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Drogheda

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Drogheda is an industrial town in County Louth, astride the River Boyne on the east coast of Ireland. Its turbulent history is reflected in its medieval fortifications, while nearby are ruined monasteries and the must-see Neolithic complex of Brú na Bóinne.

Understand

The fertile Boyne valley has been settled since prehistory, with nearby Brú na Bóinne the best known Neolithic site. The town itself only developed from Norman times, initially as two towns either side of a ford, then from 1412 as a single town with a bridge. Hence it became Droichead Átha, "bridge at the ford." The Normans made Drogheda a bastion of their rule in Leinster, with town walls and a castle, and the Irish parliament met there. In 1498 this passed the infamous Poyning's Law, that no legislation could be passed in Ireland, indeed the Irish parliament couldn't even meet, unless the English crown and parliament first approved it; the law wasn't repealed until 1878.

The town walls withstood a siege by the rebels of 1641, but in Sept 1649 Oliver Cromwell arrived. Drogheda was held by the Royalists, who reckoned to hold out until the onset of winter forced Cromwell to withdraw. He knew he had to seize a port for supply, and quickly, so he blasted two breaches in the walls and called on the Royalists to surrender. They refused so the breaches were stormed, Drogheda was taken, and a massacre followed. Casualties may have been 2800 Royalist defenders, though there's no reliable account. It was intended to send a chilling message to anyone in Ireland minded to resist Cromwell, and it succeeded.

The town was undamaged in the Battle of the Boyne: James' forces moved up the valley to check the advance of William, and after their retreat William moved unopposed to take Dublin. There was then a long period of relative peace, and Drogheda grew into an industrial town and port. Much of its medieval heritage was lost to 19th / 20th century development, but the greater problem was the loss of traditional industries and economic slump, and hollowing out of the town centre.

Drogheda today has become a commuter town for Dublin, with a population in 2016 of 40,956. Its problem is that it has two major visitor attractions on its doorstep, the Boyne battlefield and Brú na Bóinne Neolithic complex, but people day-trip there from the city and little of the tourist spend finds its way to the town. The Tourist Office is in the Tholsel on West St, open M-Sa 09:30-17:30.

Get in

By train

Commuter trains run every 30 min from Dublin (Pearse, Tara St and Connolly), taking an hour to Drogheda via MalahideSkerriesBalbrigganGormanston and Laytown. Every couple of hours, the Enterprise Train runs non-stop from Dublin Connolly to Drogheda and continues to Dundalk, NewryPortadown and Belfast Lanyon Place. A walk-up single from Dublin in 2021 is €12, see Irish Rail for timetables, fares and online tickets.

1 Drogheda MacBride Railway Station is south side of town on the Dublin Road, just before the line sweeps across the valley on the impressive 18-arch Boyne Viaduct. It has a staffed ticket office, machines and toilets. It's named after John MacBride (Seán Mac Giolla Bhríde, 1868-1916), executed for his part in the Easter Rising. He stumbled into this almost by accident but the British owed him a reckoning for fighting for the Boers. He features in Yeats' poem about the Rising where "a terrible beauty is born" but MacBride's ex-wife Maud Gonne (unsuccessfully courted by Yeats) declared that it was just the poem that was terrible.

By bus

Expressway Bus 100X runs hourly, daily from Dublin (with several city stops but not Busáras) via Dublin Airport to Drogheda, taking 80 min, and continuing to Dundalk. The Aircoach and Ulsterbus to Belfast don't stop in Drogheda. See below for the slower buses 100 and 168 from Dundalk, which you'd probably only use for points along that road.

The 2 bus station is in town centre on the south river bank, near Haymarket Bridge.

By road

From north or south follow the M1. Normally you exit before the toll on the bypass between exits 7 and 8. In 2021 this is €1 for a motorbike and €1.90 for a car. You can pay by cash, 20-trip card (valid for this toll only) or electronic tag (for all Irish tolls including the M50).

Drogheda is 34 km from Dundalk, 50 km from Dublin and 120 km from Belfast

Get around

  • Walk for all the sights within town.
  • Taxis: the town has several firms, look for them by the bus or railway stations. Fares are nationally regulated and taxis must use the meter. As of March 2021, fares M-Sa 08:00 to 20:00 are €3.80 flagfall then €1.14-1.50 per km, 20:00 to 08:00 and Sunday €4.20 flagfall then €1.45-1.80 per km. In slow traffic or if asked to wait they charge by the minute, 40-50 cents.

