Best Things to Do in Drogheda, Drogheda, an East Irish town on the Boyne Estuary, has a fascinating past right in its own backyard.
Three enormous passage tombs, some of which date back as far as 5,200 years and are filled with mysterious stone engravings, make up the Br na Bóinne World Heritage Site.
Visits to the tombs at Newgrange and Knowth require guided tours, whereas Dowth can be reached on your own.
The magnificent Oldbridge House, located to the west of the town, features an exhibition about the repercussions of the Battle of the Boyne (1690), which took place on the banks of the Boyne.
As of 2006, Drogheda is home to a world-class art museum, housed in a renovated Franciscan church. The town also boasts a formidable barbican and a hilltop fort, which is now home to a museum about the history of Drogheda.
Best Things to Do in Drogheda
Monasterboice Monastic Site
This monastic community was established in the late 5th century, taking you back to the first years of Irish Christianity.
Remains of two churches from the 14th century and an even older circular tower can be seen at the Monasterboice Monastic Site, which is a National Monument of Ireland.
This Celtic fortification, measuring in at an impressive 28 meters in height, has been dated to the year 968.
The three Irish High Crosses are the most notable of these monuments; they date back to the ninth or tenth century and have intricate carvings of biblical scenes.
Muiredach’s High Cross is the best example; it is 5.5 meters tall and features intricately carved panels depicting scenes from the Bible including Adam and Eve, the Last Judgement, the Adoration of the Magi, David and Goliath, and many more.
Melifont Abbey, founded by Saint Malachy, Archbishop of Armagh, in 1142, is the first Cistercian monastery in Ireland and is located within a ten-minute drive of Drogheda.
During the Reformation, the monastery was dissolved, and the resulting fortified residence later became William of Orange’s headquarters for the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Thanks to the magnificent lavabo that has survived to the present day, the ruins have been designated as a National Monument of Ireland.
The monks used this space, bounded by arches built in the 13th century, as a lavatory.
Stonework from the abbey has been preserved and is on display at the visitor center near to the ruins.
Beaulieu House and Gardens
This beautiful house is located just downstream from Drogheda on the Boyne River, making it a perfect day trip destination.
Built at the turn of the 18th century, Beaulieu House is one of the first unfortified residences in Ireland. It features prominent eaves and Mannerist pediments and pilasters that frame its openings.
Beginning at the end of the 12th century, the estate passed from the Plunketts to the Tichbornes after the Confederate War in the mid-17th century.
From June through October, visitors can tour the portrait- and period-adorned home on weekend afternoons.
A 1.5 acre formal walled garden with midsummer blooming perennials can be seen on the grounds.
Hill of Slane
Located 15 kilometers west of Drogheda, the Hill of Slane sits north of the namesake settlement and is a site where Irish mythology and medieval history converge.
It is said that Saint Patrick lighted a Paschal fire here in 433 to mock the pagan festival fire on the Hill of Tara, 16 kilometers away, which was being held by King Laoire.
Patrick was meant to be punished for lighting what was supposed to be the only fire in the area, but Laoire was so struck by his courage that he let him keep preaching Christianity in Ireland.
We do know that the Hill of Slane has been revered since long before Christianity was introduced, and that there is a manmade mound at the western extremity of the peak that may have pagan origins.
St. Erc, a devotee of Saint Patrick, selected this spot for a monastery, and the existing remains on the same spot date back to a Franciscan abbey established in 1512.
This 600-hectare estate built in the 18th century sits on the left bank of the River Boyne and is the other major landmark in Slane.
Henry Mountcharles, 8th Marquess Conyngham’s estate was established in 1785 by his forebears, William Burton and Henry Burton Conyngham, and is centered on a Romantic-style mansion.
The estate welcomes visitors from early May to late August, during which time they may learn about the property’s rich history on a guided tour or sample whiskey alongside a master brewer.
The grounds at Slane Castle are situated in a natural basin, making them ideal for hosting outdoor performances.
Since its opening in 1981, this theater has hosted a who’s who of music’s elite, including Bob Dylan, Madonna, Neil Young, David Bowie, U2, and Bruce Springsteen.
Listoke Distillery & Gin School
The Listoke distillery tour, advertised as “Ireland’s first and only interactive gin experience,” is sure to please any true gin connoisseurs. A gin and tonic awaits you upon arrival, after which you can have a tour of the distillery and learn more about the background of the product.
But the real excitement begins thereafter, when you attend “Gin School” and learn all about the secret recipes for Listoke gin’s blend of locally grown botanicals.
Listoke Gin is a gin that can be customized based on your preferred accents, and once you’ve chosen on them you can distill your own personal 700 ml bottle to take home.
It is the oldest structure in Br na Bóinne, and it is shaped like a star.
Before the Egyptian Pyramids were constructed, in 3200 BC, Newgrange was already standing.
This 80-meter-wide mound is bordered by 97 kerbstones, the most impressive of which is the spiral-etched Entrance Stone.
On the Winter Solstice, the sun shines through a hole deliberately cut above the entrance.
Newgrange is a single tomb at the end of a 19-meter corridor, unlike the other cairns at Br na Bóinne.
It is clear to anyone standing within the cruciform chamber how the ancient builders stacked the slabs one atop the other until the room was ready to be capped off.
Newgrange has maintained its watertightness after more than 5,000 years.
