History of Westmeath

Westmeath Image 2 

County Westmeath is in the province of Leinster, largely bordered by Co. Longford to the north west, Co. Meath to the north east, and Co. Offaly to the south. The county is known for its river-ways and lakes, including Lough Derravaragh, Lough Ennell, Lough Lene, Lough Owel and Lough Ree. Along with the Grand Canal, the Royal Canal and the River Shannon, which has a modern inland harbour in Athlone, the many water features are what bring visitors to Co. Westmeath.

Farmland, particularly cattle and stud farmland, dominates the landscape. The county town of Mullingar, as well as Moate and Kinnegad, developed strongly as the region's major market centres, especially after the Royal Canal enabled cheap transportation of farm produce to Dublin. Athlone too thrived due to its military importance, growing into the largest town in Co. Westmeath due to its strategic position on the Shannon.

St Bécán, one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland is said to have founded a monastery on the site of the village of Kilbeggan in the sixth century AD, which was later replaced by a new monastery in 1150, built by the Mac Loghlan family, which became home to the Cistercian monks of Mellifont Abbey

Co. Westmeath came into existence after the Norman invasion of Ireland, and the Kingdom of Meath was granted to Hugh de Lacy, making him Lord of Meath on top of Lord of Ireland, in 1172. De Lacy left his sons to govern the region, but they proved incompetent so the Lordship was divided between his two great-granddaughters. What is now Co. Meath went to Maud de Lacy while the western part of the kingdom was given to Margery, and her husband John de Verdun, to look after.

Never seeming to be quite as important to the de Lacy clan as their holdings further to the west, Co. Westmeath was not plundered or defended to the same extreme. So, by the end of the thirteenth century, it had all but reverted to the control of the native Irish population, particularly the McGeoghehan, O'Curry and O'Mulleady families. In the year 1541 the land officially separated from Co. Meath, to become Co. Westmeath.

The mid to late seventeenth century brought catastrophe to Co. Westmeath, as Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army rolled over much of Ireland. After the final loss to Cromwell, great swathes of land were confiscated and almost all of the land's owners and their families were put to the sword.
After surviving many of the same trials as nearby Co. Meath during the Irish War of Independence, the subsequent Irish Civil War and the troubles that followed, Co. Westmeath has since bloomed into an idyllic visitor destination for those looking for a quiet and relaxing getaway.






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