History of Meath

Meath Image 2 

In the Province of Leinster, Meath sits bordered by five other counties. Named after the Kingdom of Meath, from an Old Irish word simply meaning 'middle', Meath is the second largest county in Leinster and is mainly centred around the valley of the River Boyne. The county capital is Navan, although former county capital Trim is home to much of the county's history and heritage.

There are several ancient tombs and burial sites around Co. Meath, the most famous being the Brú na Bóinne site that includes the megalithic tombs of Newgrange, Dowth and Knowth that are all over 5000 years old. Near Oldcastle there is a passage tomb of a similar age, and the village of Teltow is also home to some 2500-year-old burial mounds of disputed origin. The Hill of Tara and Hill of Slane also have monuments and remains that date back thousands of years, including the legendary Stone of Destiny, where mythical kings of old were crowned. This auspicious honour led to Co. Meath becoming known as 'The Royal County'.

This very ancient history doesn't lend much to the recognised past of Co. Meath, as there is nothing to confirm the exact ages of these structures or who built them, but they do at least show that people inhabited the area thousands of years ago and felt moved to leave some permanent markers to their civilisations. After this time came the building of monasteries around the region, either by or in the name of Saint Patrick, throughout the fifth and sixth centuries. As the years moved on, and settlements rose up around the monasteries, towns like Trim and Kells became more important cultural and religious centres.

During the twelfth century, after the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland, Hugh de Lacy was made Lord of Meath after accepting the fealty of Irish High King Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair. De Lacy set about a major construction program across Co. Meath, and other parts of Ireland, with many motte and bailee forts and several large Norman castles quickly springing up, like those of Killeen, Dunsany, Slane and Trim.

In 1690, the fight for the crown of England spilled over into Co. Meath as the armies of Catholic King James II met the men of Protestant King William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne. More than 61,000 soldiers clashed and in the end James II's men were routed, leaving 1500 dead and ending his campaign for the crown. Co. Meath also played an extremely active role in the Irish Rebellion of 1798, with open fighting in many of the villages across the county, culminating in a battle on the Hill of Tara.

During the Irish War of Independence, Co. Meath suffered during ongoing fighting between garrisons of the Irish Republican Army and the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force, particularly in Trim, leaving the troubled towns and people scarred. Nowadays, Co Meath has reverted to a tranquil valley of outstanding natural beauty, who's many historical and mythical attractions along the River Boyne bring more and more visitors every year.





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