The charred remains of five individuals were discovered beneath the chamber’s basin stones during the excavations that took place in the 1960s and 1970s.
At Knowth, you’ll find a big central mound that’s 95 meters broad and surrounded by 18 lesser mounds.
Knowth’s tomb openings are set in magnificent granite and quartz stonework.
A total of 127 kerbstones, many of which include enigmatic spirals and lozenges, outline the main mound, which has tombs facing east and west.
Approximately one-third of all Western European Megalithic artifacts have been discovered at Knowth, which boasts over two-hundred individual items.
The magnificent 40-meter-long, 6-meter-high eastern passage of the main mound is a sight to behold.
The final chamber is in the shape of a cross and contains three niches with hollow basin stones, suggesting that it was used to hold cremated human remains.
This passage tomb is the oldest structure at Br na Bóinne at 4,500 years old, making it the second oldest structure there after Newgrange.
You can avoid the lines at the tourist center at Newgrange and Knowth by going straight to Dowth, which is less well-known than its neighbors.
Although the passages leading to the two burial chambers are shorter than those leading to other tombs at Br na Bóinne, the rooms themselves are quite big and contain some of the largest stones in the cemetery.
There are four massive stones, each about three meters in height, in the Dowth North chamber.
A total of 15 carved kerbstones may be seen at Dowth, with the most elaborate being the last stone on the right hand side of the path leading to Dowth North.
Additionally, during the December Winter Solstice, Dowth South coincides with the setting sun.
After a 760-year presence in Drogheda, the Franciscans gave the town its church when they left in the year 2000.
As the northeastern region of Ireland lacked a dedicated cultural facility, the church and a portion of its friary were transformed into a light, open-plan gallery that debuted in 2006. Highlanes showcases works from the Drogheda Municipal Art Collection, which is notable for its abundance of 20th-century women artists such Nano Reid, Evie Hone, and Bea Orpen.
Landmarks and Lifeforms, a joint show of paintings, sculptures, prints, and films by Frieda Meaney and Danny Osborne, was on display in the spring of 2018, when this article was written.
During the summer and winter breaks, Highlanes hosts kid-friendly workshops.
Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre
Within a ten-minute drive of Drogheda’s downtown, a pivotal episode in Irish and British history unfolded in 1690. Over the Boyne River, Catholic supporters of ousted King James II clashed with Protestant supporters of Dutch Prince William of Orange in the Battle of the Boyne.
In terms of manpower, it was the largest combat fought on Irish soil (almost 60,000 soldiers were involved).
The battle was won by Williamite forces, marking the beginning of the end of the Williamite War in Ireland and James’ campaign to retake the British throne.
Oldbridge House, a stately mansion built in the 18th century on the battlefield, currently serves as a visitor center where information on the battle and the feuding kings may be found.
The Townley Hall Woods Trail leads outside to a vantage point over the battlefield in King William’s Glen.
St Peter’s Church
St. Peter’s Church was founded at the close of the 18th century, but its magnificent French Gothic façade was not completed until 1884. Built with local limestone, its prominent features include an imposing bell tower and a steep gable over a beautiful rose window.
The church’s exterior, aisle walls, and marble high altar are all adorned with intricate carvings and there are more than 40 stained glass windows within.
St. Oliver Plunkett’s Shrine is the most compelling of them, as it commemorates the life and death of the Catholic Archbishop of Drogheda and Jesuit, who was executed in the Popish Plot of 1681 by being hung, drawn, and quartered. After his death, his body was sent to Drogheda, making him the final Catholic martyr in England.
His mummified skull and shoulder blade, as well as the entrance to his Newgate jail cell where he awaited death, are on display in an ornate reliquary.
St Laurence Gate
Drogheda’s most eye-catching remnant of its former wall is the St. Laurence Gate, which originally controlled the town’s eastern entrance.
Saint Laurence Gate was not the actual entry to the town; rather, it was a barbican, an outwork built to protect a gate that is no longer in use.
The towers, which date back to the 13th century, each have four stories and are connected at the very top by a bridge.
You can still see the opening in the floor of the doorway where the portcullis would have been lowered in the event of an attack.
The size of St. Laurence Gate can be attributed in part to its use as a lookout tower for detecting approaching naval forces in the Boyne Estuary.
The sole surviving piece of a Dominican Friary from the 13th century stands proudly in a northern Drogheda location.
The tower dates back to the 1400s, and it features an ogival arch, window traceries, and merlons.
At the end of the 1300s, when the Ulster Chiefs capitulated to the reign of English King Richard II, it would have still been standing.
Before long, the feuding factions on either side of the Boyne River in Drogheda would be put to rest by Father Abbot, the abbot of the friary.
The tower was damaged during Cromwell’s attack on Drogheda in September 1649, and the scars remain to this day.
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Drogheda Museum Millmount
Drogheda’s defense has relied heavily on Millmount, the fort atop the mound on the south bank of the Boyne, ever since Norman times.
The current Martello tower was shelled during the Civil War in 1922, a tradition that began with Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland in the 17th century.
All of the buildings in the old fort have been transformed into the Millmount Cultural Quarter, which is home to restaurants, a market, workshops, galleries, and the town’s museum.
A chronicle of Drogheda and Ireland’s history, guild and trade flags from the Middle Ages, and a fully functional kitchen, dairy, and laundry from the early 18th century are just some of the highlights of this show.