo Hill (346,) near the coast, a mile and a half north of the village of Termonfeckin, the range terminating two miles further on in Clogher Head.

COAST-LINE.—Round the whole of the Carlingford peninsula there is a narrow belt of coast, for the most part level; but the hills rise up immediately behind, giving the coast on the whole a mountainous character. From Dundalk Bay south to Clogher Head the shore is low and sandy. Clogher Head is high and rocky; but south of this the coast again assumes the sandy character, as far as the mouth of the Boyne.

HEADLANDS.—Greenore Point, two miles east of Carlingford, is now the terminus of a railway; Ballagan Point is the extremity of the Carlingford peninsula; southwest of this is Cooley Point; Dunany Point is the southern limit of Dundalk Bay; and Clogher Head is a scarped promontory 183 feet high, the terminating point of the range of heights running eastward through the barony of Ferrard.

BAYS AND HARBORS.—Carlingford Bay lies between Down and Louth; Dundalk Bay is about 9 miles across the mouth from Dunany Point to Cooley Point, and about the same in depth; off which, on the north, is Dundalk Harbor.

RIVERS.—In the Carlingford peninsula the Big River and the Little River flow southward through a fine valley, and joining together their united waters take the name of the Piedmont River, flowing into Dundalk Bay west of Cooley Point. The Kilcurry River, the Cully Water, and the Castletown River, all coming from Armagh, unite and flow into Dundalk Harbor. The Fane, coming from Monaghan, flows across the county and enters Dundalk Bay at Lurgan Green. The Glyde also crosses Louth, and flowing by Castlebellingham, enters Dundalk Bay at. Annagassan. Its chief headwater is the Lagan, which, coming from Monaghan, forms the boundary between that county and Louth for 4 miles, and becomes the Glyde a little lower down. The Dee, coming from Meath, flows east by Ardee, and enters Dundalk Bay at Annagassan, having a common mouth with the Glyde; it is joined on its right bank by the White River, which passes by Dunleer.

In the extreme south, the Boyne first touches Louth at the mouth of the Mattack, near Townley Hall; flows thence for 3 miles between Louth and Meath; next cuts off at Drogheda a small angle of Louth, which lies on the south of the river—flowing here for a mile and three-quarters through Louth and for the rest of its course—three miles—again divides Louth from Meath. At the point where the Boyne first touches Louth it receives the Mattock, which, rising in this county, separates Louth from Meath for nearly the whole of its course, down to its mouth.

TOWNS.—Drogheda (12,297), built on both sides of the Boyne, 4 miles from its mouth, is an interesting town, containing many remains of its old fortifications, and some fine ecclesiastical ruins. Dundalk (11,913), the assize town, at the head of Dundalk Harbor, a town of considerable trade and manufacture. Three miles northwest of Dundalk is Faughart Hill, a round grassy eminence crowned by a large rath or fort; here Edward Bruce was defeated and slain in 1316; and here also St. Brigid, the foundress of Kildare, was born in the fifth century—her father's house being probably the old fort. Near the fort is the ruin of St. Brigid's church; and also St. Brigid's Well.

Ardee (2,622) stands on the river Dee, and has two old castles. Carlingford (727) stands in a very romantic situation, nestling under high mountains, on a narrow strip of level land between their bases and the sea; retaining still some fragments of its walls and bastions, the fine ruins of King John's Castle perched on a peninsulated rock over the sea, and some abbey ruins. Clogher (662) is beside Clogher Head; Collon (451) is a very pretty little town in the southwest, in the midst of wooded hills; Dunleer (498), northeast of Collon, is on the White River; and near the coast of Dundalk Bay, on the river Glyde, is Castlebellingham (541), a pretty village celebrated for its ale. Southwest of Dundalk is the village of Louth (261), once important in an ecclesiastical point of view, but now very insignificant, and only worthy of notice as having given name to the county.

ANCIENT DIVISIONS AND DESIGNATIONS.—Louth is classical ground. That portion lying between Dundalk and Drogheda, including the whole breadth of the county, was the ancient Murthemnè, the patrimony of the hero Cuchullin, the greatest of all the Red Branch Knights (see Armagh). It was the scene in which were enacted the chief events of the ancient Irish heroic romance or epic called the Tain-bo-Quelnè, or the "Cattle-spoil of Quelnè." The subject of this old epic was a seven years' war between Ulster and Connaught, in which Cuchullin was the leading character.

The plain of Murthemnè was also called in later ages Maghera-Conaill and also Maghera Oriel, i.e., the plain of the ancient kingdom of Oriel. The district of Quelnè is the Carlingford or Cooley peninsula; the Gaelic form of the name is Cuailnge, which may be represented in sound by either "Quelnè" or "Cooley;" and the old name is still preserved in Cooley Point near the extremity of the peninsula, and also in the name of the Cooley Mountains.

Cuchullin's residence still remains. It is now known as the Moat of Castletown, a conspicuous high, flat-topped mound or fort, two miles west of Dundalk. It is well known in the Tain and other romances by the name of Dundalgan, and in later ages it gave its name to the town of Dundalk.

The range of low hills in the south is a part of the ancient Slieve-Bregh, for which see Meath.

There are two great groups of ecclesiastical ruins in this county. Monasterboice, which was one of the greatest of Ireland's ecclesiastical establishments, lies 5 miles northwest from Drogheda; it was founded by St. Buite or Boethius, who died in 522, and now contains the ruins of two very ancient churches, a round tower, and three magnificent Celtic crosses elaborately sculptured. Three miles southwest from this and five from Drogheda, in a beautiful valley watered by the Mattock, are the ruins of Mellifont Abbey. It is much less ancient than Monasterboice, having been founded in the 12th century; but it was equally celebrated; and some most interesting ruins still remain to interest the visitor.

Three miles above Drogheda is the spot where the battle of the Boyne was fought in 1690, in which William Prince of Orange defeated James II. King William's army was encamped the night before the battle at the Louth side of the river, and king James' at the Meath side, and the main conflict was at Oldbridge, which is in Meath. The monument erected in memory of Schomberg, William's best general, who was killed in the battle, stands on a rock in the middle of the river.

Description of County Louth | Drogheda | St. Lawrence's Gate, Drogheda | Mellifont Abbey | Celtic Cross, Monasterboice | Louth Map

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