By bus

In town Bus Éireann operates the D1, D2 and 173:

  • Buses D1 and D2 run daily between Drogheda, Bettystown and Laytown: D1 (every 30 min) via Mornington and Donacarney, D2 (also every 30 min) via Golf Links Road.
  • Bus 173 loops town from West St, M-Sa hourly: north via M1 Retail Park, Termonabbey and back, and south via Meadowview, Rowan Heights and back.

The fare in town (as of Jan 2021) by cash is €2 adult, €1.20 child, and by TFI Leap Card is €1.40 adult and 84c child. To Bettystown and Laytown by cash is €2.40 adult, €1.40 child, by TFI Leap Card is €1.68 adult, 98c child.

Out of town: and see above for the 100X from Dublin city and airport:

  • Bus 100 runs hourly, daily north to Dunleer, Castlebellingham and Dundalk.
  • Bus 101 is a slower route from Dublin, taking 75 min from Talbot St (it doesn't use Busáras) via Drumcondra, Santry, the Airport, SwordsBalbriggan and Julianstown. It runs M-F every 20 min, Sa every 30 min, Su hourly.
  • Bus 105 runs hourly, daily southwest to Duleek, Tayto Park, AshbourneRatoathDunboyne and Blanchardstown.
  • Bus 163 runs twice daily west to the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre, Bru na Boinne Visitor Centre and Donore Village.
  • Bus 182 / 182A runs hourly, daily to Collon and Ardee. Bus 182 continues to CarrickmacrossCastleblayney and Monaghan, every 2 hours M-F, with four Sa Su.
  • Bus 168 follows the coast north to Baltray, TermonfeckinClogher, Grangebellew, Castlebellingham, Dromiskin (for monastery) and Dundalk. It's every 2 hours M-Sa with four on Sunday.
  • Bus 190 runs hourly, daily west to SlaneNavan and Trim.

For route maps see the TFI website.

See

In town

  • 1 St Peter's Parish Church, West Street. M-Th Sa 09:00-16:00, F 09:00-14:00, Su 12:00-16:00. The first RC church was completed in 1793 in an era when Catholic assemblies were barely tolerated: at its foundation, the town corporation turned up in full municipal fig to warn that a "Popish chapel" would not be tolerated within the town walls. In the 1880s it was greatly extended in French Gothic style, with a striking tower. However it's best known for its shrine to St Oliver Plunkett (1625-1681). He was Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, but exiled in Rome during the height of the persecution of Catholics. He returned in 1670 in an era of tolerance and established a Jesuit college in Drogheda, but the wind changed and he became a wanted man. A show trial for treason collapsed in Dundalk so he was transferred to London and condemned by another rigged trial. He was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn: thereafter his body parts undertook something of a Grand Tour of Europe. Those parts were re-divvied up when he was made a saint in 1975, and his severed head and assorted bones got to enjoy their first ride in a helicopter to their present home. (updated Jan 2021)
  • St Peter's Church (C of I) is the Anglican version, a block north on Peter Street. There are traces of church buildings going back to the 13th century. In 1649 it was the scene of a massacre: Cromwell had breached the town walls and some 100 Royalist soldiers took refuge in the steeple. The Parliamentarians set fire to it and 30 died in the blaze, while another 50 were slain as they tried to flee. A new church was needed, and this opened in 1753. It was re-modelled in the 19th century, suffered an arson attack in 1999 but was restored.
  • Our Lady of Lourdes Church, north by the hospital, is modern but charming.
  • 2 Highlanes Gallery, 36 St Laurence St A52 F7PH, ☏ +353 41 980 3311. W-Sa 10:30-16:30. Municipal gallery and art space opened in 2006 in a former Franciscan church, with permanent collection and rotating exhibitions. Free. (updated Jan 2021)
  • 3 Magdalene Tower is a 14th century belfry, all that remains of a Dominican friary. It's a striking structure, with two storeys teetering above a gothic arch, on the top of the rise north of town centre. Here was the north entrance to the walled town, St Sunday's Gate, which has disappeared.
  • 4 Saint Laurence Gate is a 13th century Barbican: two towers and a walled thoroughfare. It stood outside the town's east gate, which has disappeared. It's occasionally possible to climb the tower interior.
  • 5 Millmount Fort, Barrack Street A92 VFH3, ☏ +353 41 983 3097. M-Sa 10:00-17:30. The prominent hillock just south of the river is artificial - it was probably built over a Neolithic passage tomb, but has never been excavated. It became fortified with a motte-and-bailey in Norman times then by a stone castle. Here in 1649 the defenders of the town made their last stand before surrendering to Cromwell, but an earlier demand for surrender had been spurned, so Cromwell reckoned he was within his rights to slaughter them. In the 18th century a barracks was built around the hillock, and in 1808 it was capped by a Martello Tower. The last military action came in the Civil War of 1922: the fort was occupied by forces opposed to the Anglo-Irish Treaty, so they were shelled and dislodged by Irish government troops. The museum displays the town's turbulent history, and admission includes the Martello Tower, with great views (and artillery positions) on its terrace. There's a cafe in the barracks yard. Adult €6, child / conc €3. (updated Jan 2021)
  • Buttergate is on the west flank of Millmount opposite the bus station. When a town councillor declared that they "couldn’t be preserving all the old dumps all over the place" he especially had in mind this crumbling stretch of medieval masonry. The puzzle is, no historic town street ever led to it, so it can't have been a gate in the town walls. The western entrance was nearby St John's Gate, so probably this wall was "the buttress to the gate". It's been tidied up a bit, giving the brambles the Cromwell treatment, but "old dump" is still a fair description.

