History of Cavan

Motto: Feardhacht is Fírinne 

“Manliness and Truth”

County Cavan is often referred to as The Breffni County after the  Medieval Kingdom of Breifne.

In medieval times, the area of Cavan was part of the Kingdom of Bréifne or Brefney O’Reilly after the ruling Gaelic family. For this reason the county is colloquially known as the BreffniCounty.

Historically, Cavan was part of the western province of Connacht, but was transferred to Ulster in 1584 when Bréifne was shired and became the county of Cavan. In the south, the Lough Sheelin area was part of Leinster until the late 14th century.

Parts of Cavan were subjected to Norman influence from the 12th century and the remains of several motte and bailie fortifications are still visible today, as well as the remains of stronger works such as CastlerahanClogh Oughter Castle, and the beautifully restored Cabra Castle in Cootehill. The influence of several monastic orders also owes its origins to around this time with abbey remains existent in locations such as Drumlane and Trinity Island.

The Plantation of Ulster from 1610 saw the settlement and origins of several new towns within the county that include Bailieborough, Cootehill, Killeshandra and Virginia. Existing towns such as Cavan and Belturbet became over time more important as trading centres. Wars during the mid-seventeenth century aimed at trying to unsettle the Plantation only led to further plantations of English and Scottish settlers into the county and the beginnings of a thriving flax and linen industry.

Some areas of Cavan were devastated by the Great Famine potato blight between 1845-49. Several instances of eviction also occurred during the nineteenth century, with one such story where the local landlord in Mountnugent parish decided to evict over 200 people. The famous ballad “By Lough Sheelin Side” is based on this event witnessed by the local Catholic priest.

Edward Saunderson, founder of the Ulster Unionist Council, was born in the County. However, when the Irish Unionist Party met on 9 June 1916, the delegates from Cavan learnt that they would not be included in any “temporary exclusion of Ulster” from Home Rule; they agreed only with very great reluctance.

Towns of Cavan

At Baileborough, 8 miles (13km) west from Kingscourt, the Catholic church has notable stations of the cross by George Collie, R.H.A. A quiet and unpretentious little town. Worth a visit for those who want to deviate from the traditional tourist routes.

An ideal location for touring as both Killykeen Forest Park and Lough Oughter are located nearby.

Seven miles (11 km) west of Belturbet near the Fermanagh border is a well-known coarse fishing centre, Ballyconnell. According to tradition, it is named after Conal Cearnach, a first-century hero of the Red Branch Knights, who was killed here by the men of Connacht in revenge for the slaying of their king. Above the village rises Slieve Russell (1331 feet), providing extensive views.

Ballyhaise located just south of the Annalee river in north Cavan along the R212.

The little town of Ballyjamesduff, celebratd in song by Percy French, is built on the slope of a hill. North of Lough’s Sheelin and Ramor a good base for the fisherman.

Located along the N87 road that leads to Florence Court. Bawnboy is a located on the south western foothills of Slieve Rushen mountain.

A market town on the east bank of the River Erne, midway between the waters of Lough Oughter and Upper Lough Erne, Belturbet is an ideal coarse fishing centre. A two-hour river cruise is available during summer months.

A tiny village located on the opposite side of the Fermanagh border from Belcoo. Blacklion is on the shores of Lough Macnean Upper. Notable attractions in the area include Marble Arch caves and Florence Court.

At Butlersbridge on the Annalee River there is coarse fishing with boats for hire. It also contains a very photogenic inn which is popular stopping place on the road.

The county town, is in a pleasant district of low green hills. In ancient times it was the seat of the rulers of east Breifne, the O’Reillys. Their main residence was on Tullymongan Hill, on the outskirts of the town. Of the Franciscan Friary founded in 1300 by Giolla Iosa O’Reilly, only the belfry tower remains. A plaque on the wall commemorates Owen Roe O’Neill, the victor of Benburg, who was buried in the chancel of the friary in 1649.

Cootehill gets its name from the 17th century marriage of Thomas Coote – a Cromwellian colonel – to Frances Hill from Hillsborough. A charter was granted to another Thomas Coote in 1725 to hold fairs and markets on his estate, and thus the town began. Nearby, Bellamont Manor (the home of Thomas Coote) was built in the same year as the charter. The house is a wonderful example of Palladian architecture and was designed by Lovett-Pearce. The house is private but the grounds offer lovely walks. The town of Cootehill is an important angling centre.

Killykeen forest park lies just to the north of Crossdoney, as does Lough Oughter. Cavan town is a close distance away meaning that urban and rural attractions can be enjoyed in equal measure.

The small village of Killeshandra is an anglers paradise. Next to the island dotted lake of Lough Oughter and Portaliffe Lake. Killykeen Forest Park is a nearby attraction, and also Clough Oughter Castle, with it’s de Lacy 13th century castle standing on as island. This site was excavated in 1987, and human remains dating from the Cromwellian siege were found.

Kilnaleck located just north of Lough Sheelin lies along the R154 road. A good touring centre with ideal wild trout, pike , perch course fishing lakes close by. Also, , Beautiful countryside, Golf, and Pitch and Putt.

Kingscourt, a little town 8 miles (13km) south-east of Shercock, has modern industries based on the rich gypsum deposits of the area. In the nearby Cabra demesne is the wishing-well featured in the song ‘Doonaree’, located at Dun-a-Ri National Forest Park, set in the area of outstanding beauty, part of which is maintained for public recreation and amenity.

Lisnageer is found just outside of Cootehill, on the border with County Monaghan.

Loch Gowna
Beside the County Longford border 13 miles (21km) south-west of Cavan is the little town of Gowna, beside beautiful Lough Gowna- source of the River Erne. Lough Gowna is a good coarse fishing lake.

Mountnugent is a little village located by the eastern banks of Lough Sheelin.

Just east of Lough Ramor lies the little village of Mullagh. A short distance from County Meath and a large number of historic monuments.

A short distance from the Monaghan and Fermanagh borders, Redhills is a village in a good location for fishing in the nearby lakes.

Shercock is in a fabulous location at the southern end of Lough Silan. Nearby are the borders with Monaghan and Louth.

Virginia was built during the reign of King James I, however it was named after the virgin queen of England, Elizabeth I. An important angling centre, the mature trees, ample streets and handsome buildings give the village a graceful air of bygone days.