Throughout 2018, exploring more of what Ireland has to offer was pretty high on my list of things to do. One of the most pleasant weekends I had was in mid-September and the destination…Monaghan.
Not one you would normally think of for a weekend break, Monaghan is one of Ireland’s little gems. I was so pleasantly charmed by the place, especially Glaslough village. It was absolutely gorgeous and totally my kind of place. Also the grounds of Castle Leslie were stunning. It took everything I had not to run into the castle and explore.
Food-wise, The Courthouse was just fabulous. I love meeting people who are so passionate about what they do and the guys at Matilda’s, Glaslough Chocolates, Brehon Brewhouse and more were so interesting and knowledgable. I’ll definitely be back to Monaghan in the future, it’s one place you need to discover if you haven’t already.
St. Peter’s Tin Church
Located down a narrow country road in Laragh, County Monaghan, St. Peter’s Tin Church is the kind of place that draws you in. Unique in appearance, this tin tabernacle was constructed in 1890 from corrugated iron and timber and is unlike any I have seen before.
With a small few gravestones out front, it’s a place of quiet contemplation and almost feels like a piece of missing history.
Inside is a huge open space but a little lacking in insulation. It was beautiful though and I would have loved to have seen it back in its heyday.
Monaghan County Museum
Approaching Monaghan County Museum, I was struck by how beautiful it was. The historic 3-story building was decorated with bright flowers and pops of blue along the railings.
Once inside, we wandered through the floors, passing exhibits which highlighted the vast history of the area, including the Cross of Clogher and items found in medieval Crannógs (one of my favourite things to learn about in school).
There were also interesting framed posters, maps and train timetables to view while walking up and down stairs. It’s definitely a place worth visiting in order to get a sense of Monaghan’s contribution to the country’s history.
Now, I’m not one for beer, but I do have a terrible fondness for small Irish producers. Just like many of whom I’ve met or talked to before, Seamus and Siobhan at Brehon Brewhouse are passionate, hardworking individuals who are pouring their time, money and love into a project.
We tasted a number of their creations, crafted by their brewer, and I was actually so pleasantly surprised that I liked one or two. Roisin is more of a beer drinker and she was happy out sipping away.
What I loved even more than the samples was the story behind each brew and the cosy layout of the pair’s tasting room. You could just imagine relaxing here with friends of an evening.
“There were stepping stones across a stream. Part of my life was there. The happiest part.”
You won’t meet many people who will ‘fangirl’ over a grave (or at least, I hope you won’t) but I am one of those strange people. As we were leaving Brehon Brewhouse, I noticed that Patrick Kavanagh’s grave was a mere ten minutes away by car.
Persuading Roisin to drive to Inniskeen, I excitedly waited to visit the final resting place of this great Irish poet. As morbid as this activity may be (Roisin chose to stay in the car), I skipped along to find the correct spot.
A simple marker with a beautiful message, it was great to pay tribute to this writer. The adjoining Patrick Kavanagh Centre was closed when we were there, but it’s definitely a place I wouldn’t mind returning to.
Originally built in 1841 to house the poor, the Carrickmacross Workhouse has since been lovingly restored to showcase the history and heritage of Monaghan.
One of the most interesting and also humbling areas within the workhouse was the attic, which contains a restored girl’s dormitory. It’s hard to imagine that over 30 girls lived here in the cold attic with no toilet.
There were some stories about girls who made it across the ocean to Australia, but sadly not all stories had happy endings. At the back of the workhouse site, there are also mass famine graves, a stark reminder of the darkest period in our history.
A happy later life has come to the workhouse now though as it’s now a not for profit Community Resource, Training, Heritage and Tourist Centre managed by Farney Community Development Group.
The Famine Museum is open for 1 hour tours from 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday. A special shout out to our fantastic guide Kevin, who was both informative and entertaining.
I’m always intrigued by the skills needed to create beautiful things so paying a visit to Carrickmacross Lace Gallery was definitely something I was happy to experience.
Originating in the 19th century, Carrickmacross lace has a rich history and was inspired by Italian lace.
Created in Monaghan, the gallery specialises in traditional handmade lace, famously featured in Princess Diana’s wedding dress.
The gallery had newly opened in a larger space when I visited and it’s wonderful to examine some historic pieces and take a gander at the unique gifts on offer.
The name Glaslough actually comes from the Irish translation meaning ‘calm or green lake’. A fitting name, the peace and beauty of this quaint village only added to the charm.
As we strolled past the historic stone buildings, various pops of colour from flowers and doors only added to the village’s beauty.
Castle Leslie Estate
Be warned, the only bad thing I have to say about Castle Leslie Estate is that there was a wedding taking place the day we visited the estate so snooping inside was not an option.
But otherwise, it is a magical place that has already made my list of potential wedding venues (not that I have a list or anything, I’m not that strange yet!).