Further out

  • 6 Beaulieu House and Garden, Beaulieu A92 PD3R, ☏ +353 41 983 8557. Stately mansion built around 1715 with a terraced walled garden. There's also a museum of vintage racing cars, collected by Gabriel de Freitas, a notable female racing driver of the 1960s / 70s. The estate is used as an event space; there are occasional open days and guided tours in summer, see website. (updated Jan 2021)
  • 7 Clogherhead is a small fishing village and resort, with a rocky headland and sandy beaches, see separate page.
  • 8 Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre, Oldbridge A92 CY68 (just south of the river on L16014, off N51), ☏ +353 41 980 9950. Daily May-Sept 10:00-17:00, Oct-Apr 10:00-16:00. Within Oldbridge House, a 1740 manor house, the centre presents the pivotal battle of 1690. King James II was ousted in England in 1688 but well-supported in Ireland, a potential powerbase for regaining his throne. King William III (aka "William of Orange") countered with forces under General Schomberg, which made little progress. Then William himself landed in the north and marched upon Dublin: James drew up his defence on the south bank of the River Boyne. The battle on 1 July 1690 was close-run, with multiple mistakes, near misses and "what-ifs" by both sides, yet with only moderate losses. James' forces had to retreat but little scathed: they could have re-grouped and fought another day. But James scarpered south to exile in France, abandoning his supporters to shattering defeat at Aughrim and forlorn retreat to Limerick, while William marched into Dublin. The era of Protestant hegemony over Ireland had begun. Adult €5, conc €4, child €3. (updated Jan 2021)
  • 9 Brú Na Bóinne is an extensive Neolithic complex and UNESCO World Heritage Site, older than the Celts, Stonehenge and the pyramids. It's very much on the tourist circuit, numbers are tightly restricted, and you can only access via the Visitor Centre: see separate page for details. Bus 163 runs there from Drogheda.
  • 10 Old Mellifont Abbey, Tullyallen A92 K682 (10 km northeast of town), ☏ +353 41 982 6103. Jun-Aug daily 10:00-17:00. Cistercian Abbey founded in 1142 by St Malachy to reform the lay-about standards of Irish monks. In 1152 it hosted the synod of Kells-Mellifont, and it was the leading abbey in Ireland until the Dissolution in 1539. Much of its masonry was then re-used to make a Tudor fortified house, where the 1603 Treaty of Mellifont ended the Nine Years War, and where William of Orange was based before the Battle of the Boyne. Little remains of the medieval buildings: the main standing ruin is the 13th century lavabo, where the monks performed their ablutions, so you come all this way to admire a Gents. Adult €5, conc €4, child €3. (updated Jan 2021)
  • 11 New Mellifont Abbey is in the village of Collon. It was founded in 1938 by Trappists from Mount Melleray Abbey above Cappoquin in County Waterford. The gardens are open to stroll around.
  • 12 Irish Military War Museum, Collon A92 V4K7, ☏ +353 41 981 9501. Apr-Sept daily 10:00-17:00. Modern military exhibits, basically a personal collection that got out of hand. Interactive and family-oriented and you can even book to drive a tank. Adult €12.50, child €7.50. (updated Jan 2021)
  • 13 Monasterboice has fragmentary remains of a monastery founded in the 5th century but abandoned once Mellifont was established nearby in the 12th. The best of it is the 10th century Round Tower and High Crosses, and there are two later medieval churches.

