Cavan comes from the old Irish word for ‘hollow’ or ‘little hill’, and all a takes is a few minutes driving in the countryside to understand how the name was attached to this place. It’s a land of drumlins, small-scale hills and ridges that alternate with a spectacular network of wooded lakes. This is ideal country for walking, angling or simply enjoying the outdoors.
In the ancient days of Gaelic Ireland, Cavan was part of the Bréifne kingdom, and it remained under the jurisdiction of the O’Reilly clan. This was long before anything resembling the modern-day town was in place. The O’Reillys built a castle in the 1200s, along with St Mary’s Abbey. The bell tower of the Abbey remains an iconic fixture of Cavan to this day, though the rest of the structure was lost. However, the stones of the friary were used to build many historic buildings that are still standing in Cavan.
The O’Reilly clan maintained its grip on Cavan until the 1400s, when the Nine Years War saw English troops battling Irish clans for control of the countryside. The clans lost control of the region, and the English brought in Protestant settlers from Scotland to wrest power from those loyal to the Catholic church. This led to further uprisings and rebellions that would continue for centuries through to the War for Irish Independence.
Today, Cavan is a hidden gem that many visitors are completely unaware of. Less than 90 minutes’ drive from Dublin, Cavan is an ideal weekend destination. That said, many visitors leave wishing they had scheduled more time in Ireland’s Lake Lands – especially during the summer months.
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