Nowadays a busy market town, CAVAN was once the seat of the O’Reilly clan who built a Franciscan abbey here in 1300, although this succumbed to a fire in 1451. Later, the town itself was razed to the ground in 1576 by a female member of the clan and subsequently rebuilt. Much of what you see today dates from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and all that remains of the reconstructed abbey is its eighteenth-century bell tower, on Abbey Street, standing next to the grave of Owen Roe O’Neill. Modern Cavan does have its charms, though there’s little to see here. Most of the action in terms of shops and bars takes place along Main Street.
BALLYJAMESDUFF is a pleasant, small crossroads town, 15km southeast of Cavan town along back lanes or a little further via the N3. The town is the location for the Cavan County Museum, housed in a former convent, which has an impressive collection covering all aspects of the county’s history. Many of the post-eighteenth-century exhibits in the museum were donated by Mrs Phyllis Faris from her mammoth and eclectic “Pighouse Collection” of domestic artefacts and memorabilia in Killeshandra. Major items on display include the Killycluggin Stone, dating from 200 BC and decorated in classic Celtic La Tène artwork, and replicas of Celtic stone idols dating from the second century BC to the second century AD, as well as the impressive 1100-year-old Lough Errol dugout boat. Also represented here is the songwriter Percy French who worked in the county for a spell as an inspector of drains – one of his more famous comic songs is Come Back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff.