Visiting Longford, Ireland: where three historic provinces meet

Flag of the Republic of Ireland
Flag of the Republic of Ireland | Source
Bilingual signposts near Longford
Bilingual signposts near Longford | Source
Lough Ree, a lake in the Shannon, dividing Counties Longford, Westmeath and Roscommon
Lough Ree, a lake in the Shannon, dividing Counties Longford, Westmeath and Roscommon | Source
19th century view of architecturally distinct St. Mel's Cathedral, Longford Town
19th century view of architecturally distinct St. Mel's Cathedral, Longford Town | Source
Map location of County Longford, Ireland
Map location of County Longford, Ireland | Source

Longford is 'An Longfort' — in Irish, 'as gaeilge'

The name Longford, Ireland, refers to both a county in the Irish Midlands and to a town, which is the administrative capital of the country.

Longford itself is in the historic province of Leinster, while on the northern boundary of the county, the provinces of Connacht, Ulster and Leinster meet.

Longford is the home town of Albert Reynolds, Ireland's first Taoiseach (Prime Minister) to have been born west of the Shannon (in nearby Rooskey, Roscommon), and one who was particularly vibrant in the brand of nationalism which he espoused (1). The Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) to Mr Reynolds was John Wilson, one time sporting legend, of neighbouring County Cavan. Other famous local people associated with Longford include writer Oliver Goldsmith - author of The Deserted Village and The Vicar of Wakefield; there is a statue of Goldsmith in Ballymahon, Longford. A Goldsmith Summer School is regularly operated. The writer Padraic Colum was born in Longford.

Longford Town is compact and ideal for leisurely walking. A local landmark in Longford Town is the tower of St. Mel's Cathedral, which, particularly given the profusion of relatively low buildings in the town, can be seen from a wide distance. The Methodist John Wesley is believed to have preached in the town in the 18th century. I certainly enjoyed strolling through the town and visiting local gift shops.

Ireland's Bed and Breakfast industry is outstanding, and Longford is no exception.

The Shannon, Lough Ree and 'a thousand islands'...

The Shannon at Lanesborough (sometimes written simply Lanesboro ), 16 km west of Longford Town, is certainly worth visiting, with boating opportunities and nearby views of Lough Ree. Separated from Lanesborough by a bridge, Ballyleague is the first town westward in County Roscommon over the Shannon.

New Yorkers and Ontarians, with their own Thousand Islands in the St Lawrence, will appreciate this: an old Irish poet suggested in song that Lough Ree had 'a thousand islands'. Some listeners to the song were known to be skeptical ... but it was certainly a good idea.

Note

(1) See, for example, Dr Martin Mansergh's essay on Albert Reynolds in: Philip Hannon & Jackie Gallagher, Taking the Long View: 70 Years of Fianna Fáil, 1996

...

How to get there: Aer Lingus flies from New York and Boston to Dublin Airport, from where car rental is available. Bus Éireann operates bus services to Longford Town from Dublin's Busárus (bus station). Irish Rail operates rail services to Longford from Dublin Connolly Station. By road, take M4 and N4 from Dublin. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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