Regular readers of my blog will know that one of my favourite boutique hotels in Ireland is Scholars Townhouse Hotel in Drogheda. It being a very balmy January I decided to treat myself to a little R&R, especially when the Covid restrictions were lifted.
Although I have stayed at Scholars a few times I have not explored the town, preferring to visit the ancient sites nearby. (Check out Chambers at Large in Trim Castle, Mellifont Abbey and Monasterboice on the Boyne Valley Drive). Drogheda is a town steeped in history and I easily hit 10,000 steps wandering around, my first stop being St Laurence’s Gate, more correctly known as a barbican.
The Anglo Normans completed the town walls in 1334 and Drogheda was one of the largest walled towns at the time. It was a stronghold and busy trading post, (still having a number of shops, pubs and eateries). St Laurence’s Gate would have had a drawbridge over a deep ditch, but such is unfortunately long gone, and cars now drive under the stone archway.
In the town centre is St Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, which houses the shrine of St Oliver Plunkett, (1625 – 1681), his mummified head being on display. (Apologies for the quality of the photograph but it wasn't easy to capture, there being so many reflections!) Oliver Plunkett was Primate of All Ireland, and he maintained his Catholic duties during a time when Catholics were persecuted. He was eventually arrested and held in Newgate Prison in London for eight months. The door to his cell is also on display.
The venerated saint was tried for treason, then hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn, a notorious area in England's captial for punishments. Beatified in 1921 and canonised in 1975, he was the first Irish saint for almost 700 years. Having also been the Archbishop of Armagh he is the patron saint of Peace and Reconciliation, reminding me me of how Ireland has prospered since the end to The Troubles.
Also on display is a piece of the ‘true cross’ on which Christ was crucified. Found by St Helena pieces are believed to have been taken to many areas, including the city of Ghent, where one piece was given to St Oliver Plunkett who brought it to Ireland. It is in a reliquary surrounded by silver and crystal.
St Peter’s church is a splendid gothic building, as big as a cathedral, making me wonder why, with its numerous holy relics, St Peter’s is not given that status. One day, maybe.
After some retail therapy I headed out to St Dominic’s Park and walked along the River Boyne, home to a plethora of seagulls and where the Salmon of Knowledge was caught. This is one of my favourite Irish folk tales and the park retells others in glass display cases. These stories arguably do not end ‘Happily Ever After’, but are wonderful and I suggest you check out the Children of Lir, the tale of Tir na Nog and learn of the heroes, Chu Chulainn and Fionn Mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool). All are easily found on the web in several languages.
A bracing walk along the River Boyne, revealed an old shoe factory, a reminder of Drogheda’s Victorian past, when buildings were built to last. Unfortunately the building caught fire a couple of years ago, but the outer walls still remain and I believe the area is being converted into apartments using the old stone. I truly hope so as Drogheda is about a thirty minute commute from Dublin and if I were working in Ireland's overpopulated capital city, I would certainly consider living here.
Scholars Townhouse Hotel also dates back to the Victorian era, built in 1867 when it was a Christian Brothers monastery. The monks are known for their erudition and teaching ethic and in the grounds of the car park is a memorial to John Philip Holland who, prior to leaving for the States, was a Christian Brother. He engineered the submersible Mechanical Duck and the world’s first workable submarine: The Fenian Ram. The latter is on display in New Jersey, USA, but at Scholars he is remembered for his teaching of mathematics and music, as well as his legacy in engineering.
Drogheda has a great deal to offer and I will return later in the year to explore more of the town, visit the museums, do a little more shopping perhaps, but certainly enjoy the warm welcome and fine gastronomy of Scholars Townhouse Hotel. A big thank you to all the staff who work there and to whom I dedicate this blog. Cheers!