Ancient history in County Louth

This day trip involved a mere half-hour drive south of Dundalk to one of Ireland’s oldest cities, the port city of Drogheda. We were in search of ancient history in County Louth. We made a few stops on our way to Drogheda, stopping first at Saint Mochta’s House.

These are the sights we saw and the history lessons we experienced during our day in the Drogheda area.

St. Mochta’s House

St. Mochta’s House stands out in a working farm field just yards from St. Mary’s Abbey. We did not have permission from the farmer to walk out onto his plowed field, so we took photos from a distance.

ancient history in County Louth

St. Mochta’s House

This small 12th Century Church is believed to have housed St. Mochta’s relics. St. Mochta was one of St. Patrick’s disciples.

St. Mary’s Abbey

St. Mary’s Abbey is a large church ruin and now stands at the edge of farmland. The present abbey ruin was built in 1312 over another existing ruin. Entry past the surrounding fence and gates is not permitted, and so here again we could only take a few photos.

ancient history in County Louth

St Mary’s Abbey

St. Mary’s abbey was one of the most important abbeys of its kind in Ireland. Historically it isn’t easy to date, but it can be regarded as the direct lineal descendant and heir to the prestige and possessions of the Irish Monastery founded in the sixth Century by St. Mochta.

Plaque in place in front of St. Mary’s Abbey

Hatch’s Castle, Ardee

Hatch Castle, with its unusual rounded corners, is one of two 14th Century castles in downtown Ardee; however, it is a private home today.

ancient history in County Louth

Hatch Castle

By the time we reached Ardee, it was lunchtime, and we found a monstrously huge roast beef carvery lunch at Gonzo’s Market. We were both ready for a nap after lunch, but there were too many great places to explore, and we can nap anytime, right?

Carvery lunch

The Jumping Church and Cemetery

Well, this Church has an interesting legend. A west wall of the Jumping Church also referred to as the Kildemock Bouncing Church, is supposed to have moved, or jumped, two or three feet inward during a storm in February of 1715.

Jumping Church wall

The legend says the wall moved so that an excommunicated person buried inside the church wall would be excluded and moved outside of the church wall. The Jumping Church was built in the 14th Century, although there are stones from the 13th Century here.

ancient history in County Louth

Graveyard and Jumping Wall

Quite an interesting story isn’t it, and with a reasonably specific date also! We searched a long time for a geocache hidden here at this Church and cemetery, but as is often the case with us, we could not find it.

Old Mellifont Abbey

Old Mellifont Abbey is an extensive and beautiful ruin of a 12-century abbey. Ireland’s first Cistercian monastery was founded here in 1142.

Ancient history in County Louth

The Calefectory – room for the sick and elderly. One of few places a fire could be lit.

The abbey is a national monument today and, in addition to the magnificent ruins, includes a large parking lot and visitor’s center. Unfortunately, the visitor’s center was closed during our Sunday visit.

Old Mellifont Abbey is very large and spread over a large space.

In 1539 the abbey was dissolved and became a fortified manor home. Then, in 1690, William of Orange used the abbey as headquarters during the Battle of the Boyne. Although the abbey is in ruins today, it is pretty spectacular to look at and enormous.


Drogheda has the distinction of being one of the oldest towns in Ireland and is very near the famed Newgrange in the Boyne Valley. Its name means “bridge of the ford” and comes from its location on the Boyne River.

There are many historical attractions in this Boyne Valley area, many of which we’ve visited in past years; Newgrange and the Hill of Tara, for example, but we’d never seen the town of Drogheda and many other nearby historical sites.

Our obsession with Ireland and Northern Ireland is a very good thing, we think. We are always fascinated by its history and the stories of its magical past. I fear we will never see all there is to see in Ireland, but we will keep trying.

St. Peter’s Church

St. Peter’s Church is in Drogheda. It was constructed in 1884 and was built over an earlier 1791 church. Some elements of that earlier Church were incorporated into the later construction. This beautiful Gothic Church has gorgeous stained glass windows, sculptures, and a marble altar.

ancient history in County Louth

St. Peter’s Church, Drogheda

The fascinating history of this Church is readily available through a quick Google search. Still, one of the remarkable and most famous things St. Peter’s Church is known for is that it houses a shrine to St. Oliver Plunkett.

ancient history in County Louth

Beautiful interior of St. Peter’s Church

Plunkett was hanged in 1681 and declared a saint in 1973. St. Oliver Plunkett’s severed, preserved head makes up the centerpiece of a golden shrine. Oliver Plunket is considered a martyr and is Ireland’s patron saint for peace and reconciliation.

Plunkett’s shrine and door to the cell in Newgate Prison where Oliver Plunkett was jailed

St. Laurence Gate

St. Laurence Gate at the edge of Drogheda is an outer defensive towered gate, also called a barbican, built as part of the medieval city wall as part of its fortification. This Gate was constructed during the 13th Century and had two round towers.

ancient history in County Louth

St. Laurence Gate

In addition to protecting the city, St. Laurence Gate provided a controlled site where traders would enter the city and be required to pay taxes on their products.

Magdalene Tower

Steve and I just happened upon this Tower while wandering around the town. This Tower, built in the 14th Century, is all that still stands of a Dominican Friary that at one time been of great importance in Drogheda.

ancient history in County Louth

Magdalene Tower

The Tower, standing on the highest point in Drogheda, is fenced in on the private grounds of St. John of God Service. The gate was open and unlocked, and we were able to take a closer look. We also met the local well-cared-for cat, Ginger, that makes its home at the tower.


Our last stop of the day turned out to be the ruins of another monastic site just a few miles north of Drogheda. Monasterboice was an important religious center during the 5th Century up until Mellifont Abbey came into existence.

ancient history in County Louth

Round Tower at Monasteraboice

The cemetery is well maintained, and a large parking lot is across the street. We did manage to find the geocache hidden here in the cemetery. Finally! The notable things to see here in the old graveyard are the two great high crosses and a round tower.

High crosses at Monasterboice

Back to Dundalk

We had a full day of incredible sightseeing in a relatively small area surrounding Drogheda. Ireland has become a never-ending story for us.

Check back next week for a few more gems in Ireland. We have completed our exploration of ancient history in County Louth – maybe.

Ancient history in County LouthAncient history in County Louth

2 thoughts on “Ancient history in County Louth

  1. It is so fascinating! I love all the ruins and their history. Makes me want to go! Thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *