Louth, Monaghan and Cavan all share a border with Northern Ireland and, as throughout the North, still bear many signs of the Plantation in the form of grand country estates (known simply as “big houses”) and planned towns.
Louth is Ireland’s smallest county and the most northerly in the Leinster province, and much of its activity is focused on the historic town of Drogheda, set on the banks of the Boyne whose fertile valley also boasts major religious sites at Monasterboice and Mellifont. In its northeast the Cooley Peninsula provides somewhat dramatic relief from the county’s otherwise drab coastline and played an active role in the greatest of Irish mythological epics, the Táin Bó Cúailnge (Cattle Raid of Cooley).
The topography of Monaghan and Cavan, both in the Ulster province, is markedly different. Monaghan’s landscape is characterized by eruptions of small hills, known as drumlins, and its sense of life is encapsulated in the writing of Patrick Kavanagh from Inniskeen. Monaghan’s few towns offer little of interest, though the busy county town of Monaghan itself is attractively laid out and features a few buildings of note. To the southeast, the hilltop market town of Clones is a former ecclesiastical centre and also strongly associated with Irish lace-making. To Monaghan town’s north lies Glaslough, an estate village set around the grandiose Castle Leslie.
Contrastingly, much of Cavan is defined by its many waterways and small lakes, offering a multitude of choices for anglers. Away from the major roads that pierce both counties, the countryside has an unhurried charm, though it’s easy to get lost when navigating their tangled grid of lanes without a map or compass. However, the Shannon–Erne Waterway offers a readily navigable route through Cavan’s lakes and cruisers can be hired in places such as Belturbet as a starting point for a waterways holiday. Cavan town itself is agreeable enough, but offers little to warrant more than a passing visit. The county’s west provides some stark and rugged landscapes, ideally explored via the Cavan Way.