Northern Ireland Stories and Tips

A Few Hours in Monaghan

 Victorian Drinking Fountain Photo,

This small town in County Monaghan was a delightful stop during our meander through Ireland. The county of Monaghan was once part of the ancient kingdom of Oriel dating back to 330 A.D. The town of Monaghan was founded around 1602-03 and was largely a farming community. A thriving linen industry in the 18th century provided the legacy of fine Regency buildings around the town’s center, which was built on a monastic site. It is becoming apparent to me that many towns were built on such sites. Roads slice hypnotically past cairns and archaeological excavations; occasionally the said sites are within driving distance, but many times you can drive in circles and never find the place. However, you can bet on having lovely and lengthy conversations with the locals and so you win either way.

One of the unique aspects of County Monaghan's landscape is its profusion of rounded hills known as drumlins {Druim}. These rounded hills created by receding melting glaciers during the ice age are common in northern Europe, but Monaghan lays claim to having the most. The spin off from them is the profusion of lakes that provide a haven for anglers. This quiet, unspoiled area of Ireland is a little off the beaten path of tourism, but therein lies its charm.

We spent a couple of hours in the town; I found a book by Palin in one of its bookstores and was delighted to find an Internet café next door. While I searched around the shops for some linen and lace to add to my collection, Neil found a little bar to quench his search for the perfect Guinness. I found I was boggled by choice and finally purchased some lace-edged linen cloths in one of the tiny shops that had been in the same family for three generations. Many of the shops are old-fashioned and definitely family-owned, possibly for generations, but there are also a couple of modern shops similar to M&S in England.

There are four squares in Monaghan, and they are: Market, Church, Diamond, and Old Cross. The main one is Diamond; it is there you will find the Rossmore Memorial. The memorial was dedicated to the fourth Baron of Rossmore killed in a hunting accident at Windsor Castle. It is a fine example of a Victorian drinking fountain but I was perplexed at its position. Presently it seems to act as a traffic circle, as all traffic moves around it, and while Monaghan is a small town, as in all Irish towns, key areas tend to be clogged and busy. We had to make a mad dash in front of turning cars to see the fountain up close. A 17th-century market cross once stood on the same site it is now standing on in Old Cross Square.

The fountain was constructed from sandstone and is a faded honey colour, likely due to the traffic fumes. Around the fountain are letters that spell out "Rossmore" and its lofty canopy give it some grace. I imagine it was a showstopper when it was first erected. Close by almost adjoining the diamond is Church Square, dominated by—you guessed it—a church. The old Market House {1792} stands of course in Market Square and is still in use {as an art gallery}. At the opposite end of town stands the Old Cross; it really looks like a sundial and is one of the oldest monuments in the town. The old courthouse and adjoining St. Patrick’s Church, built in the Regency/Gothic styles, are interesting and well preserved; both buildings built from local grey limestone are very ornate and are still in use.

Monaghan's county museum is well worth a visit and it is free. The exhibitions and collections boast a broad collection of artifacts, which detail various aspects of County Monaghan's heritage. On display is an interesting cross, the Cross of Clogher. It is made of wood with some inlaid bronze panels and is believed to date to the 14th century. There is no story to it except to say that the bronze bits may be relics. There is a good group of archaeological artifacts that were excavated in the county, including some unusual medieval bone combs. Also on display are uniforms and the first TV that was brought into the county. The museum is also involved in various archaeological excavations in the county. We spent about 2 hours in the town and found it a pleasant place to explore and shop. If you are driving through this county, it definitely is worth a stop.

Been to this destination?

Share Your Story or Tip