Drogheda is snuggled in between Dundalk and Dublin. Located in the historic Boyne Valley and having been classed as the oldest town in Ireland, Drogheda has seen its fair share of historical events. Its history contains stories of strength, politics and war, while its modern-day accomplishments are based around the continuously growing retail industries, the large and obvious creative talent that the town hosts and sends off around the country, and then also the ever-expanding tourist industry that the town caters to yearly. If you’re interested in history, this is a place you must visit in Ireland’s Ancient East. Kerry Cunningham outlines the top five historical sites you need to visit here.
5. Millmount Fort
This fortification sat above the town, and still does, accompanied by a courtyard and small selection of buildings. It originally would have been the main asset of defence throughout Drogheda’s history. It has played a crucial part throughout the times and if it could tell its own tale, it would tell you of the Norman settlement, the Cromwell invasion and of the 1922 Civil War where it almost was completely destroyed.
Us Drogheda folk call it ‘The Cup and Saucer’, due to its resemblance to exactly that and most of us have memories of heading up there on school tours and being awed by its wonder, letting it transport us back in time as we peer through its slit-like windows and pretend we are on watch-out. Having undergone a complete revival in modern days, it is now a museum and you can enter the building itself or take a birds-eye view out over the town of Drogheda town.
Address: Millmount, Drogheda, Co. Louth, Ireland
4. St. Mary’s Church of Ireland
This church was built in 1807 in the grounds of a monastery owned by Carmelites prior to the Norman invasion. Some headstones in the surrounding grounds have dates of the 17th century on them. The church has now been restored into an interactive museum and some of the original monastery is in the churchyard. If you love the creepiness of graveyards, this place is for you. It’s not scary but you can’t help but feel a little weary as you walk around the remnants on the land.
Another important aspect of this land, is that the original walls of the town, Drogheda were built alongside this site in the 13th century, encapsulating the church within the wall. Behind this wall, the land behind the church (there is a walkway and steps alongside the church which leads down into the bottom of the valley), is where Oliver Cromwell was based when he broke the walls of Drogheda with cannon fire and bombarded the town. Before that, the town walls were twenty feet high and enclosed the whole area of one and a half miles.
Address: Old Hill, Lagavooren, Drogheda, Co. Louth, Ireland
3. Saint Laurence Gate
This gate was built in the 13th century and still has a lot of the old wall beside it. It’s still to this day, one of the points of pride of Drogheda town. It would have been an outer defence gate and the original smaller gate would have lain just inside of it, but unfortunately, there is no evidence of the smaller gate left. It is facing estuary where the Boyne River meets the Irish Sea and most likely would have been used to view any potential sea invasion. There are regular town tours which tourists can avail of and they tend to begin in the middle of Drogheda town, where another worthy site lies.
2. St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church
This church was built in the French Gothic style with local limestone in 1884. Originally, there were no Catholic Churches within Drogheda’s town walls but after a wealthy Catholic swayed the decision process, the first church was built on this plot of land in 1793. The above church itself is a spectacular build and beautiful to see but I actually mention this site for a different reason. The head of Saint Oliver Plunkett, an Irish born priest and scholar, who was accused of treason in 1681, a time when Roman Catholics were excluded from the Pale area in Ireland.
Plunkett was hung, drawn and quartered in 1681, aged 55, and was the last Roman Catholic martyr to die in England. His head arrived in Drogheda in 1921 and has been scaring tourists ever since. It really is something you must see, I even brought my current partner on a first date there.
The next secret history spot is my absolute favourite. There are many historical places around Drogheda, old pubs, town walls amongst abandoned buildings from pre 19th century and refurbished war memories that transport you back in time but I like when sites come with a bit of a story.
I’ve chosen a lot of churches in this small list but it’s less about the churches and more about the sites themselves, and the history and legends around them. That’s why my top choice is.
Address: West St, Downtown Drogheda, Drogheda, Co. Louth, Ireland
1. St. Peter’s Church of Ireland
This church is a magnificent example of Georgian architecture and contrasts the previously mentioned site on West St. This specific site has been used for churches since before 1186 and there are remnants of 13th-century buildings and tiles on the grounds. The current church was renovated in 1999 after an arson attack but the surrounding graveyard is the thing of interest for me.
There are an assortment of different monuments throughout the land as can be expected throughout the ever-changing times of the centuries, but over in the east side if the churchyard wall is the most interesting find. Two cadaver stones, figures shrouded in cloth, are left slightly open to reveal the remains of the tomb. This type of tomb is rare in Ireland but popular in Europe in the early 16th century. The occupants, Sir Edward Golding and Elizabeth Fleming, were barons of Slane before the Battle of the Boyne. The stones are 7ft tall and are a must see. The site is free to wander onto as long as you are respectful.
And so concludes ‘The Top 5 Historical Sites of Drogheda’. Don’t forget, you could venture out to the land of the ‘Battle of the Boyne’, ‘Mellifont Abbey’ and much more, but even a quick wander around the main town can unearth mysteries and excitement. I wonder what you will find on your trip!
Address: Peter St, Downtown Drogheda, Drogheda, Co. Louth, Ireland