The Boyne Valley, birthplace of Ireland’s Ancient East, is home to some of the most famous items of Irish heritage. This is certainly true of the town of Kells with its monastic sites and connections to the world-famous Book of Kells. For those of you that have not yet visited or even for those of you who may not yet have explored the fantastic monuments, walks and activities on your own doorstep, Kells is certainly well-worth a visit.
Suggest: 1 to 2-day itinerary
Accommodation: The Boyne Valley offers a great range of first-rate accommodation for visitors to choose from, ranging from luxury hotels to cosy B&Bs and guesthouses, as well as self-catering and camping/glamping options.
Accommodation providers have the health and wellbeing of their guests to the forefront at all times and are working to new guidelines issued by Fáilte Ireland. For a full listing of accommodation in the Boyne Valley click here.
A good way to begin your trip to Kells is to take a walking tour of the town. For a self-guided walk, a map of the Kells Historic Trail is available for download at discoverboynevalley.ie or you may prefer to take a guided walking tour of the town with one of the enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteer guides from Kells Walk-About Tours.
The starting point for both of these options is the Kells Tourism and Cultural hub, in the town’s old courthouse. The Boyne Valley Exhibition, supported by Meath County Council, provides the visitor with an exciting overview of Kells and the area using interactive touch screens and engaging videos. A facsimile copy of the Book of Kells, a replica of the Kells Crozier (the elaborately-decorated staff of office of a bishop or abbot), and the Kells town model are all on view. The Toradh 2 gallery is also housed in this building, showcasing talent from Meath County Council’s Toradh Arts Programme.
Did you know? In 1653 The Book of Kells was sent to Dublin for safe keeping by Charles Lambert, governor of Kells. In 1661 it was donated to Trinity College by Henry Jones, Bishop of Meath.
Outside the Courthouse is the famous Kells Market Cross, a fine example of medieval stone carving. Other highlights from this heritage town include, St Colmcille’s House, Parnell Garden, St Johns’ Cemetery and of course the Monastic Site at the centre of town.
If you feel like venturing a little further afield, a walk to the Spire of Lloyd is a nice option. This inland lighthouse is 30 metres high and stands in what is now known as the Peoples Park. The park is an access point for the 40-min “Ringfort and Blackwater River Looped Walk”.
Another popular expedition is the Tailteann (Teltown) Blackwater River Drive & Walk, which takes in the historic Donaghpatrick Church in Gibbstown. When you’re in the area why not stop into An Stór, Baile Ghib to sample some of their tasty baked goods. From Gibbstown, continue on to Teltown House where the walking element of your trip will begin. Be sure to visit the old graveyard where you will see prehistoric rock art, as well as some early Christian ruins. This route takes you along the banks of the River Blackwater to Martry Mill, a traditional watermill which is still used to produce stone-ground wholemeal flour. The mill is open to visitors by appointment.
At this stage some lunch will most definitely be required so return to Kells for a bite to eat at Café Therese in the Headfort Arms Hotel.
For some further exploration try a visit to Girley Bog Eco Walk. This looped walkway is located just off the N52, heading towards Mullingar and is signposted from Kells. Walking boots are recommended and it is a fantastic opportunity to reconnect with nature and to appreciate this raised bog, an area of considerable conservation significance and a rare habitat in the E.U.
When you’re in this area, it is also worth checking out what’s going on at Causey Farm. This working family farm offers fantastic interactive experiences for groups and has a calendar of seasonal events, such as summer camps, Easter, Halloween and Christmas experiences.
If some retail therapy is called the for, The Courtyard, just a short distance for Kells, is a fantastic opportunity to pick up some beautiful pieces of furniture, homeware, giftware, jewellery and craft items.
Return to Kells after your busy day to enjoy the heartfelt hospitality of the ‘Vanilla Pod’ restaurant in the Headfort Arms Hotel, which offers ‘Place on a Plate’, using local suppliers and seasonal ingredients, or The Bective Restaurant, which specialises in Irish beef and fish.
On checking out of your accommodation, set course for Oldcastle to explore the unique landscape at Loughcrew Cairns. Located 3km to the east of the town, the Cairns also known as the ‘Hill of the Witch’, are a group of Neolithic passage tombs dating to 3000 BC. Guided tours are available during the summer season but even without a guide, this unique landscape is well worth a visit to enjoy some hill walking and savour the unspoiled beauty of the area.
Did you know? The Loughcrew complex is a megalithic cemetery containing around 30 passage tombs. It is one of the most important prehistoric cemeteries in Ireland.
For a unique guided experience, stop into Loughcrew Megalithic Centre to visit Maggie Heaney’s cottage, now a heritage museum of life in old Ireland. After your taste of the past, enjoy some tea and home-made scones in the centre’s cafe. Guided archaeology and mythology tours of the Loughcrew Cairns are available.
From here, a five-minute drive will take you to the beautiful Loughcrew Estate and Gardens. For those with small children, there is an enchanting fairy trail, set against the magical backdrop of this wonderful estate.
Did you know? Loughcrew Estate was also home to St Oliver Plunkett for the first 22 years of his life. On the grounds, the sacred walls of St Oliver Plunkett’s church still stand.
Some of the historic features on the estate include an old corn mill, the foundations of a long house and evidence of a motte and bailey castle. Visit the Limetree Coffee Shop on the estate for lunch.
From here a short trip will take you to Mullaghmeen Forest. This 1,000-acre forest is free to visit, spanning the border with Co Westmeath, and offers 14 miles of roadway for walkers to enjoy. After stretching your legs, why not visit Oldcastle House Hotel for some dinner and a drink, or maybe check in for another night of hospitality in the Boyne Valley.