Walks: A Ramble in Glassan Village, Co Westmeath

Take time to walk some Westmeath country roads with a literary twist

Glassan Village, Co Westmeath

Getting there: Glassan village is on the N55 nine kilometres north of Athlone. 
Distance: 17km
Terrain: Mainly quiet country roads.
Accumulated ascent: 120 metres.
Map: this walk meanders through the corners of four maps, OS Discovery 40, 41, 47 and 48.

This is a great day walk in fine countryside, taking in the highlights of the places where Oliver Goldsmith spent 15 years of his childhood and which had a strong influence on his writings.

From the centre of pretty Glassan village walk south and turn right at the end of the street. Soon you will find yourself on a narrow, roughly paved bohereen that somehow has escaped modernisation. It is in fact part of the ancient road to a monastic settlement at Kilkenny West.

To the right is the demesne wall of Waterston House, which is long gone, but look southwards for a strange, pointed structure across the fields: this is an 18th century dovecote designed by Richard Castle, architect of Leinster House.

The bohereen eventually drops down to rejoin tarmac, and goes straight on up a quiet country road. Passing a green barn on the right, look out for The Pinnacle on the hill to your left, erected in 1769 to mark the very centre of Ireland.


A kilometre further on you reach Kilkenny West, the site of a 6th century monastic settlement founded by St Canice. The ruined church, dating from 1839, was built on the site of the church where Oliver Goldsmith’s father was rector between 1730 and 1747.

Continue on straight and take the next left, signposted "The Pigeons". The road climbs and winds northwards; at the highest point you can glimpse Lough Ree. Shortly after a turn to the right, keep right at a fork: at the corner once stood the alehouse The Three Jolly Pigeons, which features in Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer. Carry on past the end of the road to reach the N55.

Not far away to the left until recently were ruins of the parsonage where Goldsmith lived as a boy. His memories of this area later inspired his works The Deserted Village and The Vicar of Wakefield.

Cross the N55 and continue along the narrow road on the far side. Just past the junction on the right was the site of the school where Goldsmith and the other children gazed at the teacher: "And still they gaz'd, and still the wonder grew,

That one small head could carry all he knew.”

Six hundred metres further on some stones of the “busy mill” of “sweet Auburn” can be found down to the right just before a sharp bend.

Our route winds on past busy farmyards: take the next left on to a narrow road called “The New Line” and at the next T-junction turn left again. Meeting a busy road turn right, and go right again at a fork to take you through the neat hamlet of Tubberclare.

Four hundred metres past the church turn left on to another ancient road called Bohereen na Saggart. The first part has been modernised but the road narrows suddenly to a wonderful narrow leafy laneway that continues between stone walls. Too soon “civilisation” is reached again as the bohereen widens again and our route goes left at the next junction. To the left soon you will see Harmony Hall, a fine 18th century house. A turn right at the next junction will take you back to Glassan.