Slane is a heritage oasis on the River Boyne. Though synonymous with Slane Castle, 18th-century seat of the Conynghams, the estate town has long since forged its own identity.
The central feature of the village is an octagon built on an axis of four Georgian houses. The limestone buildings have a stately bearing, with their dressed quoins and cut-stone window jambs, but they’re a fountain of local lore too. One story suggests the houses were built for four spinster sisters who couldn’t stand one another. From separate domiciles, each could keep their own beady vigil.
Slightly north of the village, the Hill of Slane is where St. Patrick lit his paschal fire in AD433. The act defied Laoghaire, the pagan High King of Tara, but when Patrick explained the concept of the Holy Trinity with a three-leaved shamrock - so the story goes - Laoghaire gave him permission to preach the gospel. Today, the Hill hosts the ruins of a 16th-century church and friary.
Slane Castle dates in its current form from 1785. Tours are available and pick of the interiors is a circular ballroom in Gothic Revival style. You’ll also encounter several gifts sent by George IV to his mistress, Lady Elizabeth Conyngham... including a none-too-modest portrait of himself.
Of course, Slane Castle is also known internationally for its mega-concerts. Bowie, Dylan, Springsteen and U2 are just a few of the acts that have entertained the masses here.
Slane’s heritage trail includes two churches named for St. Patrick and, beside the canal and river, a fine example of a Georgian mill dating from 1766. Across the road, on the sloping southern approach to the town, you can see the looming south gate of the castle.
Slane is an excellent base for exploring the Boyne Valley too, with Newgrange, the Hill of Tara and medieval nuggets like Monasterboice and old Mellifont Abbey all just a short drive away.