Do

  • What's on? Listen to LMFM on 95.8 FM or read Drogheda Independent, Drogheda Leader or Drogheda Life.
  • Watch Gaelic games: the County GAA play Gaelic football and hurling at Drogheda Park (capacity 7,000) just north of town centre.
  • Droichead Arts Centre have a gallery and theatre on Stockwell St. Their grand Barlow House on West St holds offices, rehearsal space and studios.
  • Cinema: The Arc is on West St in town centre, and Omniplex is in Boyne Shopping Centre on Bolton St.
  • Aura Leisure Centre is off Rathmullan Rd 1 km west of town centre. It has a pool, gym and fitness classes, and you can pay-as-you-go without membership.
  • Beaches: long sandy beaches line the coast both sides of the Boyne estuary. To the south, Bettystown hosts the National Sandcastle and Sand-Sculpting Competition in late June (2021 dates tba). Beaches north start at Baltray and continue to Clogherhead and all the way to Dundalk.
  • Yachts and other small craft are welcome to moor at Fiddle Case Quay. It's on the north bank near town centre, 400 m upstream from the railway viaduct. Commercial shipping uses the port downstream.
  • 1 TLT Concert Hall is on Matthew's Lane on the retail park by Junction 9 of M1.
  • 2 Funtasia Theme Park, Donore Road A92 EVH6, ☏ +353 41 989 8000. Closed until Mar 2021. Theme park with water slides, zipline, climbing wall, bowling alley and so on. You pay for individual activities, there isn't a day-pass. (updated Jan 2021)
  • 3 Bellewstown Racecourse, Bellewstown, County Meath (11 km south of town), ☏ +353 41 982 3614, ✉ info@bellewstownraces.ie. This is one of the oldest courses in Ireland, a sharp left hand oval of 9 furlongs. It has both Flat and National Hunt (jumps) races. On race days a free shuttle bus meets the trains at Drogheda. Adult €15. (updated Jan 2021)
  • Golf: several courses are within 5-10 km of town. Boyne Valley CC is southeast, Laytown and Bettytown is on the coast, Bellewstown GC is near the racecourse, and County Louth GC is at Baltray on the north bank of the Boyne estuary. There are also a few driving ranges and Pitch and Putts.

Buy

  • Scotch Hall is a shopping centre on the south river bank, with D Hotel, see Sleep.
  • Laurence Shopping Centre is north bank, 100 m up from the quay.

Eat

  • Kieran's Deli at 15 West St is open M-Sa 09:30-16:00.
  • Bare Food Company is a cafe serving healthy food on West St, open daily 09:30-17:30.
  • Shop Street leading into Peter St has a strip of pizzerias and fish & chips outlets.
  • Casanova is a friendly Italian on North Quay, BYOB. It's open daily 12:00-22:00.
  • Salthouse Brasserie, 1 North Quay, ☏ +353 41 983 4426. M-Th 08:30-17:00, F Sa 09:00-19:00, Su 10:00-17:00. Good atmosphere, European food, great central place for breakfast. (updated Jan 2021)
  • Eastern Seaboard, Bryanstown (off Dublin Rd 200 m south of railway station), ☏ +353 41 980 2570. M Th-Sa 12:00-22:00, Su 12:00-20:00. Upmarket seafood restaurant in glassy, classy modern building. (updated Jan 2021)

