Of all Ireland's counties, it is Monaghan which is most centrally placed in the drumlin belt, that strip of rounded glacial hills which runs right across the country from Strangford Lough in County Down to Clew Bay in Mayo. Monaghan, in fact, is all hills. But as very few of them are over 300 metres above sea level, the county takes its name from Muineachain - "Little Hills". Inevitably, the actively farmed undulating country of the little hills encloses many lakes, and Monaghan in its quiet way is a coarse angler's paradise.
Much of the old Ulster Canal is in Monaghan, while the rest is in Armagh and Tyrone. Once upon a time, it connected Lough Erne to Lough Neagh. It has been derelict for a very long time, but with the success of the restored Shannon-Erne Waterway along the line of the old Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal bringing added vitality to Leitrim, Cavan and Fermanagh, the even more ambitious vision of restoring the Ulster Canal is now under way.
Vision of a different sort is the theme at Annaghmakerrig House near the Quaker-named village of Newbliss in west Monaghan. The former home of theatrical producer Tyrone Guthrie, it is a busy centre for writers and artists who can stay there to complete 'work in progress', or defer deadlines in congenial company. The dedicated eccentricity of the area is also celebrated at the Flat Lake Cultural Festival around the big house in Hilton Park around the third weekend in August, a remarkably high-powered gathering of poetry, literature, music and humour.
In the east of the county at Castleblayney, there's a particularly attractive lake district with forest park and adventure centre around Lough Mucko. Southwards of Castleblayney, we come to the bustling town of Carrickmacross, still famous for its lace, and a Tidy Towns awardee.
Monaghan’s pretty village of Glaslough towards the north of the county is worth a visit, and at Clontibret in northeast Monaghan, there's gold in them thar little hills. Whether or not it’s in sufficient quantities to merit mining is a continuing matter of commercial debate, but the fact that it's there at all is another of Monaghan's more intriguing secrets. Another is the county's uncrowded character. It has been confirmed in a recent census, but there seem to be plenty of folk about the place.
Local Attractions and Information
Carrickmacross Carrickmacross Lace Gallery 042 966 2506
Carrickmacross (Kingscourt Rd) Dun a Ri Forest Park 042 966 7320
Castleblayney Lough Muckno Leisure Park 042 974 6356
Clones Clones Lace Exhibits 047 51051
Glaslough Castle Leslie Gardens 047 88109
Inniskeen Patrick Kavanagh Centre 042 937 8560
Monaghan town Tourism Information 047 81122
Monaghan town Monaghan County Museum 047 82928
Monaghan town (Newbliss Rd.) Rossmore Forest Park 047 81968
Newbliss Annaghmakerrig (Tyrone Guthrie Centre) 047 54003