Home to three fascinating, Neolithic passage tombs, a visit to Brú na Bóinne is a really special experience. Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth are 5,000-year-old engineering marvels, surrounded in mystery and intrigue. Best known for the illumination of its passage chamber at winter solstice, access to Newgrange’s chamber on solstice mornings is decided by a lottery system, but the magic is hauntingly recreated during your visit at any time of the year.
Newgrange might be the rockstar of Irish passage tombs but the lesser known Loughcrew Cairns are not to be overlooked. Come prepared for a steep climb to check out the collection of tombs and the unique style of megalithic petroglyphs, across three hilltops. Gather at dawn on the March and September equinoxes to see the sun shine through the passage at Cairn T, illuminating the symbols carved into the back wall of the chamber and the corbelled roof. It’s truly magical, which is fitting for a site rumoured to have been created by a witch.
A few minutes down the road, standing in the shadow of the Round Tower at Kells, are three High Crosses built in the 9th century by the monks of St Colmcille’s Iona from Scotland. The same monastery produced the world famous Book of Kells. A fourth cross, with carvings to signify a fugitive could claim sanctuary within the boundaries of this monastic area, has been moved a short distance away to outside Kells Courthouse.
You may have seen your favourite band at Slane Castle, but you probably didn’t take in the sights of the 1,500-acre estate. Have a nose around the home of one of Ireland’s most famous aristocrats, Henry Conyngham, Earl of Mount Charles, and soak up the history of the 300-year-old estate with a castle tour. Leave time to check out Slane Distillery; a working whiskey distillery on the grounds where you’ll journey from grain to glass as you see, feel, and smell Slane Irish Whiskey being created, before finishing off in the premium tasting rooms for a tipple.
While you’re in the neighbourhood, visit the site of the historic battle in the 17th century between rival monarchs King James II and his son-in-law William III. The Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre explores the clash over the British throne with a laser battle site model and displays of original and replica weaponry. Go for a stroll in the Victorian Garden with its unique sunken Octagonal Garden or venture further on one of the five battle site walks. Afterwards visit the Tearoom Pavilion to finish off your trip with lunch on the outdoor deck.
While you’re in battle mode, tag on a visit to the Irish Military War Museum, just ten minutes away. There you’ll step into a World War, join 210,000 Irishmen at the mud-sodden trenches of France, Flanders and the Dardanelles, and feel the state of The Emergency. The stunning detail at the museum is complemented by one of the world’s finest collections of deactivated weapons and World War II Allied and Axis vehicles — you can even take a spin in a real tank.
Climb atop the Hill of Tara and stand where 142 kings are said to have reigned in prehistoric and historic times, and where St Patrick himself allegedly confronted the ancient religion of the pagans. A lot has happened here, but the present day magic of the hill is in the view. On a clear day you can see half the counties of Ireland, as far as the mountains of Mourne. See if you can spot the brilliant white quartz front of Newgrange to the northeast, and the Hill of Slane to the north.
Once the backdrop of the film Braveheart, Mel Gibson may be nowhere to be seen at Trim Castle today, but it’s still worth the visit. Virtually still intact, the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland brings you straight back to the 1100s, and stands tall and imposing among Irish fortresses. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the impressive grounds, but book a guided tour early to access the Castle’s three-storeyed keep.
The biggest amusement park on the Emerald Isle is Emerald Park in Ashbourne. Turn yourself upside down on Europe’s largest wooden rollercoaster, fly down the zipline, say hello to the Amur tigers or run the legs off the kids at the adventure playground — there’s fun for all ages.
While the Boyne Valley has much historical significance, there’s plenty of craic to be had here too. Boyne Valley Activities offer lots of options for families and groups. Hop in a kayak through the medieval town of Trim or get soaked, white-water rafting on the Boyne. If you’re staying on dry land, head for the treetops and test your nerves with the High Ropes Challenge and then fly to the bottom by zipline.
Not many people know it, but Hallowe’en actually originated in Meath. It’s believed to have roots in the festival of Samhain, which centred around the Festival of Fires at the Hills of Tara and Ward. Now, the eerie tales of Ireland’s Ancient East are brought to life in spooky country houses and on interactive tours during the Púca Festival, which began in 2019. With a mischievous spirit, the festival of ghosts takes place around Hallowe’en in Trim, Athboy and Drogheda, and things get fun just as light turns to dark. Get ready to be spooked.
There’s even more wonderful things to do in the Royal County, so head over to our Meath destination page and plan your dream getaway.