Meath is not known as the Royal County for nothing. It has the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland, along with an abundance of medieval towns and monastic ruins.
That is to say nothing of Newgrange, which was built 3,000 years before the Egyptian pyramids and 1,000 years before Stonehenge.
The Top Ten
With all these factors in mind, Hospitality Ireland decided to examine the top ten visitor attractions in Meath, based on Fáilte Ireland’s Visitor Attractions Survey 2019, which was carried out by SRI in the third quarter of 2020.
The year 2019 was chosen as a good indicator because it was pre-Covid, and so the sample was more in line with tourists’ behaviour under normal circumstances, rather than during an exceptional event like the coronavirus pandemic.
1. Tayto Park
Tayto Park in Meath was popular tourist attraction in Meath in 2019 with 720,000 visitors. It has since changed its name to Emerald Park and remains the nation's only theme park and zoo located in the heart of Ireland's Ancient East.
Emerald Park is situated in Ashbourne and just a 30 minute drive from Dublin, and features big cats, tigers, leopards, and a free flying birds of prey show.
Visitors can also ride on the Cú Chulainn roller coaster which remains as popular as ever.
2. Battle of the Boyne/Oldbridge Estate
The Battle of the Boyne visitor centre and Oldbridge House are located on the battleground itself, in the recently restored Oldbridge House (built c.1750).
The centre contains original weapons and a laser model of the battlefield. It is perfect for anyone who wants to find out more about the largest ever assembly of troops on an Irish battlefield.
The Oldbridge Estate Walks has over 5km of scenic walks on the historic battle site, linking with adjacent Boyne Greenway and Boyne Canal Walk.
3. Brú na Bóinne (incl. Newgrange & Knowth)
Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre is the starting point for all tours of Newgrange and the hub for the Neolithic monuments in the area.
The centre includes a full-scale replica of the chamber at Newgrange and a model of one of the smaller tombs at Knowth, which were all renovated in 2019 to bring the visitor interpretive centre up to date with new discoveries and technologies.
There is also a simulated River Boyne, as it might have been in the Neolithic era, complete with sounds and sights of the time. Huge video walls celebrate all the monuments in the area, from Newgrange and Knowth, to the henge monuments discovered in recent years.
Visitors can explore how people lived 5,000 years ago, from the houses they lived in, how they made their food and how they treated their dead, before getting on a shuttle to see the real thing.
4. Hill of Tara Grounds
The Hill of Tara is best known as the seat of the High Kings of Ireland. At the height of its power, it was a political and religious centre in the early centuries after Christ.
It is situated between Navan and Dunshaughlin in County Meath and contains a number of ancient monuments.
Access to the Hill of Tara is open all year around.
5. Trim Castle
Trim Castle is Ireland's largest Anglo-Norman castle and is situated on the south bank of the River Boyne.
The castle was constructed over a 30 year period by Hugh de Lacy and his son Walter as the home of the Lordship of Meath. It was opened to the public in 2000 after being excavated and restored.
Furthermore, Trim is believed to have more medieval buildings than any town in Ireland.
6. Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre
In sixth place, is the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre in Oldbridge where visitors can learn about the battle between King William III and his father-in-law King James II in 1690.
The centre tells the tale of the Battle of the Boyne through detailed displays and historical reenactments.
7. Loughcrew Gardens
Loughcrew Gardens are located near Oldcastle and feature approximately 2.5 hectares includeing a lime avenue, extensive vistas, lawns, water features and terraces.
The gardens host the remnants of a medieval mote and St Oliver Plunkett's family church and tower house.
Loughcrew Gardens also features an impressive herbaceous border and the many hidden sculptures and artworks hidden throughout the grounds.
8. Bru na Boinne Dowth
Dowth is a 5,000 old passage tomb that is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Brú na Bóinne.
The ancient site once had two burial chambers and a ritual basin. Dowth has two tombs, North and South and the entrance to these are on the western perimeter.
9. Irish Military War Museum
The Irish Military War Museum in County Meath, covers 5,000 square feet of floor space, and tries to offer a non-political but interesting resource for people of all ages and from right across the island of Ireland and beyond.
The museum recreates in detail examples of trenches of World War I as well as displays of the more motorised conflict that was World War II. It houses a collection of World War II Allied and Axis vehicles and deactivated weapons.
Tank driving lessons are also available!!
10. Hill of Tara Visitor Centre
The Hill of Tara Visitor Centre features many modern day facilities including an audio visual show, while guided tours of the Hill of Tara are available on request.
New research and excavations by the Hill of Tara Discovery Programme research team continue to add to our understanding of the site.