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.Read More
Fourteen kilometres southwest of Boyle lies the village of Frenchpark, where the former Church of Ireland parish church is home to the Douglas Hyde Interpretive Centre. The centre recounts the life of Douglas Hyde (1860–1949), one of the key figures in the Irish cultural revival, with numerous informative displays and an entertaining video.
Born in Castlerea, 13km south of Frenchpark, to Anglo-Irish Ascendancy stock, Hyde learnt Irish at an early age and developed a lifelong interest in the nation’s rich vernacular tradition and folklore. After attending Trinity College he became professor of Modern Irish Language and Literature at the National University of Ireland and produced numerous articles, essays and reviews in Irish, as well as collaborating on a number of Irish-language plays with Lady Gregory. Hyde also travelled the country widely, gathering material, much of which was transcribed in collections such as the highly influential Love Songs of Connaught. In 1893, he was a co-founder of the Gaelic League, which aimed to enhance Irish culture via a revival of musical and linguistic traditions, though Hyde later became concerned by the League’s increasing links with the Independence movement and resigned as its president in 1915. Elected to the Irish Senate in 1925, he retired from public life in 1932 until he was appointed the country’s first president in 1938.
After his death Hyde was interred in the graveyard of his father’s former parish – his grave is the last of eight family members in the corner behind the statue erected in his honour.