A Rich and Celebrated History

Cavan has for many years been home to a remarkable line-up of pre-historic farmers, rulers, musicians, saints and scholars – 5000 years to be somewhat precise. Many powerful chieftains and warriors have fought and died for this hallowed turf and when you visit you’ll soon understand why.

A jewel in the historic crown of County Cavan is our very own Burren. Located in the west of the County, Burren is a rocky "relict" landscape. Its monuments, habitation sites and fields survive from prehistoric times and some are older than the pyramids. The fossils embedded in its limestone are the coral of a tropical sea of 350 million years ago.

We know that as far back as the 6th Century, Missionaries converted the people of Cavan to Christianity and many beautiful abbeys and churches were built around then. St. Feidhlim founded a beautiful church at Kilmore (near Cavan town), while St. Mogue set up an abbey overlooking a lake at Drumlane (near Milltown), the remains of which are still there today, along with a well preserved round tower.

In the Later Middle Ages (1200-1600), Cavan was a border area under the control of the famous Irish chieftains – mainly the O’ Reilly’s and the O’ Rourkes.   The Anglo-Normans tried to conquer Cavan and built a fabulous castle on an island in the middle of Lough Oughter which was quickly re-captured back by the O Reilly’s. They also built a motte-and-bailey at Belturbet. Part of the castle still stands today, proud and resolute, surrounded by water. The motte and bailey is still holding court on the banks of the River Erne in Belturbet and is very welcoming to visitors.

In 1579 County Cavan took on the boundary that we recognise today. By the early 17th century, Cavan became home to English and Scottish families who laid the foundations for many towns and villages such as Belturbet, Killeshandra and Virginia. Cavan's history as a holiday destination dates from this time, when visitors from all over Ireland flocked to the mineral spas at Swanlinbar in West Cavan.

The sites named above are just a few intriguing highlights. Go to our things to do section for more exciting heritage sites to visit.

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