Rising gently above its own namesake river, engaging BOYLE is an easygoing town, pleasant to stroll around, with plenty of congenial bars, a couple of sites of noteworthy historical interest and a lively arts festival. It also makes an excellent base for exploring not only Roscommon’s northern attractions, such as Lough Key Forest Park, but neighbouring Leitrim and South Sligo too.
Boyle’s origins lie in the establishment of a Cistercian monastery in 1161, but as it was situated on an important trading route, the abbey became embroiled in numerous internecine and Irish–English skirmishes and was sacked on a number of occasions. It lingered on for several decades after the Dissolution – its last abbot was executed in 1584 for refusing to disavow allegiance to Rome – and from 1599 until the end of the eighteenth century it was used as a barracks by the English and known as Boyle Castle. In 1603 the building passed into the hands of Sir John King and remained in the family’s possession until 1892. It was Staffordshire-born King who transformed Boyle, constructing a grand mansion to the west of the abbey and an avenue (now the town’s Main Street) leading up to it. At the same time he began to amass thousands of acres of land, which would eventually become the largest estate in County Roscommon, Rockingham.