Drink

  • The Mariner, 6 North Quay A92 WF1W, ☏ +353 42 983 7401. M-Th 09:00-23:30, F Sa 10:00-00:30, Su 12:00-23:30. Wonderful decor festooned with brass portholes, fish tanks, hard-hat divers suits and marine artifacts. Good grub. (updated Jan 2021)
  • Other town centre bars include Cagney's, D'Vine Bistro, Weavers and The Trinity Quarter.
  • Earth, 26 Stockwell Lane (at the back of Westcourt Hotel). F Sa 12:30-02:30. Busy nightclub, gets poor reviews. (updated May 2021)
  • Boann Distillery along with Boyne Brewhouse are by Junction 9 of M1, producing whiskey and beer. Tours available.
  • Drogheda once had many more. Crafted Spirits distills bulk spirits to supply other blends, it doesn't market under its own brand.
  • Listoke House 1 km north of Monasterboice distills gin and runs a gin school.

Sleep

  • 1 Spoon and the Stars Hostel (formerly Green Door Hostel), 13 Dublin Rd A92 DK65, ☏ +353 41 987 3333. Clean, well-run friendly hostel in a good location, gets rave reviews. Dorm €24, double €70. (updated Jan 2021)
  • Orley House is a B&B on Dublin Rd 300 m south of the railway station, gets mixed reviews.
  • Westcourt Hotel, 29 West St A92 A8XF, ☏ +353 41 983 0965. Slick modern hotel, as central as could be. (updated Jan 2021)
  • Scholars Townhouse Hotel, King St A92 ED71, ☏ +353 41 983 5410. Late Victorian building with 16 rooms and good bistro. B&B double €130. (updated Jan 2021)
  • 2 D Hotel, Scotch Hall Centre, Marsh Road (attached to shopping centre), ☏ +353 41 987 7700. Smart hotel, bar and restaurant. Nice clean rooms and excellent breakfast. However in late 2020 they imposed a minimum age of 23; this policy is not stated in their booking T&C or Covid rules. B&B double €80. (updated Jan 2021)
  • 3 Glenside Hotel, Dublin Rd, Ballymad (R132 three km south of town), ☏ +353 41 982 9999. Well-run mid-range hotel with good restaurant, dog-friendly. B&B double €150. (updated Jan 2021)
  • 4 CityNorth Hotel, Gormanston K32 W562 (Jcn 7 of M1), ☏ +353 1 690 6666. Convenient comfy business hotel at motorway junction. It's south of Drogheda, the Dublin phone number is the clue to which "city north" is meant. B&B double €100. (updated Jan 2021)
  • 5 Boyne Valley Hotel, Dublin Rd, Stameen A92 EY89 (2 km southeast of town), ☏ +353 41 983 7737. Pleasant resort and country club hotel in woodland with leisure centre, restaurant, gardens. Renovated in 2019/20. B&B double €130. (updated Jan 2021)
  • 6 Collon House, Ardee St, Collon A92 YT29, ☏ +353 87 235 5645. Sumptuous bijou hotel open Feb-Dec, no children under 13 or dogs. B&B double from €160. (updated Jan 2021)
  • 7 Newgrange Lodge, Staleen Rd, Donore, ☏ +353 41 988 2478. Farmhouse converted into a mid-range hotel, opposite entrance to Brú Na Bóinne Neolithic complex. Fairly basic, with private rooms and 6 / 10 bed dorms. There's also camping and tourer pitches. (updated Jan 2021)
  • Dalys is a pub / restaurant with rooms at the junction of Donore Rd and Staleen Rd 2 km east of Brú Na Bóinne visitor centre.

Connect

As of Jan 2021, Drogheda has 5G from Eir and 4G from Three and Vodafone.

Go next

  • County Meath starts at the edge of town, with the Boyne battlefield and Brú Na Bóinne Neolithic complex. Continue further inland for Kells and the Hill of Tara.
  • The County Dublin coast is worth exploring on the way to the city, with small harbours and resorts at BalbrigganSkerries and RushMalahide castle, and the headland of Howth.
  • Dublin only takes an hour to reach, it might take longer to tear yourself away.
  • North beyond Dundalk is the Cooley Peninsula, with the Mourne Mountains looming just across the border.




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