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Chambers at Large in Trim Castle, Mellifont Abbey & Monasterboice on the Boyne Valley Drive, Ireland

Updated: Sep 15, 2022

People can be divided into those who research thoroughly where they are going when travelling and those who don’t. I am in the latter category therefore my discoveries on the Boyne Valley Drive, in the east of Ireland, were a delightful surprise. Wanting a couple of days of rest and relaxation, my destination was Scholars Townhouse Hotel in Drogheda, County Louth, a little gem, which I would thoroughly recommend for its high-class accommodation, incredible food and drink, not forgetting its friendly staff.

However, as those who regularly read this blog will know, mention the word castle and I am all ears. I therefore began my exploration of the Boyne Valley Drive at Trim Castle in County Meath.

Built in the 13th century on the banks of the River Leper it was a location for the Oscar winning film Braveheart, directed by and starring Mel Gibson.

Due to Covid, I couldn’t go inside the central keep, which is a formidable three storey building, but the outer walls of the castle are impressive and a walk along the river is most scenic.

What is left of the Great Hall

A little imagination is needed as there isn’t much left of the great hall and the gates, once busy with traders arriving on boats, and the moat surrounding the keep is not filled with water, therefore is more like a deep, grassy ditch.

Unfortunately as I headed away from Trim Castle the heavens opened and for much of my stay in Scholars Town House it rained. Undaunted by Irish weather I did some exploring limiting myself to the Office of Public Work sites which were FREE of charge thanks to Covid.

Mellifont Abbey was founded by the Cistercian monks in the mid twelfth century, but is now in ruins and again a little imagination is needed to appreciate its former grandeur.

However, help is given via pictures and information strategically placed around the low walls and, standing overlooking the area, I could visualise a very busy monastery where men, and their families, lived within the confines of the stone walls, but worked on the surrounding land.

An octagonal lavabo, where the monks washed their hands before meals in the refectory, is a building that stands proudly amongst the ruins and is a fine example of Romanesque architecture.

A picture of Mellifont Abbey in its heyday was very impressive, but over the years due to war and civil unrest, the place fell into decay and stones were taken to build other edifices, including a five storey mill, used to grind corn, and later process flax, the plant from which linen is made. Unfortunately, like the abbey, the mill no longer exists, but the site was worth a visit, if only to see the lavabo and grasp a taste of medieval life.

One of two ruined churches in Monasterboice

Monasterboice is the site of a monastery founded by St Buite around 500AD. The remains of the two churches on the site actually date back to when the Cistercians were in Mellifont Abbey and are now reduced to four walls, but the round tower, which was burned in 1097 along with books and treasures of the monastery, stands tall above the graveyard.

The most impressive features of Monasterboice are the high crosses, which are sheltered from the elements by sycamore trees, therefore the sculptures engraved into the stone are clearly visible, telling tales from the Old and New Testaments.

Clonmacnoise was definitely worth a visit but, in my humble opinion, the ruins of Mellifont Abbey and Monasterboice give a much better idea of how monks and laymen lived and worshipped in the past. When I stay once again at Scholars Townhouse Hotel (in the not too distant future), I will return to both sites, hopefully when it is NOT raining. Slainte!

The Bar in Scholars Townhouse Hotel, Drogheda


Please check out my other blogs regarding locations in and around Drogheda, not far from Scholars Townhouse Hotel:

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I am not as enamored as you are by old castles, but if I'm ever in Ireland again I would like to visit castles like these with you. I suspect that your enthusiasm would prompt me to enjoy the visit more than I would on my own.

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