The grounds are truly spectacular and the perfect place for a walk. The boathouse by the lake quickly became my favourite spot and the view of the castle from that same lake was definitely something to behold.
After our little adventure, we took refuge inside the lodge at Castle Leslie Estate. Indulging in a coffee and scones while gazing out at the walled garden and ornate decor, we reached peak relaxation.
The Courthouse Restaurant
I had such a wonderful time at The Courthouse restaurant, which is owned and run by Charlotte and Conor.
The cosy venue is a Michelin Bib Gourmand awarded restaurant and the lunch was to die for. You can read my full review here.
Ask anyone who knows me well (or realistically, if you’ve just met me, this won’t be hard to discover), and they’ll confirm that I have quite the sweet tooth. So of course, while wandering aimlessly around the streets of this cute little village, I was delighted to discover that Glaslough Chocolates was open for customers.
Run by chocolatier Trish Murphy- Thom, this one-woman wonder creates all the chocolate herself and was good enough to offer us some samples before we (of course) bought a few to take home.
Handmade using the finest Belgian chocolate and local ingredients, I was totally sold on the honeycomb chocolate, so smooth with welcome crunches of sweet goodness…if only I could have stockpiled for the coming months.
While in the village of Glaslough, myself and Roisin got a little peckish. We had heard good things about the pizza in Ambletown Cottage and as we considered ourselves firm devotees of this Italian dish, we thought we’d give it a try.
Located down a floral path, this local hotspot gave off chilled vibes and we dove right in. A lover of mushrooms, I couldn’t resist the garlic mushroom supreme.
Roisin on the other hand, went for the smokey bbq pizza with an extra garlic dip on the side. Clearly, we are both garlic fiends.
Rich flavours and artsy decor, it was perfect and the cherry on top for someone as literary as myself, was the fact the bill came out inside a book. Can I come back please?
Looking for a bit of Indian flavour during your stay in Monaghan? A good option in Monaghan town is Monaghan Spice. You really can’t go wrong with a flavour packed curry dish or a classic chicken korma.
Add some naan bread into the mix and you’re onto a winner. Monaghan Spice also appeared to be seriously popular with locals the night we were there, which is always a good sign. The place was packed and service showed no signs of slowing down as we were leaving.
It was great to get a masterclass of sorts in Andy’s Bar. Barman Kevin Redmond is a bit of a gin expert with a seriously impressive collection.
If you find yourself in this bar in Monaghan Town, be sure and ask him to whip you up an interesting concoction.
He may ask you what kind of things you prefer…sweet , bitter etc and then he’ll select a number of various concoctions, fruits etc to make your perfect drink and he’s good at it too!
We spent a few hours here sampling a wide array of tipples, so it was definitely time well spent.
In need of a sweet treat during our exploration of Carrickmacross, we sought out Maltilda’s Bakery, who stock a range of delicious products for all dietary requirements.
Coffee and tea were the order of the morning, with a berry tart and chocolate rocky road cake causing our eyes to widen with glee.
This was another place where the locals were so friendly, with one man adjusting the cafe’s blinds so the sun wasn’t too harsh and the owners, a lovely family, were on hand to answer any questions with a smile.
The View is the ideal place to relax and unwind, especially when you’ve just arrived in County Monaghan. Fresh from our car journey and with my sweet tooth screaming out for something to devour, we ordered tea, coffee and a pair of desserts at The View, which overlooks Concra Wood golf course and Lough Muckno.
The panoramic countryside view was beautiful and we happily ate our desserts (Belgian Waffles with strawberries, cream and chocolate sauce and a Chocolate Fudge Cake with vanilla ice-cream) while gazing out at the landscape – the perfect way to kick off our time in Monaghan.
The Glencarn Hotel
Friday night was a chilled affair. We stayed at The Glencarn Hotel in Castleblayney and dined on battered cod, spicy potatoes and more. The bar in this hotel had a great atmosphere.
In fact, I think there was both a wedding and christening happening the night we were staying. We had some wine and gin with dinner. The following more, a portion of Eggs Benedict set us up for the day of exploring that awaited us.
The Four Seasons
On Saturday night, we stayed at The Four Seasons Hotel, which is located a short drive outside of Monaghan Town. There was a music festival in the town that weekend so the hotel was hopping.
Pulling ourselves away from the comfort of our rooms, we headed out for dinner in Monaghan Spice. The hotel was perfect for a bit more of a luxurious stay in Monaghan and the lobby in particular, was very nicely decorated.
Sarah has always had a great love of travel, food and photography. Following her journalism degree at DCU, she developed a passion for travel writing while living in Spain.
Named Best Break Out Travel Writer at the 2018 Travel Media Awards, Sarah loves exploring new places and sampling the local cuisine. Working with TheTaste.ie combines her love of food and travel.
A big people person, especially when it comes to hearing other people’s stories, Sarah loves interviewing chefs, food producers and more.