Local knowledge: Boyne Valley
Where should you go? We ask the locals.Liz Pickett, from Laytown, Co Meath
Tell me about the Laytown Strand Races.They take place in September and have been around since the end of the 19th century. They were set up by the local parish priest. We run a group of 300-year-old thatch cottages on the beach and we’re on the three-furlong mark for the races (see cottages-ireland.com).
Visitors come from the US, Australia and all over. It is a unique one-day event. It is totally gauged by the tide. When the tide goes out they set up the course in the morning. So it is usually an evening meeting. It is a very sociable local event run on the beach under Jockey Club rules with a tote and paddocks.
Where would you go for a bite to eat?Relish Cafe is gorgeous and is situated by the beach. The local pub is the Cottage Inn and you also have McDonaghs, a lovely old thatched pub in the village of Bettystown.
Is there somewhere locally people often miss?Obviously, the Boyne Valley has the Battle of the Boyne heritage centre and other places like Newgrange. There are also stunning walks along the river where you can walk along the Boyne river to the Dublin county border. It is a beautiful walk and then you also have great walks along Slane Castle and along the Slane Ramparts walk.
Dave Robinsonowns and runs the Rathbeggan Lakes outdoor activity centre in Dunshaughlin
Why should someone visit the Boyne Valley?The Boyne Valley is really well-known all over the world and although the valley itself is fantastic, the region has a lot more to offer people other than the standard Newgrange and Hill of Tara visitor stops. For a start, we are located in south Meath, really close to the border with Dublin, and yet right out in the countryside.
Are there any historical areas that you think tourists sometimes miss?Meath is soaked in history but there’s so much that only the very dedicated will see it all. There’s lots of handy, family friendly stuff to do, such as the new heritage trail in Dunshaughlin. It takes over an hour to cover the trail and you discover lots about our little area. And it’s free.
What is there to do if it’s raining?Weather is always an issue, but I think we are finally starting to get with the raincoat and wellies programme. In terms of children, between Rathbeggan Lakes and Tayto Park we have two of the best family attractions in the country, and both have plenty of rainy-day activities.
Tell me a bit about your business and how it works.Here at Rathbeggan Lakes, we offer visitors a choice of activities, from bouncy castles to pedal boats, fishing to climbing. We charge a low entry fee, just €2 per person, and then the guests can choose from our range of activities. Most people come to us for the full day, but if you want some history as well, we would always send people up to the Hill of Tara. It’s close by and gives you a great view of the county and farther, and there’s a great little restaurant up there too called Maguire’s.
Are there any local festivals coming up?The last weekend in September is always great craic around here because that’s when we hold the Dunshaughlin Harvest Festival. It’s a great collection of rural and town, of food and music, and just brilliant fun. It really shows our little town in its best bib and tucker. See dunfest.comfor details.
Is there a walk locally you like to take?For all the organised trails and tours, there are still lots of hidden country walks all over the county, and right beside us here is the old Navan to Dublin railway line. It’s a favourite ramble of ours. It’s abandoned but you can walk right along through fields and get a taste of the countryside in minutes. A group of us locally are trying to get it developed into a cycle track.
Where is good for food and drink?Fontana serves Italian food in the village and there’s the County Club. It really gives you value for money in lovely surroundings. Carberrys pub in Dunshaughlin has a great pint, regular traditional music sessions and a big open fire. Heaven.
Joe Conlon, from Athboy, Co Meath
Tell me a bit about your links to the local area.I live in Athboy and have done so all of my life. I have always had a keen interest in history and I’m the founder of Athboy Heritage Forum. Athboy is steeped in history. We are home to the birthplace of Halloween and Tlachtga, also known as the Hill of Ward.
What areas of historical significance, perhaps off the tourist track, should people visit locally?You have the walking tour of Athboy that takes in all the historical sites such as the Norman Tower, the ring fort at the Fair Green and the site of the castle of Athboy. Most important I feel is Tlachtga. This is a place that is one of the main spiritual centres of the ancient Celts. It was here on the festival of Samhain that the sacred fire was kindled. Torches were lit from this fire and carried to seven other hills around the country, including Tara and Loughcrew, and then on to light up the whole country.
Is there a town or village tourists often miss?As well as Athboy, there is Fordstown, Kells and Navan, and all these have interesting histories.
Where could a family visit with the kids?I’d suggest places like the Causey Farm in Girley, which is about three miles from Athboy on the Athboy to Kells road.
Anywhere else you’d like to highlight?Well you have the likes of Fordstown, which was the birthplace of the Moore brothers Matt, Tom, Owen, Joe and sister Mary. Matt Moore starred in the movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and has his name on the Hollywood walk of fame, along with his brothers Tom and Owen.
Loughcrew and Oldcastle and Mullaghmeen Forest in THE Boyne Valley.
They’re hardly connected but high crosses/monastic site at Monasterboice and for lunch the Eastern Seaboard Bar and Grill in Drogheda is a good combination.
You must try Boyne Valley Blue cheese and The Forge Restaurant, theforgerestaurant.ie.
I spent a pleasant couple of days about Mellifont Abbey (below), Monasterboice, Newgrange and also Boyne. The Celtic crosses are majestic.
Plenty of OPW heritage attractions, for example Newgrange and the Hill of Tara, are listed at heritageireland.ie/en/midlandseastcoast.
A little bit away, but Loughcrew in Oldcastle is older than Newgrange and has Office of Public Works guides for the Cairns over the summer. Try Loughcrew Gardens for tea and homemade apple tart.