Land of 5,000 Dawns

Discover Neolithic tombs, prehistoric sites and mythical landscapes.



  • Cavan
  • Longford
  • Louth
  • Meath
  • Monaghan
  • Westmeath


Dublin Airport | Heuston (train) Station | Connolly (train) Station | Busáras | Dublin Port | Belfast International Airport | George Best Belfast City Airport


Watch the sunrise over a landscape as old as time and discover the Land of 5,000 Dawns. Made up of counties Cavan, Longford, Louth, Meath, Monaghan and Westmeath, history and myth collide here in a place where almost every village, monument and great house comes with its own legend of warring giants or eccentric aristocrats.

Where the slain still remember St Patrick, He lit a fire for the people to see, ‘Ere he brought love and kindness to Ireland, And the beautiful county of Meath.


Go exploring and you’ll find marvels of Palladian architecture, fossils from a dinosaur age, and a castle owned by descendants of Attila the Hun. This is Ireland’s Ancient East… and it’s time to wander through 5,000 years of history.

<span id="newgrange">Newgrange</span>

In a quiet part of County Meath lies one of the great treasures of the ancient world. Built in 3200 BC, this is Newgrange, a passage tomb older than the pyramids and just as mysterious – and the secret it reveals each year on the winter solstice secret is extraordinary.

Wow! The genius of the characterisation of the main chamber, being lit with the rising sun during the winter solstice, is just mind blowing.


At dawn on the 21st of December, a shaft of light from the rising sun pierces the small opening above the entrance, creeping slowly along the stone passageway and illuminating the burial chamber at the heart of the monument. The ancient builders of Newgrange are honouring their dead.

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Monasterboice, County Louth

At 5.5 metres tall, the 10th century high cross at Monasterboice is often cited as the finest of its kind in Ireland. Sharing the tree-lined monastic site with two churches and one of Ireland’s tallest round towers, the cross is vividly engraved with key scenes from the Bible.

Hill of Slane, County Meath

This grassy mound in the Boyne Valley has pedigree. Sitting 10.5 metres above pastoral Meath heartlands, this is where St Patrick is said to have lit his paschal fire (sunrise mass is said here each Easter). It’s also where Sláine mac Dela, the legendary first High King of Ireland, is said to rest.

St Peter’s Church, County Louth

Hung, drawn and quartered, St Oliver Plunkett met his end in 1681. Today, his mummified head holds court at his shrine in St Peter’s Church, Drogheda, where the battered door to his prison cell stands in stark contrast to the ornate Gothic Revival surrounds.

<span id="cooley-peninsula">Cooley Peninsula</span>
Cooley Peninsula

Perched in the middle of the hilly Cooley Peninsula is the medieval town of Carlingford. Here, you’ll find traces of the Vikings and the Normans, a castle that’s said to be haunted by a headless ghost, quirky boutiques, and restaurants serving delicious seafood, fresh from Carlingford Lough.

The Táin Bó Cuailnge legend from 12th century Irish literature (often translated as The Cattle Raid of Cooley) tells the epic saga of Queen Medbh of Connacht and the warrior Cúchulainn.

This is a place rife with myth and legend. Resting beneath the lough are the feet of legendary giant Fionn MacCumhail, sweeping down from his grave beneath Louth’s highest mountain, Slieve Foy. And don’t forget the leprechauns – the last 236 on the island are hiding on Carlingford’s Fairy Hill.

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Patrick Kavanagh Centre, County Monaghan

Located in a quintessential rural setting, the Patrick Kavanagh Centre is an ode to Inniskeen’s most famous poet. Housed within a converted church, the exhibion features a 60-seat audio-visual theatre, a model of his poem “A Christmas Childhood”, and his death mask.

Castle Leslie, County Monaghan

Occupied by the Leslie family – descendants of Attila the Hun! – since 1665, Monaghan’s finest estate maintains a sense of centuries-honed luxury. The 19th century castle today operates as a hotel and sits on extensive grounds, beside three lakes and a Victorian walled garden.

Cavan Burren Park, County Cavan

Sculptures, tombs and sandstone monuments dapple the eroded landscape of the Cavan Burren, which dates back to Neolithic times. Beneath its limestone skin lie fossils formed over 350 million years ago, when a tropical sea covered Ireland.

<span id="belvedere-house">Belvedere House</span>
Belvedere House

Who would guess that behind the tranquil Victorian walled gardens and enchanting woodland trails of Belvedere House lies one of the most dramatic family histories in Ireland? This grand Palladian country house was built as a hunting lodge for Robert Rochfort in 1774, but it wasn’t quite the peaceful retreat you might imagine.

At the house you can hear the story of the jealous Earl who locked his wife away for several years because he suspected her of infidelity.


Having locked up his wife in his previous home on suspicion of an affair with his brother Arthur, Robert later set about constructing what’s known as the Jealous Wall in the grounds of Belvedere, to hide the larger and more impressive house of another estranged brother, George, on a neighbouring estate.

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Corlea Trackway, County Longford

The ancient oak planks of the Corlea Trackway have stretched across the Longford boglands since 148 BC, making this Iron Age road the oldest of its kind in Europe. Today, the Visitor Centre houses an 18-metre stretch of the preserved trackway.

Hill of Uisneach, County Westmeath

Occupied for a millennium longer than the pyramids and home to the oldest festival in Ireland (the Uisneach Fire Festival), the Hill of Uisneach is history distilled. Guided tours feature a ring fort and the resting place of the goddess Éiru.

Kilbeggan Distillery, County Westmeath

Founded by the McManus family in 1757, Kilbeggan Distillery has since passed through many hardworking hands. To this day, the Keepers of the Wheel continue to guard the secrets of Kilbeggan and Ireland’s oldest working still.


Fact: Ireland’s Ancient East is defined by its past, all 5,000 years of it. But that doesn’t mean that this historic region doesn’t know how to have fun. Across the counties of Ireland’s Ancient East, countless festivals are celebrating art, opera, comedy, food, music and more.

Explore more of Ireland’s Ancient East

Celtic Coast

Journey through monastic cities, ancient coastlines and Titanic towns.

The Historic Heartlands

Explore medieval castles, distilleries and Mesolithic hunting grounds.

Ireland’s Ancient East


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