County Cavan is in the province of Ulster, on the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The county is named after its principle town of Cavan and is known as The Lakeland County after its reputed 365 lakes and multitude of hills. The rivers Shannon, Erne, Blackwater, Annalee, Cladagh, Glyde and Owenroe all begin their existence in Co. Cavan. Its lakes and river ways make it popular with visitors, especially during the summer months. The north west area, where Co. Cavan gets nearer to its border with Co. Leitrim, is particularly mountainous and thus sparsely populated.
The county is still often referred to as 'Breffni', as it was part of the Kingdom of Breifne from before the time of Christianity in Ireland, around the fifth or sixth century, which stretched from Kells in Co. Meath to Sligo in Co. Sligo. It was said to be occupied by a tribe called the Erdini until the eighth century, when the Uí Briúin from Connaught conquered the land and settled.
The kingdom was divided by the war between the O'Reillys and the O'Rourkes, and their Battle of Ballinamore in 1256. This split the region into East and West Breifne, each ruled over by its respective family, until the reign of Queen Elizabeth I when they were re-designated Co. Cavan and Co. Leitrim. Breifne is an old Irish word that literally translates as 'hilly'.
Just prior to and during the region's reformation into Co. Cavan, the invading Anglo-Normans spread a good deal of influence throughout the land, resulting several motte and bailie forts being constructed around the area, with stronger castles such as Cloughoughter and Castlerahan also being built. Monasteries and abbeys like Drumlane and Trinity Island were comprehensively re-established and modernised as well.
As King James I's loyal subjects from England and Scotland began to populate the area in the early 1600s, during the Plantation of Ulster, new towns like Bailieborough, Cootehill, Killeshandra and Virginia appeared, while older towns like Cavan and Belturbet began to rise in importance.
The potato blight known as the Great Famine of 1845-49 all but destroyed some areas of Co. Cavan, along with diseases such as cholera and typhus becoming particularly prevalent during the winter of 1847 and causing major devastation. A well-known ballad “by Lough Sheelin Side' laments the eviction of over two hundred people by a landlord in the parish of Mountnugent, which was just one of many mass evictions of desperate families from their homes during the nineteenth century. The county was not included with the land that would be part of in the temporary exclusion of Ulster from Home Rule in 1916, leaving it to remain a county of the Republic of Ireland.
As time past, however, the land was rebuilt. These days Co. Cavan's primary industry is farming, its clay soil being ideal for livestock pasture farming, which leaves much of the countryside with a quiet and gentle atmosphere that draws tranquillity seeking visitors from miles around.